Last Hellenic Society Event Held At SJU
Dancing, gymnastics, culture, public and community leaders, awards and Greek cuisine are what make the Hellenic Society of St. John’s University a unique experience in 2010 United States collegiate life. The Society’s final cultural event at St. John’s University was held in the elegant ballroom of the university’s D’Angelo Center on Thursday evening, April 8. More than 100 persons attended. Constantine Gurlakis, the charismatic president of the Hellenic Society organized the event with the assistance of the Modern Greek Class 14, the POA Modern Greek Honor Society and the support of the Intercollegiate Hellenic Society of New York. Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos and Paul Kotrotsios, president of Hermes Expo and publisher/founder of the Hellenic News were the keynote speakers. Greek cuisine was served compliments of Dennis Moshopoulos of Laterna Restaurant, Mike’s Diner and the students of Modern Greek Class 14.
The Panchiaki Korais Society Dance Group, under the supervision of instructor Katie Markidis and Evangelia Klidas, performed traditional folk dances. Their performances are well known in the metropolitan area. Panchiaki Korais Society presented two unique awards of excellence to Vicky Athanasiou and Markella Mallas, whose grandfather Stavros Haviaras was a founder of the Chian Federation. Special awards of recognition were presented to Evangelia Klidas and Katie Markidis. Both community activists have donated their services for three years at Greek culture evenings. Rev. Sarantis Loulakis and Parish Council President George Lilikas of St. Markella’s Church in Wantaugh, Long Island were honored for their grass roots efforts to promote the Modern Greek language.
In this final evening of Greek culture at St. John’s University, recognition was given to staff and community leaders who made a difference in the life of the average college student. Dimitrios Avgoustidis, a Mesta Construction representative, was honored for his exceptional service to the Hellenic Society, in their participation at the Greek Parade on April 18. Through his involvement in the Chian Federation, Avgoustidis has personally aided in the expansion of Hellenism on campus. “Our daughter will be attending the Pharmacy Program in September,” Avgoustidis said. “She plans to join the Hellenic Society.” Sponsors and supporters of the evening included: Mesta Construction; Globe Productions, the 2010 Hermes Expo, Laterna Greek Restaurant and Alma Bank.
Languages and Literatures Department administrator Vivian Vescovacci worked in making the evening a success and was recognized. Kostas Koutsoubis, physical therapist/community activist and owner of New York Physical Therapy Sports Rehabilitation Center was honored for his involvement in Modern Greek since 2004.
“Greek Americans value education,"”Koutsoubis said. "I am taking this opportunity to help students achieve higher goals.”
“The finest of our youth from the Greek heartland are being honored today," Aleka Tsinias, president of the Enosis Evrytanon Amerikis, said.
Tsinias’ efforts to promote Hellenism are recognized throughout the tri-state area. A tribute was given for her unique contribution.
The Loupakis Martial Arts and Fitness Center performed an incredible program. Master Antonios Loupakis’ holds the record for his amazing feats that include lying on broken glass and standing on rusty nails. The Loupakis Martial Arts and Fitness Center is the recipient of over 30 gold medals in the Pan-American Competitions. His Academy was first place winner and World Champions in Las Vegas in 2003, 2004 and 2005. Markos Papadatos, black belt champion, was honored for his amazing performances for the past three years at Greek evenings of culture.
The final dance performance was by the Pontian “Komninoi” dance group. The Pontian Greeks, also known as Pontic Greeks, are an ethnic group consisting of Greeks from the shores of the Black Sea and Pontus. The whole Black Sea coastline consists of Turkey, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine and Romania. They traditionally speak Pontic a distinct form of the Greek language. It is the region where Jason and the Argonauts sailed to find the Golden Fleece. The Greeks of Pontus suffered ethnic cleansing at the beginning of the 20th century in death marches through Turkey's mountainous terrain where they were put into forced labor in the infamous "Amele Taburu" in Anatolia and slaughter by the irregular bands of Topal Osman, resulting in tens of thousands of Pontian Greeks perishing during the period from 1915 until 1922. In 1923, after more than 2,500 years, those remaining were expelled from Turkey to Greece part of the Treaty of Lausanne, while others immigrated to Russia.
The dance group wore authentic Pontian clothing. Pontian music retains elements of Greek and Celtic music (the Celts were originally from the Black Sea coast). A unique aspect of Pontian dance is the tremoul, which is a fast shaking of the upper torso by a turning of the back on its axis. The prime instrument in Pontian musical is the lyra or kemenche that is similar to its Cretan, Cypriot and Thracian counterparts. Christos Tiktapanidis played the lyra, enhancing the incredible performance. Martha Kyriakidou Kunz, dance instructor, was honored for her unique contribution. Mr. Stefanos Amanatidis, a former dance instructor of Pontians for many years, was given a unique tribute. Eleni Hatzis was the community liaison that made possible this extraordinary Pontian performance.
