American Hellenic Institute

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AHI Hosts 40th Anniversary Hellenic Heritage Achievement and National Public Service Awards Dinner
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Georgea Polizos
April 15, 2015—No. 18 (202) 785-8430

AHI Hosts 40th Anniversary Hellenic Heritage Achievement and National Public Service Awards Dinner

Weekend Events Include Briefing with Greek, Cypriot Ambassadors

WASHINGTON, DC—The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) hosted its 40th Anniversary Hellenic Heritage Achievement and Public Service Awards Dinner, March 14, 2015, Capital Hilton, Washington, D.C. 

AHI honored a distinguished set of awardees based upon their important career achievements and contributions to the Greek American community or community at-large.  They were:

  • Gene T. Rossides, AHI Founder, with the first-ever “AHI Hellenic Heritage Lifetime Achievement Award;”
  • Ted G. Spyropoulos (posthumously), Businessman, Philanthropist, and Champion of Hellenism;
  • George Lois, Art Director, Designer, and Author, and 
  • Aris Melissaratos, Businessman and Philanthropist. 

In addition, a special award presentation was made on the 100th Anniversary of his birth and on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the movie, “Zorba the Greek,” posthumously, to Actor Anthony Quinn.  Katherine Quinn, wife of the late actor, accepted the award.

Larry Michael, “Voice of the Redskins,” and senior vice president and executive producer of Media, Washington Redskins; was the evening’s emcee. AHI Board of Directors Treasurer Nicholas G. Karambelas, Esq., partner in Sfikas & Karambelas LLP, introduced Michael.

The Marines of Headquarters Battalion presented the colors and the American and Greek national anthems were performed by Maria Pierce. Rev. Konstantinos Pavlakos, Saint Katherine’s Greek Orthodox Church, Falls Church, Va., offered the invocation.  Apollonia provided the musical entertainment.

Opening the evening’s program were AHI President Nick Larigakis and AHI Foundation President Dr. Spiro Spireas, both of who offered greetings. They also reviewed the initiatives and programs that AHI and AHIF provide the community. 

Honorees Humbled, Moved by Accolades 

American Hellenic Institute Founder Eugene T. Rossides, accepted the first ever AHI Hellenic Heritage Lifetime Achievement Award.  For this special honor, AHI commissioned a tribute video to salute the life work of Gene Rossides.  AHI President Nick Larigaks served as Executive Producer, EMMY-award winning director Todd Clark, (TheDCPlace.com) served as Executive Director and Editor; and award-winning former CBS and ABC Anchor/Correspondent Thalia Assuras, (Assurascommunications.com) was Managing Producer.  Gale Rossides and Eleni Rossidesserved as consultants to the project. The nine-minute video featured former U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-MD); Paul Volcker, chairman, Federal Reserve (1979-87); Nick Larigakis, president & COO, American Hellenic Institute; Leon Stavrou, executive director, Next Generation Initiative, former executive director, AHI (1974-1983); Louis Galambos, professor of History and editor, The Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Johns Hopkins University; Ambassador Tom Miller, former U.S. ambassador to Greece, State Dept. special coordinator for Cyprus; George Stephanopoulos, chief anchor, ABC News, anchor, Good Morning America; Jim McMenamin, senior director, Alumni & Development, Columbia University; and Gale Rossides and Eleni Rossides.

In acceptance, Rossides complimented the video made in tribute to his life’s work and contributions to society.  He also expressed his appreciation to his family and colleagues at AHI, “Thank you so very much for this award which has a special meaning since it comes from AHI and the AHI Foundation. I want to thank my wife Aphrodite and the family for putting up with me and all of the efforts that I have put into the AHI and the foundation.  I want to thank Nick Larigakis, the President of AHI, and Spiros Spireas, the President of the Foundation, for their leadership…Yola Pakhchanian, we go back so far  At one time, for a couple of years, there was just Yola and me with the Institute.”

