New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
As is noted in countless sources in the last days, businessman Mr. Nikos Mouyiaris, philanthropist and prominent member of the Greek American and Cypriot American community, who passed away on January 5, supported and served the community on a grand scale. A scale so grand that as an arts writer I am naming just a sampling of his actions in support of all the arts, in Greek film, first the New York City Greek Film Festival (NYCGFF), then the Hellenic Film Society USA (HFSUS), and as founder and benefactor of the PanCyprian Theatrical Division of The PanCyprian Association. In another sphere, as founder of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC). And finally, as a mentor.
Jimmy DeMetro, former director of the New York City Greek Film Festival (NYCGFF) and now president of the Hellenic Film Society USA (HFSUS) told us, “I can’t tell you how deeply saddened I am by Niko’s passing. He was so vital to our community, so important to so many people. I knew that he was seriously ill for more than a year, but somehow I wanted to believe that he would overcome his illness, the same way he faced and overcame countless challenges in his life.”
“Niko was a gracious gentleman, strong, dynamic, a very, very private man who never sought glory for himself,” DeMetro continued, “The causes he supported were more important to him than public recognition of his involvement. When my colleagues and I started the Hellenic Film Society USA last year, Niko contacted me because he wanted to know what we were planning. I never directly asked him for financial support, yet he was the very first to contribute to our cause. When at first many doubted our ability to carry off what we wanted to do, he was there for us with a substantial check, telling us that he believed in us, encouraging us to move ahead. He was most generous.”
DeMetro went on to say that Mr. Mouyiaris’s was a broad-based philanthropy, from supporting an orphanage in Africa to founding HALC. “Moreover, he had an understanding of what is vital for the survival of an ethnic community, and he lived up to that. He gave tirelessly when it came to preserving the language and culture of Greece and Cyprus. When it came to supporting me, he knew one can’t make money running an ethnic film festival. He understood how important having a Greek film presence is to our community, and he was willing to help pay for that. He appreciated hard work and devotion to a cause. Once he decided that making a donation was the right thing to do, he stepped up and made it.”
“He was a man with a very clear sense of purpose, a very definite vision of what needed to be done. There are others in our community who can afford to give but don’t because they lack Niko’s vision. Giving back to the community that sustains them is not something they feel the need to do. Ultimately, of course, the issue goes beyond money and contributions. I would have the same respect and sense of loss that I feel for Niko even if he had never donated a dollar to help finance our film work. Niko was a decent man who believed in the sustainability of our community’s culture. He listened. He advised. What more can you ask of a man?
To thank Mr. Mouyiaris for his great contribution, The Hellenic Film Society established an acting award in memory of his son Alexis, a charismatic young actor who died much too young a few years ago. “I know Niko was touched by what we did, and I am so pleased to know that he understood our gratitude,” said DeMetro.
“Nikos was a prolific supporter of the arts,” Taso Pardalis, Partner in Law firm of Pardalis & Nohavicka, collaborator with Nikos on many projects, and founding member of HALC told the GN, “For at least almost 2 decades that I knew him he was the main supporter of many designers, artists, musicians, actors, filmmakers, sculptors and even an entire theater troop and choir.
Giving an example, he said, “In 2012 my wife Maria and I decided to create ‘Greek American Fashion Week. Immediately,
we turned to our good friend and mentor Nikos Mouyiaris. In typical Nikos fashion–and what most of us admired about him the most–he immediately sprang into action, contacting all his friends and business acquaintances in the industry to contribute their services. Nikos then provided gift bags worth more than the price of admission to every guest. Finally, he underwrote the entire project and allowed us to put on an event the quality of which CBS ranked in the ‘top 5 best NYC Fashion week events outside of Lincoln Center’. Finally, again in typical Nikos fashion, Nikos insisted that the team behind this project receive all
the credit for conceptualizing and making the event happen.”
Pardalis went on, “He was there for me with a supportive smile in all of my personal, business and philanthropic endeavors whenever I asked. He did this because as Nikos would often tell us, he was interested in seeing us succeed and rise to new heights.”
The next point Pardalis made, of great importance, is something Nikos Mouyiaris said that would benefit the community if taken most seriously: “The only thing he ever asked in return is that we remain self-aware of the mistakes of those before us and make it our duty to assist the next generation coming when the time came. This is the lesson I never forgot from him and it is a lesson our entire community should follow.”
Director Leonidas Loizidis PanCyprian Theatrical Division of The PanCyprian Association. The performance of Euripides “Medea”, which will take place in February the 23rd 2019 will be devoted in the memory of the leader, benefactor and philanthropist N. Mouyiaris. Nikos Mouyiaris, as “Amamisis” wrote, died a little bit before midnight of Friday, January the 4th 2019, in his home in Manhattan.His death caused affliction, and emotion in “the omogenia” in Greece and Cyprus.
Leonidas Loizidis, in a recorded message posted on Facebook, speaks about Mr. Mouyiaris’s “The hours and days that passed from that fatal moment [of Mouyiaris’s death] until today gave the opportunity to all those that have been benefited from his generosity, to reveal from first time all the donations that have received and to praise the rare character of the leader and visionary Nikos Mouyiaris.” He points out that Mr. Mouyiaris was not only a visionary but one who chose to use his resources to turn that vision into action. “He was not only the under but also the main sponsor of the Theater Department of the PanCyprian Association,” he says, noting that Mr. Mouyiaris invited Loizidis and his wife, the actress Eftychia Loizidis, to America to materialize his vision for the creation of The PanCyprian Association’s new Theater Department presenting classical plays, with Loizidis as director.
Endy Zemenides, Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), spoke to the GN about Nikos Mouyiaris from the perspective of Nikos Mouyiaris as founder of HALC. “Nikos was really one of a kind. He had no equal in combining Hellenism and humanity, passion and compassion, vision and action. He founded HALC because so many people told him significant parts of his vision were impossible. They told him that the next generation didn’t really want to be part of a Greek diaspora, that Greek Americans didn’t care about national issues or wanted to move on from the language, that Greeks didn’t want to help Greeks. HALC has started disproving all of this. It will continue to disprove it, and thanks to Nikos make the impossible possible.” On the HALC website Zemenides writes, “Nikos was certainly an example of the American Dream, but he was the example of the Greek-American Dream. He reached the pinnacle of American life – in business, in philanthropy, in civic involvement – while prioritizing Hellenism every single day.”