“We in the business and education sectors must keep Hellenism and our ethics alive,” Kotrotsios said. “We must not assimilate and forget our roots. The Greek-American education community must join with us at the 19th Annual Hermes Expo to present books of Greek literature. Today more than ever we need to work more intensively towards the perpetuation of our traditions and our youth”
Kotrotsios, international businessman, is developing this theme further at the 2010 Hermes Expo, April 22 and April 24 and 25 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The “Hippocrates Seminars: Applying Ancient Principles to Modern Medicine: Focus on Prevention 2010” will be offered for the first time, Kotrotsios said. “SAE USA Youth will host its first mentor fair. The Mentor Fair will consist of specialized workshops where mentors from the fields of Entrepreneurship & Banking, Medicine, Law, and Engineering will come together to provide the youth with guidance and advice for the future. There will be the Green Symposium where experts and community activists will present past developments and innovative ideas on conserving the environment. Our theme is to perpetuate Hellenism and Phil-Hellenism, united with one goal: our values must remain for the future generations.” For further information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
History was created in November 2009, when George Maragos, a Greek immigrant from Canada was elected Nassau County Comptroller. The Hellenic Society had the unique honor of having Maragos and his wife Angela; spend the entire evening with them sharing their views. “I am a Greek from Lefkada (an island in the Ionian Sea) from the poorest of the poor. I was raised in Canada, where the Greek Federations kept our language and culture alive. I am honored to be among young Greek-Americans and to be elected Nassau County Comptroller of Long Island. I am like your parents, an immigrant. I had a great passion for learning that included valedictorian of my class, an M.A. in finance and the founder of my own company.”
“Only your abilities and passions will help you compete with the economic powers that our emerging,” Maragos said. “America is no longer the leader of the economic world, because we have been overtaken by China. We must compete with others. They have the advantage of the labor cost. Innovation through knowledge is your edge. A small person in china and India will take your job if you do not have innovation. We have more debt, no jobs, desensitizing new jobs and raising the cost of education. You, the young, will pay the cost. The next election will determine our economy. Government does not create jobs. Your innovation and the private sector determine the creation of jobs. We must bring back manufacturing and the “Made in the USA” label. Your future depends on your vote. Cherish your right to vote. Make your vote work in Democracy.” Maragos received a standing ovation.
This outstanding evening in collegiate history was made possible by the dynamic personality of 19-year-old Constantine Gurlakis, a man to be watched in the future.
“Constantine called my office fifteen times and motivated me to attend this event,” Kotrotsios said. The Hellenic Society President went that extra mile in last minute paper work to enable the historic visit of Nassau County Executive George Maragos. His enthusiasm inspired Dennis Moshopoulos of Laterna restaurant to spend hours arranging the hall. Katherine Kaloumenos decorated the hall with centerpieces, even though her beloved grandfather passed away the day before. Ashley Hatzidaimantis spend hours taking photographs of the event. Gurlakis’ political activism has transformed the Hellenic Society from a social club to a politically activist organization. He comes from an old Greek American family with a great grandfather who was a WWII hero and great great grandparents who were immigrants of the Asia Minor Catastrophe. He is the finest president of the Hellenic Society, thinking of others first and him last.
“When good men die, their goodness does not perish said Euripides,” quoted Prof. Catherine Tsounis, adjunct instructor of Modern Greek Language and Literature for thirteen years at St. John’s University. “I pledged the Greek community that I would be like Leonidas at Thermopylae, fighting for Hellenism till the last day. In spring of 2009, Dr. John G. Siolas and I taught four classes with 64 students. Today, because of elimination, one class is taught with 18 students. In the fall 2010, Modern Greek 13 will be taught on Friday and Tuesday evenings from 7 to 8:15 p.m. Everyone is urged to register. During the past 13 years, we have established the first Modern Greek Honor Society under the auspices of the Pan Arcadian Federation in the United States. We encourage Greek societies, federations and the business community to play an active roll in the curriculum. Internet and computer materials were used. Students have taken their place in society as a Fulbright scholar, national soccer star, medical and law school, community activists and Beauty Contest winners as Miss Cyprus and Miss New Jersey and Dean of a Greek Orthodox Cathedral. I was awarded an Alexander Onassis Foundation Scholarship in 2003 for excellence as a Modern Greek scholar. Dr.Siolas was awarded an Alexander Onassis Foundation Scholarship in 2006. Our work is on the internet. We must be united in aiding our youth to succeed. They are our blood, our present and our future. They must know that any place they are in the world, the Greek community is their home to stand by them in adversity.”
The “Prometheus” Greek Federation of Teachers at the 19th Hermes Expo in Atlantic City will honor Tsounis on Saturday, April 24.
Special appreciation is extended to the following persons: Vicky Athanasiou, Maria Catechis, George Constantinou, Evenia Daskarolis, Sable Diakos, Niko Galanopoulos, Tammy Halkias, Michael Avgoustidis, Ashley Hatzidiamantis, Markella Malas, Effie Pavlakos of Mike’s Diner, Paul Pavlatos, Andrea Annas, Sophia Triant, George Despotopoulos, Evangelia Georgakopoulos, Krisanthi Lilaj, Genica Bataraga, Vayia Syntilas of Alma Bank, Christopher Doumas of Absolute Sounds, Veronica Georgiades and Andy Kokkinos.