George John Tenet was born on January 5, 1953, in Flushing, Queens, New York City, New York, the son of Greek immigrants Evangelia and John Tenet. His father, a Greek born in modern-day southern Albania, worked in a coal mine in France before arriving in the United States via Ellis Island just before the Great Depression. His mother was a Greek from Epirus, Greece who had fled from the communists by stowing away on a British submarine. Tenet was raised in Little Neck, Queens, where as a teenager, he and his older brother Bill worked as busboys in their family's diner, the Twentieth Century Diner. Despite Bill and George beingfraternal twins, both had different personalities; in his book Ghost Wars, Steve Coll described Bill as "reserved, precise, and studious" (he would later become a cardiologist) and George as "loud, sloppy, and boisterous." Because of his tendency to talk constantly he was known as "the mouthpiece." Sol Winder, a family friend and later owner of their diner, said he was "the type of guy who could never keep a secret." He was also interested in the news; the host of a local current affairs host sent him an autograph in response to Tenet's letters, calling him "the future editorial page editor of The New York Times." He played basketball and softball for his Greek Orthodox church, where he was also an altar server.
He attended Public School 94, where he was president of his sixth grade class; Junior High School 67; and Benjamin N. Cardozo High School. In high school he played soccer and edited the school newspaper, graduating in 1971. After studying at the State University of New York at Cortland, Tenet graduated from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in 1976 with a Bachelor of Science degree in foreign service and received a Master of International Affairs degree from Columbia University in 1978.
Tenet is married to A. Stephanie Glakas-Tenet.[a] They have one son, John Michael