AHI Hosts 42nd Anniversary Hellenic Heritage Achievement and National Public Service Awards Dinner

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

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) hosted its 42nd Anniversary Hellenic Heritage Achievement and Public Service Awards Dinner, March 11, 2017, 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:

  • Van Coufoudakis, Ph.D., Professor and Academic Leader
  • Paul Glastris, Co-founder, Journalist, Editor, and former Senior Speechwriter for President Bill Clinton;
  • Dennis Mehiel, Principal Shareholder and Chairman of U.S. Corrugated, Inc.; and
  • George Korkos, M.D., FACS, Surgeon and Entrepreneur.

Larry Michael, “Voice of the Redskins,” and chief content officer and executive producer of Media, Washington Redskins; was the evening’s emcee. AHI Foundation Board of Directors Treasurer James H. Lagos, Esq. introduced Michael.

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

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

Honorees Humbled, Moved by Accolades

Van Coufoudakis, Ph.D., received the AHI Hellenic Heritage National Public Service Award for his academic achievements, domestically and internationally, and for his fervent advocacy of the rule of law regard U.S. relations with Greece and Cyprus.  He holds the academic rank of Professor Emeritus of Political Science in the Indiana University system. As a leading voice for Hellenism, Dr. Coufoudakis was an early member of the Modern Greek Studies Association, the premier interdisciplinary academic organization in the U.S. and Canada promoting Modern Greek Studies, serving two terms as the organization’s president. For his advocacy, the Republic of Cyprus named him Honorary Consul for the State of Indiana. A staunch defender of Hellenism and the rule of law, Professor Coufoudakis was an early member of AHI and remains on its Board of Directors.

In acceptance, Dr. Coufoudakis said, “…My work has been guided by a commitment to the rule of law and human rights, values I inherited from a diaspora family with roots in Asia Minor…The quest for freedom, the rule of law and human rights is unending. This is why we, as Americans, regardless of national origin, must always uphold the principles enshrined in our Bill of Rights and in our democratic constitutional traditions. This is what has made and will keep our country great…”

Paul Glastris, editor-in-chief, The Washington Monthly, and former special assistant and senior speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, received the AHI Hellenic Heritage National Public Service Award in recognition of his enduring commitment to a free press.

In acceptance, Glastris spoke about pride in one’s heritage and the importance of keeping those traditions and ideals alive.

“As Greek Americans, each of us has the opportunity to use some of the success we’ve achieved, the networks we’ve built, the wealth we’ve acquired, the talents we’ve honed, the leverage we possess, to advance the causes of Hellenism and of peace and security in the eastern Mediterranean. By joining and supporting AHI, we are seizing that opportunity.

“Like every ethnic group, we Greeks are proud of our heritage. But as the inheritors of the traditions of democracy, reason, humanism, excellence in competition, and openness to new ideas–traditions that are at the heart of Western culture and of the America experiment–the pride we feel is understandably a little more intense. And so is the responsibility we have to keep those traditions alive and front of mind. Our Hellenism literally has a direct role to play in helping guide this country get through the rough times we’re in.

“AHI keeps alive the flame of liberty, justice, and rule of law in the Eastern Mediterranean, even when these issues are not on the front page of papers or at the front of politicians’ minds. It’s been 43 years since the invasion of Cyprus. That me seem like long time, but it all depends on how you look at it. In 1821, after 400 years of biding their time, Greeks seized the moment. Right now, there are clear and present threats to the peace and security to eastern Mediterranean emanating from Ankara. That makes it more important to keep alive the flame of liberty and rule of law that AHI represents than at any time in recent memory.”

Dennis Mehiel received the AHI Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award in recognition of his business, philanthropic and civic achievements.  Mehiel is the Principal Shareholder and Chairman of U. S. Corrugated, Inc., which was, until a recent divestiture, the nation’s largest independent manufacturer of corrugated packaging.

In acceptance, Mehiel stated, “I laud the American Hellenic Institute as an important and effective platform through which we continue to remind our community of the core values our Hellenic heritage embraces: vision, entrepreneurship, hard work, perseverance, and a culture of support whereby those who have been fortunate enough to enjoy success in this wonderful country, provide the same opportunity to those who follow.”

In acceptance of the AHI Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award for his lifelong commitment and leadership in medicine and activism in the Greek American community, George Korkos, M.D., FACS, harkened upon a passage from The Illiad and asked rhetorically, “What is it that makes us as Hellenes different?”