Rossides continued by providing the historical context that led to the founding of the American Hellenic Institute:  “It was July 22nd, 1974, two days after Turkey had invaded Cyprus with the illegal use of U.S .arms.  I accompanied President Makarios of Cyprus to the State Department where he met with Henry Kissinger, the Secretary.  I met with Bob McCleskey, the deputy to Kissinger, and I said to Bob, whom I knew, ‘Bob, you got to stop the arms to Turkey because the law is clear that if anyone uses our arms for offensive purposes –the aid to arms must seize immediately.’ It was not a question of Presidential discretion; it was mandatory.  Bob McCleskey answered that they would look into it.  When he said that I knew that they would do nothing and I decided at that point to form an organization which I did.  Eight days later we incorporated the American Hellenic Institute, which led the effort for the rule of law embargo against Turkey which was successful during that ’74 year…”

Accepting the AHI Hellenic Heritage National Public Service Award on behalf of the late Ted G. Spyropoulos was his wife, Erika, and daughter, Mariyana. Spyropoulos was honored posthumously for his faithful dedication to Hellenic ideals and values and for a lifetime of generosity to the community.  

In acceptance, his daughter, Mariyana, stated, “My family and I would like to offer our warm thanks to the American Hellenic Institute, Mr. Rossides, Mr. Larigakis, for today’s tribute to my father, Theodore Spyropoulos. We thank you for honoring his memory… It’s difficult to sum up a life in a work of a few minutes.  He embodied what many people of distinction and honor represent in our community and in our society:  country, his fellow man, his work, and his family… Let the life of Theodore Spyropoulos and the many who came before him and will follow him to teach us through their lives that humanity is our business.”

She also described the work of her father through his presidency of the American Hellenic National Council and the World Council of Hellenes. 

In addition, Ted’s wife, Erika, stated, “It is a great honor for me to accept this award for my beloved late husband.”  She also complimented AHI President Nick Larigakis for his work and thanked the media for their kindness over the years towards the Spyropoulos Family.  She described her late husband as “generous and patriotic,” “tireless with devotion to Hellenism and education,” and “possessed with the great Hellenic value admired in a human being, philotimo.”

In acceptance of the AHI Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award for his extraordinary accomplishments in the field of advertising and visual arts, George Lois, remarked that even from a very young age, five, that he knew, “that being Greek was a gift from the gods.”  He recounted growing up the son of a florist in a loving Greek family in the Bronx, the challenges of growing up in a rough and tumble neighborhood, and that moment in eighth grade when his art teacher, inspired by Lois’ artwork, helped to attend the High School of Music and Art.  

Lois also recalled how he drew inspiration from Gene Rossides, the All-American Quarterback, “I was equally thrilled, as a teenager, by a Greek American quarterback playing at Columbia University, a very short distance from my father’s flower shop, Gene Rossides… roar lion roar.  One of the most exciting days of my youth was when the ‘Golden Greek’ of college football led the upset of the top rank army team in 1947 that ended a thirty two game unbeaten streak.  And I went on as a proud Greek American to be the only important ethnic in that racist, anti-ethnic mad man period of advertising and became known as the ‘Golden Greek of advertising.’”

Lois also described his life’s work as it pertained to helping Greece. His saddest, yet proudest project was a protest campaign designed to provoke and raise money to help political prisoners and their families, during the horrendous seven-year Junta.  Lois also helped the Greek National Tourist Organization in 1985 when tourism suffered following the skyjacking and hostage-taking crisis at the Athens Airport.  The campaign, “I am going home to Greece” was born.

In closing, Lois thanked AHI on its “glorious 40th anniversary,” and “for the sweet honor which I dedicate to all our rested forefathers…”

Aris Melissaratos received the AHI Hellenic Heritage National Public Service Award for his philanthropic commitment to educational and charitable endeavors in the greater Baltimore/Washington area.  He is one of the country’s most respected business leaders with a near 40-year career in leadership roles for companies and institutions such as General Electric and Johns Hopkins University as well as a public servant, serving as a cabinet secretary for the state of Maryland.  

