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AHI Hosts 43rd Anniversary Hellenic Heritage Achievement and National Public Service Awards Dinner

Weekend Events Include Briefing with Greek, Cypriot Envoys; Greek Night at Kellari 

No. 22

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) hosted its 43rd Anniversary Hellenic Heritage Achievement and National Public Service Awards Dinner, March 3, 2018, 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:

  • Nancy Papaioannou, President, Atlantic Bank of New York;
  • Isidoros Garifalakis, Businessman and Philanthropist;
  • Tim Tassopoulos, President and Chief Operating Officer, Chick-fil-A; and
  • Phil Angelides, former California State Treasurer, former Chairman of the U.S. Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, and Businessman.

Larry Michael, “Voice of the Redskins,” and chief content officer and senior vice president, Washington Redskins; was the evening’s emcee. AHI Board of Directors Member Leon Andris introduced Michael.

The Marines of Headquarters Battalion presented the colors and the American and Greek national anthems were performed by Maria Pearce.  His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco, assisted by Reverend Konstantinos Pavlakos, Saint Katherine Greek Orthodox Church, Falls Church, VA, offered the invocation and benediction.  Apollonia provided musical entertainment.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Jonathan Cohen opened the evening’s program with a special presentation, “U.S.: Honored Country—2018 Thessaloniki International Fair.” Following the presentation, AHI Foundation President Constantine Galanis and AHI President Nick R. Larigakis, offered greetings. They also reviewed the initiatives and programs AHI and AHIF provide the community.

In addition, the evening’s program featured a reflective presentation piece that commemorated the ten-year mark of the AHI Foundation’s Foreign Policy Student Trip to Greece and Cyprus program by program alumni Constance Douris, vice president, Lexington Institute, and Elias Gerasoulis, who is enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania.

Honorees Humbled, Moved by Accolades

“Tonight we honor four outstanding members of the Greek American community for setting an example not only of professional excellence but of selfless service to others, which is the ultimate definition of the ideas of Hellenism,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said.

Nancy Papaioannou received the AHI Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award in recognition of her tireless championing of the Greek and Cypriot communities in her professional and personal life. She serves as the President of the Atlantic Bank of New York, an affiliate of New York City Group of Banks since July 2013. She holds the distinction of being the first Greek-American female to serve as President of a bank in the United States.

Under her leadership, Atlantic Bank has grown to be the biggest Greek-American banking institution in the United States. She has demonstrated her community leadership as now Chairman of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce, Board Member of Mount Sinai Queens Hospital and National Hellenic Society Board of Directors, an has been appointed Chairwoman of the 2018 Greek Independence Parade in New York, the largest such parade outside of Greece.  

In acceptance, Papaioannou stated “I have been in this blessed country for at least twenty-eight years, I am who I am because of my parents, religious values, and my Hellenic traditions.”

“Every year that passed, made me realize more and more the amazing fact that a smaller Greece exists in the United States, in every city, in every state. This Greek American community serves our values, our traditions, our religion,” Papaioannou stated.

In closing she reminded the audience that “we have something that no one can take away from us – we are Greeks.”

Businessman and Philanthropist Isidoros Garifalakis received the AHI Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award in recognition of his passionate commitment to integrity and honesty in business, philanthropic achievements, and his support of Orthodoxy.

In acceptance, Garifalakis stated he was “overwhelmed” with the love and affection shown to him and that words could not express his gratitude for being selected for this honor by AHI. He added he shares the honor with his family, for which he is grateful; and he shares it with the many ministries of his Faith.

Garifalakis also referenced the recent Winter Olympic Games and the commitment to hard work of the Olympic athletes, and the legacy of the Games, which embody the Hellenic spirit.  

“I came to this great nation over 48 years ago in search of a new life with opportunity.   I resembled an Olympian Athlete with a dream and a vision.  I found strength and determination, just as many fellow Greek immigrants did, and strived to reach my goals,” he said. “We were inspired by our Faith, our Heritage, and through hard work, and courage we were able to succeed.  Only with these traits is a young boy from Paliohori, Evia at the age of 16 able to leave his family, his home, his village, to venture across the world in hopes of a better life.   Only with a dream and ambition was I able to go from working in manual labor to becoming a successful business owner in the United States of America.”

Tim Tassopoulos received the AHI Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award for his visionary leadership in business and fidelity to Orthodoxy and youth. Tassopoulos is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Chick-fil-A, Incorporated, where he first began working as an hourly restaurant team member nearly 40 years ago.

In acceptance, Tassopoulos credited those who have surrounded him throughout his life, stating: “As I mention my family and think about this award, I am reminded that all of us are just a reflection of those that are and have been part of our lives. Our parents, our extended family, our priests, our teachers and coaches, our colleagues at work, and our friends all influence us day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to-year. I believe we are human versions of mosaics..... a mosaic is a collection of tiny tiles that forms a beautiful image.  Again, we are the result of the thousands of pieces of influence in our lives and the choices we make to respond to those influences. Any honor for me is an honor to them.”