He offered, “Conclusion that I came up with is that for the Hellene, the Ellina, whether in ancient times or today, the norm for the goal in life is not just to take care of ourselves—yes, we want to provide for our families—but what drives us is to tackle those things that improve the lives and overcome the darkness for all people: war, injustice, ignorance, bigotry, and disease.  These Hellenic values are what our civilization is all about and what spread throughout the world and is evident today.”

Dr. Korkos also offered some words of advice for younger generations with a twist of humor. “For you young people—I’m like the late George Burns—when you get to my age that’s anyone under 70—take the advice from an experience doctor and never ever take for granted the genes that carry that spirit within you—sustain the power, spontaneity and vibrancy of the legacy passed on to you and share it with all.  Be inspired and inspire. “Ever to Excel” is not just a philosophy, but a way of life for a philosophy without action and deeds is useless.”

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, Ambassador of Greece to the United States Haris Lalacos, and Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the United States Leonidas Pantelides.

Archbishop Demetrios wrote: “I congratulate these individuals for the honor they receive this evening and commend them for leading lives filled with Christian purpose and effort. May our Lord and Savior keep each of them under His permanent protection.”

Ambassador Lalacos wrote: “In numerous occasions, the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) has proved its effectiveness and commitment towards achieving its goals. With initiatives undertaken on a broad range of issues and convening multiple stakeholders, from legislators and diplomats to academics and members of civil society, AHI accomplishes its mission on informing and contributing to the better and deeper understanding on issues affecting United States’ policy in Southeastern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean region in general. Success is the result of the dedication and commitment shown to the cause by all AHI members over a period that transcends four decades, from its Founder Eugene Rossides to current President Nick Larigakis. Numerous conferences, lectures, reports and press releases keep the American public updated with accurate, in depth analysis on developments affecting our countries.”

Ambassador Pantelides 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 concern to Cyprus.”

• Complete bios of the honorees, the congratulatory letters in their entirety, and AHI’s Annual Report can be found by reviewing the Awards Dinner Journal at: http://ahiworld.org/pdfs/annual_reports/2017/2017ahidinnerjournal.pdf

Special thank you to our Major Benefactors:  Drs. Spiro & Emily Spireas; The Families of Jim and Ted Pedas; The Families of Jim and Tom Lagos; Mr. Gus Andy; Calamos Investments; DLPiper; and The Greek Ministry of Tourism.

Special guests attending the event included: Ambassador of Greece to the United States Haris Lalacos, Ambassador of Cyprus to the United States Leonidas Pantelides, former AHI Honoree and former American Ambassador to Greece Thomas Miller, and AHI Founder and former AHI Foundation President Eugene Rossides.

Other notable guests attending the dinner were: former U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Patrick Theros, Ambassador of Greece to Lithuania Vassiliki Dicopoulou, Honorary Consul of Cyprus in the Netherlands Tasoula Georgiou Hadjitofi; His Grace Bishop Neophytos of Kenya; Hon. Dimitris Kontolios, councilman, Borough of Ridgefield, N.J.; Art Dimopoulos, executive director, National Hellenic Society; Andy Manatos, president, Washington OXI Day Foundation; Mike Manatos, executive board member, Leadership 100; Paul Kotrotsios, publisher, Hellenic News of America and president, Hermes Expo International; and AHI-Athens Chapter Members George Mermelas and Katerina Papathanasiou.

Former AHI honorees at the dinner included: Ambassador Tom Korologos, former U.S. ambassador to Belgium; Dr. Christine Warnke, former Senator Paul Sarbanes, Dr. George Tsetsekos, Dean Emeritus and the Francis Professor of Finance at LeBow’s College of Business at Drexel University; Manny & Marilyn Rouvelas, Larry Michael, Voice of the Redskins, Dr. Stamatios Krimigis, and Rena Papapostolou.

Notable members of the Press attending the dinner were: Katerina Sokou, correspondent, Skai TV and Kathimerini; Lena Argiri, correspondent, Greek Public TV.

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 Ambassador of Cyprus to the U.S. Leonidas Pantelides, on March 11.  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. (see more here)

Moreover, as part of the weekend’s festivities, major benefactors and supporters attended AHI Greek Night hosted at Kellari Restaurant, March 10. (press release to come).

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.