In acceptance, Melissaratos also spoke of the importance of Greece as “the birthplace of everything, scientific and philosophical,” and he recounted how fortunate he has been to fulfill the American Dream after being born in communist Romania and eventually moving to post-civil war Greece where there was no opportunity.  “I feel very fortunate, that I have been able to come to this country and live the American Dream like all the others that have gone before me,” he said. “This country [the United States] brings the best of what the Greeks--our forefathers-- offered to the world… It’s this phenomenal mosaic of world’s cultures built on the foundation of the Greek civilization and knowledge that has made this country what it is.”

After paying homage to his fellow honorees, Melissaratos said, “I am delighted and humbled, Nick, that you afforded me this honor tonight, I am delighted and humbled to share the podium with the other honorees; and Nick I commend you for your tireless work, because you my friend have gotten a handle on the Greek American political issues, geopolitical issues, like nobody else has.  You have taken the ... vision and you have magnified it, portrayed it, and your tireless work on the Hill, educating our elected politicians, will really do Greece a lot of good in the long term.  

In conclusion, Anthony Quinn was posthumously awarded the AHI Hellenic Heritage Cultural Achievement Award on the 100th anniversary of his birth, in celebration of his iconic role as “Zorba the Greek,” and in recognition of his vast artistic talent.  

In acceptance, Quinn’s wife, Katherine, thanked AHI President Nick Larigakis and AHI Foundation President Dr. Spiros Spireas.  Quinn described that she has felt as if she has been “adopted into the Greek community” during the past six months on a speaking tour that started with a call from National Hellenic Society Executive Director Art Dimopoulos.  

Quinn said, “I got to really know a community of people who are dedicated to their heritage and their culture, and education, and it became much more meaningful to me to know that I was married to someone and spent sixteen years of my life with someone who embraced this community as one of his own.  To know that he meant so much, and he did so much for the Greek Community. He loved being part of it.  It’s my honor…”

She also shared a paragraph from an introduction to a book about explorers called “Ten Who Dared” that Anthony wrote and recounted that although he never made it past the tenth grade, Anthony Quinn challenged himself and his creative life in the pursuit of knowledge and the arts, and was as smart as anyone with a Ph.D. “It’s what you promote—Hellenism. That’s what he did… He needed, and he hungered and he thirsted…and now I know why he loved the Greek Community because that’s what you are about.  Through his acting, and his art work, Anthony Quinn was able to communicate his love for all of humanity.”  

Excerpts from Congratulatory Letters

The honorees’ many accomplishments were celebrated throughout the evening, and highlighted in congratulatory letters submitted to AHI by Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Ambassador of Greece to the United States Christos Panagopoulos, Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the United States George Chacalli, Hellenic American National Council President Paul Kotrotsios, and International Coordinating Committee – Justice for Cyprus President Philip Christropher.

Prime Minister Tsipras wrote:  “I want to congratulate the American Hellenic Institute, not only for its particularly important, multi-year contribution to the development of constructive relations between Greece and the United States, but also for its multifaceted and energetic advancement and defense of the Greek interests.  I congratulate you on behalf of the entire Greece, because despite the fact that you are distinguished American citizens, you have not stopped thinking of, loving, feeling a part of, and fighting for your country of origin… Your contribution is even more important in eras such as the one of today, an era of great geopolitical and economic instability.”  

Archbishop Demetrios wrote: “The American Hellenic Institute has appropriately chosen to recognize individuals who have served as active witnesses and living testimony to our ecumenical Orthodox and Hellenic heritage.”