In addition, Tassopoulos reflected upon his childhood where he became aware of the principles of Hellensim. “I quickly learned the importance of education, hard work, and service. As I reflect not only on my own background but also the stories of the other awardees, it is clear that the spirit of Hellenism from centuries ago to the present day has impacted so many in so many positive ways.”

He also credited AHI and AHI President Nick Larigakis for providing a terrific impact upon young Greek American students through the AHIF Foreign Policy Student Trip to Greece and Cyprus program, on which Tassopoulos’ son, participated.

Phil Angelides received the AHI Hellenic Heritage National Public Service Award for his innovate work in affordable housing, urban planning and redevelopment and infrastructure investment in smart growth communities. He has served his community as Chairman of the California Democratic Party, California State Treasurer, and Chairman of the U.S. Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. Angelides now serves as President of Riverview Capital Investments which focuses on clean energy projects and sustainable urban development.

In acceptance, Angelides credited the extraordinary Greek-American role models for his success. “People like John Brademas, people like Michael Dukakis, and people like Paul Sarbanes, who blazed the trail for people like me to follow,” he stated. “Last but not least, I want to thank my yiayias and pappous and my parents for all that they did, all that they sacrificed to give me greater opportunities.”

He concluded by saying, “Forty-four years after the invasion of Cyprus, and the founding of the American Hellenic Institute, the work of AHI, defending freedom and democracy, defending the values of Hellenism, has never been more important.”

Excerpts from Congratulatory Letters

The honorees’ many accomplishments were celebrated throughout the evening and highlighted in congratulatory letters submitted to AHI from His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America; Ambassador of Greece to the United States Haris Lalacos and Charge d’Affairs Andreas Nikolaides, Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus.

Archbishop Demetrios wrote: “Each honoree has excelled in their sphere of expertise beyond measure and in thanksgiving to God, the Source of all blessings, contribute to the advancement of our faith community by being rich in good works (1 Timothy 6:18). I congratulate them each for their singular achievements and commend them for their philanthropic ethos.”

Ambassador Lalacos wrote: “In numerous occasions, the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) has proved its effectiveness and commitment towards taking initiatives to the benefit of Greece-USA strategic partnership. By convening multiple stakeholders, from legislators and diplomats to academics and members of civil society, AHI offers a better and deeper understanding on issues shaping United States’ policy in Southeastern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean region in general.”

Charge d’Affairs Nikolaides wrote: The American Hellenic Institute has been a staunch and tireless advocate of the interests of Greece and Cyprus in the US and has fervently upheld the values of Hellenism and the rule of law and democracy, ever since its establishment. We are truly grateful to the AHI for everything it has been doing in support of the causes of Hellenism.”

Special thank you to our Major Benefactors: Mr. & Mrs. Isidoros Garifalakis, Mr. & Mrs. Tim Tassopoulos, Anonymous, Mr. & Mrs. Gust Andy, Mr. & Mrs. Constantine Galanis, Mr. & Mrs. James H. Lagos, Mr. & Mrs. James Pedas, Mr. & Mrs. Theodore Pedas, Gerry & Jeannie Ranglas, Mr. & Mrs. Gene Rossides, Drs. Spiro & Emily Spireas, Mrs. & Mrs. Angelo Tsakopoulos.                

Special guests attending the event included: Ambassador of Greece to the United States Haris Lalacos, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Jonathan Cohen; Charge d’Affairs Andreas Nikolaides, Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus; former American Ambassador to Greece Thomas Miller, former U.S. Senator Paul S. Sarbanes, U.S. Representative John Sarbanes, His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco, AHEPA Supreme President Carl R. Hollister, AHI Founder and former AHI Foundation President Eugene Rossides, former Minister of Greece for Citizen Protection Christos Papoutsis, Former State Representative of Georgia Mike Cheokas, Col. Panagiotis Kavidopoulos, Defense Attaché, Embassy of Greece; Commander Demetries Grimes, congressional candidate, 26th Congressional District of Florida.

Other notable guests attending the dinner were: Art Dimopoulos, executive director, National Hellenic Society; Mike Manatos, executive director, OXI Day Foundation; Paul Kotrotsios, publisher, Hellenic News of America and president, Hermes Expo International; AHI-Athens Chapter Members George Mermelas, Katerina Papathanasiou, Gregory Kanakaris, and Rear Admiral Vasileios Kyriazis, retired Hellenic Navy; Rev. Father Paul Paris, presiding priest, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Portland, Ore.

Former AHI honorees at the dinner included:  Former Senator Paul Sarbanes, U.S. Representative John Sarbanes; Ambassador Thomas Miller, Dr. Christine Warnke, AHI Founder Eugene Rossides, AHEPA Executive Director Basil N. Mossaidis, Manny Rouvelas, Larry Michael, Voice of the Redskins; and Rena Papapostolou.           

Notable members of the Press attending the dinner were: Lena Argiri, Washington DC correspondent, Greek Public TV; Petros Kasfikis, Washington DC correspondent, AMNA News; Paul Kotrotsios, publisher, Hellenic News of America; and CosmosPhilly.

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. Haris Lalacos and Charge d’Affairs Andreas Nikolaides, Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus, on March 3.  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, AHI hosted a Greek Night at Kellari Restaurant, the evening before the Gala, March 2nd.