March 24th, 2008
New York.- “The Greeks endured years of slavery known as the “Chronia tis Slavias”, said Dr. Christos P. Ioannides, keynote speaker at the 4th Annual St. Johnʼs University Greek Independence Day Program on Feb. 21st evening at Council Hall. “They lived as slaves for four hundred years. The Greeks did not forget FREEDOM. The American Revolution opened the way for others to rebel against foreign rule. They remembered that God gave them the right for freedom.”
Dr. Ioannides inspiring speech to a mainstream American audience opened new insights. “The Fathers of the American Revolution knew Greek. They were inspired by classical Greek ideas. There was a strong bond between Adamantios Korais and Thomas Jefferson. Korais in his correspondence to Jefferson said ʽyou are not giving us a hand out. We are giving you the opportunity to spread the cause of freedom. Greek people have a common bond with Americans. We speak the same Greek and share the same religion. We, the Greeks of the 1821 Revolution are the same people as Leonidas and his soldiers at Thermopylae.”
This exciting keynote address inspired a unique evening celebrating the courage of Greek, Greek-Americans and Phil-Hellenes from the 1821 Greek Revolution to the Iraq War. The militaristic Cretan dances, by Labrys Dance Group of the Omonoia Cretan Society, thrilled the audience. The evening concluded with Greek cuisine donated by parents and local merchants. This event was a joint effort of the Modern Greek Language and Literature Program of St. Johnʼs University, the SJU Greek Club and Omonoia Cretan Society. The student moderators were Haritomeni Scoufaras, Theodora Christodoulou, Marina Filippatos and Diamanto Ktenas. Technical support was by Takis Kokkinos. Photography was donated by Chris Freda and Markos Papadatos. Prominent persons present included: Dr. Gaetano Cipolla; Dr. Florence Russo; Lt. Col Andrew Lyons, Jr., Associate Director of the University Freshman Center; ROTC Major Leonard Sloat; Robert A. Pennacchio, Associate Director of St. Johnʼs University Honors Program; Dean Ekaterini Georgiades of St. Johnʼs College; Karl Rutter of the Global Studies Department; Dr. John Nathenas of DIAS International Academic College Program; Alex Doulis and Stavros Haviaras of the Chian Federation, Nancy Biska, international journalist/webmaster and others.
The opening prayer was performed by Very Rev. Robert Stefanopoulos, SJU Professor of Theology. The SJU ROTC unit presented the American Flag. Major Leonard Sloat awarded scholarships in memory of the late Staff Sergeant George V. Tsounis, POW W.W. II hero and the late George Aneson (Anastaselis), engineer hero of the Remagen Bridge, Germany. TAPS was played by pugilist Robert A. Pennachio, SJU Honors Program Director. “Tonight we give the Final Salute to two men who saved the lives of their fellow soldiers, regardless of their own safety,” said Major Sloat. The following students were given scholarships dedicated to the remembrance of the late George V. Tsounis: Jacqueline Burns, the George V. Tsounis Scholarship donated by Dr. John G. Siolas and Gerasimos Grigoratos; Michael Hefferon, George Aneson Family Scholarship by Mrs. Fotine Aneson, Kostas Marathounas and Mrs. Kathi Hatzi and Jorge Pocasangre and “In Memory of Philip Halikiopoulos”, by Mary Halikiopoulos.
Stephen Cherpelis, international philanthropist and Dikaiophylax Archon of the Patriarchate of Constantinople aided in the creation of the first scholarships in 2000 for excellence in Modern Greek. He has continued aiding the program in the background. The 2008 Stephen Cherpelis Scholarship was presented to Christopher Freda. The Chian Federation in 2002, under the leadership of former President Alex Doulis and businessman Mr. Scoufaras, began generously donating scholarships. Students Niki Tsismenakis and Marino Kambourakis were presented with scholarships by Stavros Haviaras, Executive Vice president and Alex Doulis, 4th Vice President of the Chian Federation of America. The first “In Memory of Dr. Panagiotis Kokolis Scholarship” was presented to Haritomeni Scoufaras by Nancy Biska, journalist/webmaster. Since 2000, the Greek-American community has donated over $95,000 in scholarships that has been awarded directly to outstanding students.
Two outstanding Modern Greek language graduates, Captain Andrew Lyons III and Lieutenant James Simmons, were honored. They are currently serving in the Armed Forces in Iraq. Captain Andrew Lyons III is from a family of three generations of war heroes protecting America in the Balkans and the Middle East. Lt. Colonel Andrew Lyons II, his father, said “the real hero is my Mother, who is of Sicilian descent. She had two sons and a grandson serving in war zones at the same time. The families at home endure anguish as much as the soldiers at the battle scene.” Mrs. Helen Rodgers was honored. She is the widow of the late Sgt. Rodgers, who was assassinated by a Greek Terrorist group in Athens during the early 1990ʼs. Fluent in Modern Greek, Mrs. Rodgers expressed a love for the Greek people and culture. “Greece did not kill my husband,” she said. “Athens, Greece was the place where my husband died. I admired the closeness of the family. I loved seeing children with parents at all socials. My daughter speaks Modern Greek fluently.”
Karl Rutter of the Global Studies Department described the exciting Travel Abroad Program in the summer of 2008 Greece For more information, visit website http://www.stjohns.edu/academics/international/globalstudies/ programs/summer/greece/greece.stj. Dr. John Nathenas presented the 2008 DIAS Summer Program in Crete. Visit www.diascourses.com
The high point of the evening were the internationally recognized Labrys Dance Group of the Omonoia Society under the direction of dance instructor Mr. Nick Zoulakis and Jimmy Bobolakis. Cretan dances are centuries old, passed from generation to generation. They tell of the spirit, bravery and passion of the Cretan people. The Cretan waged 350 revolution during 200 years of Turkish occupation from about 1700-1900. Many of the dances, such as the Pentozali, is a war preparation dance. Dr. Christoforos Charalambakis, an outstanding linguistics professor of the University of Athens and European Union, is working at the Academy of Athens on a new Greek dictionary modeled after the best English editions. “Our dictionary will have examples on how to use words,” he said. Cretan culture is very much alive on the university scene through the work of linguists such as Dr. Charalambakis.
Graduating Seniors of the Modern Greek Language and Literature Program were honored. They include: Marina Filippatos, Antonios Vagelas, George Stamboulis, Reginald Basile; Irene Zouroudis; Maria Skoulas, Keily Abreu, Diamando Ktenas; Helen L. Rodgers, Nikolaos Georgostathis, Niki Tsismenakis and Pavlos Malonoukos. Donations and services were rendered by Holbrook diner; Ithaca Restaurant; Mediterranean Foods, Flushing; Oasis; Laterna; Lefkos Pyrgos; Angela Kokkinos; Marina Georgiadis; Vivian Vescovacci; Tom Kalaritis; Mrs.Katherine Barry; Bridget Barry; Nick Stebbins; Andreas Kalaritis; Roska Takovitz and others. Dr. Nicholas Toscano is the Chairman of the Languages and Literatures Program. The Modern Greek Language and Literature Program is instructed by Prof. Catherine Tsounis, adjunct professor and Dr. John G. Siolas