AHI and Friends Express Their Appreciation to The Colonel – Andonis Neroulias
The Grand Salon of the venerable 3 West Club near Rockefeller Center was filled with friends offering good wishes, congratulations, and thanks to Andonis Neroulias, the founder of the monthly networking reception in Midtown Manhattan of the American Hellenic Institute (AHI).
Nicholas Larigakis, the President and CEO of AHI, told the guests “It gives me great pleasure to be here today” – he travelled from AHI headquarters in Washington, DC – “Andoni, you came to me and were interested in facilitating AHI’s efforts in New York and I couldn’t think of anyone more worthy to do this, and you proved us correct over the last 20 years.”
Larigakis presented Neroulias with a plaque saying, “It is a great honor to give you this small token of our appreciation tonight,” and then read the inscription: “in appreciation, presented to Andonios Neroulias – the Colonel – for two decades of public service to the Greek American community and dedication to the mission of the American Hellenic Institute, for the promotion of Hellenism, strengthening relations between Greece, Cyprus, and the United States, and his generous commitment of time, support, and inspiration to the members and friends of the AHI New York Chapter.”
Among the numerous dignitaries were Greece’s new Consul General in New York, Dr. Konstantinos Koutras, Ambassador Yannis Vrailas, Consul Manos Koubarakis, and Argyris Argitakos, AHEPA Delphi Chapter #25 President. Ambassador Vasilios Philippou, Cyprus’ High Commissioner was unable to attend but he sent congratulations. Koutras briefly addressed the guests, thanking and congratulating The Colonel and AHI for their efforts.
Neroulias, who distinguished himself in the U.S. Army and rose to the rank of Colonel and has held leadership positions in prominent community and professional organizations, displayed his trademark warmth mixed with humor. “Thank you. I’m very moved. After listening to all my credentials, and after watching the candidates, maybe I should run for president.” Noting that Donald Trump would raise birth certificate objections, Neroulias declared “I am blessed to claim three countries as my homeland.”
He continued “I Ellada me genise – Greece gave me birth, and Greece gave me a big heart – to feel, and to appreciate culture and history, and when I was 13 years old in 1956, we came to America. I Ameriki me iothetise – America adopted me, and taught me how to think objectively and logically, and urged me to control my huge Greek heart, which normally overrules logic.”
“The third country is Cyprus,” he said. “I Kipros me pantrepse – Cyprus married me I got married in Cyprus, and Cyprus gave me a lovely family.
He then pointed out his Cypriot wife Eva, his youngest daughter Laura, and noted his daughter Nicole and his grandchildren, Rohann Jay Iakovos, and Katerina Elyse.
Sharing the idea that was at the heart of his contribution to Greek Americans, Neroulias said, “I thought that the community had enough galas and events featuring dignitaries, and that there needed to be gatherings where ‘the common people’ can get to know each other. Nick Larigakis embraced the idea and we implemented it based on the KISS principle – keep it simple stupid.”
The evening’s emcee Dean Sirigos reminded that the free reception that began at the old Minotaur restaurant and continues every second Monday of the Month at AVRA has helped countless Greek Americans and Philhellenes connect in the spirit of the motto of the AHI Business Network: “People helping people.”
In 2001 AHI acknowledged Neroulias’ initiative by naming him president of its New York Chapter. The June 6 reception marked his “retirement.”
Neroulias,” quoted General Douglass McArthur’s farewell speech: “Old soldiers don’t die – they just fade away.” He declared, however, that “I don’t plan to die any time soon, or fade away,” and added some advice for community leaders who hang onto the reins for too long: “I do believe in terms limits.”
He said “we found the right replacement in Lou Katsos” to continue with the idea that came to him 20 years ago,” and to develop new areas and inviting Katsos to the podium, passed the torch to the chapter’s new president.
Katsos, a leader in the real estate and construction management industry for over 35 years and lecturer for 30, is now president of his own firm, Jekmar Associates and Inc., congratulated and thanked Neroulias. The former is past VP of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce and founding president of the East Mediterranean Business and Cultural Alliance (EMBCA), and is noted for organizing some of the community’s most extraordinary and successful events.
Larigakis concluded the evening with an overview of AHI, which spearheaded the U.S.’s Rule of Law Embargo in response to Turkey’s illegal invasion and occupation of Cyprus and continues to advocate for the rule of law and justice for Cyprus. AHI was founded as a non-profit Greek American think-tank and public policy center by noted attorney and public servant Eugene T. Rossides.
Sirigos, urged the guests to visit ahiworld.org and to support AHI’s endeavors which include performing the functions of think tank, grass roots organizing, and Capitol Hill lobbying in the best interests of the United States. AHI also presents an annual conference on The Future of Hellenism in America, has hosted 70 legislative conferences, and has produced publications and events on the theme of “Doing Business in Greece.”