Ambassador Panagopoulos wrote: “Since the American Hellenic Institute’s founding in 1974, it is commonly accepted that your Institute, and its various foundations, divisions, and affiliate entities, have remained committed to your goal for strengthening relations between Greece and the United States and within the American Hellenic Community.  Your educational and research initiatives provide support to qualified individuals, institutions, programs, and projects advancing the study of Greece and Cyprus in the U.S. with the aim to foster stronger bonds between members of the Greek American community and their origins.”

Ambassador Chacalli wrote: “The A.H.I. has distinguished itself as one of the most prominent organizations of the Diaspora in North America and has been a staunch and active advocate for all Hellenic causes. AHI has worked tirelessly and persistently for the protection and promotion of freedom, the rule of law and human rights of the people of Cyprus and has always been at the forefront of our efforts to end the ongoing Turkish occupation of our country.  We in Cyprus owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the founding father of the A.H.I…Gene T. Rossides, for his lifelong unparalleled devotion to our cause and his invaluable achievements over the years.”

HANC President Kotrotsios wrote: “The American Hellenic Institute is one of the premier organizations of the Greek American community dedicated to the advancement of the ideals of democracy and the Hellenic spirit. AHI is a true force in America and abroad.”

International Coordinating Committee – Justice for Cyprus President Philip Christopher wrote: “The history of AHI is connected to the struggle of the Greek Cypriot people for freedom and justice. Gene founded AHI in response to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus…I take this opportunity to salute the dedication, commitment, and passion to the cause of freedom.”

Special guests attending the event included: Ambassador of Greece to the United States Christos Panagopoulos, Ambassador of Cyprus to the United States George Chacalli, Congressman John Sarbanes, Congressman and Mrs. Chris Van Hollen, former U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes, and Honorable Michael Pantelides, mayor of Annapolis, Maryland.  

Other notable guests attending the dinner were: Kaliope Parthemos, Chief of Staff to Mayor of Baltimore Stephanie Rawlings-Blake; Beverly Perry, senior policy advisor, Office of the Mayor of Washington, DC; Dan Lawton, deputy director, Southern Europe Division, U.S. Department of State; Basil Mossaidis, AHEPA executive director; Art Dimopoulos, executive director, National Hellenic Society; Paul Kotrotsios, president, Hellenic American National Council; Dean Triantafillou, executive director, IOCC, an organization AHI previously honored; Savas Tsivicos, president, Cyprus Children’s Fund; Katerina Papathanassiou, board member, AHI-Athens chapter, and AHI members George Mermelas and Yiannis Costopoulos from Greece; and AHI members Constantine and Sophia Galanis from Mexico City, Mexico.

Former AHI honorees at the dinner included: Dr. Christine Warnke; former CBS News Anchor Thalia Assuras, former Senator Sarbanes, Dr. George Tsetsekos, Dean Emeritus and the Francis Professor of Finance at LeBow's College of Business at Drexel University; Dr. Takey Crist, Manny & Marilyn Rouvelas, Dora Hancock, and Larry Michael, Voice of the Redskins. 

Notable members of the Press attending the dinner were: Paul Glastris, Editor in Chief, Washington MonthlyPaul Kotrotsios, Publisher, the Hellenic News of America, in Philadelphia; Constantine Sirigos, editor, The National Herald.

Briefing with Top Greek, Cypriot Diplomats Comprise Weekend’s Events

As part of the weekend’s festivities AHI hosted a breakfast briefing with Ambassador of Greece to the U.S. Christos Panagopoulos and Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the U.S. George Chacalli on March 14.  The relevant topics affecting both countries were discussed by the two top diplomats.  AHI President Nick Larigakis moderated the discussion.  A lively Q&A session followed.

Moreover, as part of the weekend’s festivities, major benefactors and supporters attended buffet dinner graciously hosted at the Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus, March 13.   

The American Hellenic Institute is a non-profit Greek American public policy center that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.

 

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For additional information, please contact Georgea Polizos at (202) 785-8430 or at [email protected] For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our website at http://www.ahiworld.org and follow us on Twitter @TheAHIinDC.