Washington, DC—On March 13, 2010 the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) honored a renowned set of Greek Americans at its 35th Anniversary Hellenic Heritage and National Public Service Awards Dinner, held at the Capital Hilton in Washington, DC. United by their important career achievements and by their contributions to the Greek American community and the community at-large, this year’s honorees were:
John Aniston, Award-winning actor, Peter Karmanos, Jr., Chairman & CEO of Compuware Corporation, owner, Carolina Hurricanes of the NHL and Philanthropist, Niki Leondakis, Chief Operating Officer, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, Emanuel L. “Manny” Rouvelas, Partner, K&L Gates LLP and supporter of Hellenic educational endeavors kai U.S. Congressman John Sarbanes, Third Congressional District of Maryland.
These individuals’ many accomplishments were celebrated throughout the evening, and highlighted in congratulatory letters submitted to AHI by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Ambassador of Greece to the United States Vassilis Kaskarelis, Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the United States Andreas S. Kakouris, World Council of Hellenes Abroad USA Region President Ted G. Spyropoulos, and International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus President Philip Christopher (letter excerpts follow this press release).
Opening the evening’s program was AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis. The Marines of Headquarters Battalion presented the colors and the American and Greek national anthems were performed by Elena Stavrakas. Father Dimitrios Antokas, Saint George Greek Orthodox Church, Bethesda, Md., offered the invocation. The band Apollonia provided the musical entertainment.
American Hellenic Institute Secretary of the Board of Directors Nicholas G. Karambelas, Esq. introduced the master of ceremonies, Thalia Assuras.
AHI Founder and President, American Hellenic Institute Foundation, Gene Rossides then welcomed the evening’s guests. He also introduced AHI President Aleco Haralambides.
THE EVENING’S HONOREES
The first award recipient of the evening was John Aniston. Unfortunately the popular actor was unable to attend due to a severe accident sustained by his wife; however, he was broadcasted through a live telephone feed to the event. Aniston was awarded the Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award for his unparalleled achievements and excellence in his field. In his remarks he spoke about his pride in his Greek heritage.
“I am very honored to receive this recognition. My Greek heritage is something I’ve always been proud of.”
Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD) received the Hellenic Heritage National Public Service Award for his commitment to public service and his support in strengthening United States relations with Greece and Cyprus.
“I believe that our Hellenic heritage, Hellenic ideals, a commitment to hard work, family, education, and the pursuit of excellence has manifest itself in three powerful ways. First, it has been the engine behind the personal success of so many individuals in our community, in every field of endeavor and that is reflected this evening. Greek Americans have reached the top levels and we can be very proud of that. Second, our heritage has called upon us to protect and preserve those institutions within our own community that keep us strong. The Orthodox Church, the principle example of this, but other important organizations such as the American Hellenic Institute that serve as a source of identity and commitment for Greek-Americans. But the most powerful manifestation of our Hellenic heritage is something that goes beyond individual success or even the preservation of our own particular community; it is the desire to give back to the broader society. This participation in civic affairs, rooted in the principles of our Hellenic heritage, is what I call Hellenism in the public service.”
Emanuel L. “Manny” Rouvelas received the Hellenic Heritage National Public Service Award for his dedication to promoting the ideals of Hellenism through a steadfast commitment to public service and support of educational endeavors for the Greek American community. He spoke about the influence that his parents’ belief in Hellenism had in creating positive results in his life.
“Although they had little formal education, and their concepts of it were abstract, they believed powerfully in education, they believed powerfully in America, they believed powerfully in our Hellenic heritage and the opportunities of this country and that the combination of the two, of all the things in the Hellenic heritage combined with the opportunities and democracy of America, could make a magic combination for them and for their communities.”
Niki Leondakis received the Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award for her outstanding career achievements, innovative leadership and widely-recognized influence in the travel industry. During her speech she recalled a pivotal time in her life where she became acutely aware of her Greek heritage and the values of community and hard work that it enshrined.
“Some time in the early 80s…I saw Anthony Quinn live in the play ‘Zorba the Greek’ and at that point I said I have to become him because somebody needs to be the female Zorba. So I decided that I would take that on as my life’s mission. I am not sure when it happened but one day I woke up and realized I am so proud to be Greek and so proud to be a Greek-American. I was proud of my family and our culture and our traditions and most importantly I recognized the indelible imprint growing up in a Greek home, which clung to Greek traditions and values, made on me. I learned the value of hard work, not just in my job and career, but for my community.”
Peter Karmanos, Jr. received the Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award for his outstanding business achievements, and for his dedicated philanthropy and generous support of the Greek American community.
“I was very fortunate to be of Greek descent, I was very fortunate to have that tradition, the power that it gave me and allowed me to raise a fine family. We all have similar stories that struck me as every person came up, the same stories of my parents ran a restaurant…I went to work in that restaurant when I was very young, learned a lot of valuable lessons like everybody else did and its amazing how it all works out and I am very proud of everyone here.”
“I also want to extend my gratitude to the American Hellenic Institute for this high honor. As much as we honor individual achievements within the Greek American community tonight, we also must highlight the determination of the membership, leadership and staff of AHI and the work they do in preserving the very heritage and qualities we pay tribute to this evening.”
Special guests attending the event included: Ambassador of Greece to the United States Vassilis Kaskarelis; Ambassador of Cyprus to the United States Andreas Kakouris etc.
The weekend’s events kicked off with an elegant dinner at the Greek Embassy on Friday, March 12, 2010, hosted by Ambassador Vassilis Kaskarelis and Mrs. Kaskarelis. The event was held in honor of AHI for its significant contributions to strengthening ties between Greece and the U.S. This event was a tremendous success, attended by 70 persons.
On the morning of March 13, 2010, AHI hosted a breakfast and presentation at the Capital Hilton featuring guest speakers Ambassador Kaskarelis and Ambassador Kakouris. Both Ambassadors thanked the AHI for their years of hard work and dedication to strengthening U.S. relations with Greece and with Cyprus. Ambassador Kakouris presented first and spoke about the history, current situation and solutions to the Cyprus conflict. Ambassador Kaskarelis spoke on a variety of issues ranging from U.S.-Greece relations, the Greek financial crisis, and Greek foreign policy regarding Turkey and FYROM.