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June 2008

Success built on passion and “philotimo”

By Demetrios Rhompotis

“You have to love what you are going to do, be good at it, the best, don’t waddle in between, don’t think of what the financial gains are. Do what you want to do with that passion and you will arise to the occasion. Just stay with it and be patient.” That’s the recipe to success according to Peter J. Pappas, Founder and Chairman of the Board of P.J. Mechanical Corp. and Delta Sheet Metal Corp. – among the largest mechanical contracting firms in the construction industry today.

He recently received this year’s “Cyprus U.S. Distinguished Merit Award,” the highest honor of the Cyprus U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The coveted list of past recipients includes Mr. Stelios Haji-ioannou, CEO of easyGroup, Mr. George Paraskevaides, O.B.E., Mr. Constantine ‘Dinos’ Iordanou, Director, President & Chief Executive Officer of Arch Capital Group Ltd., and Mr. John Catsimatidis, CEO of the Red Apple Group.

“People are astounded today that I’ve reached the heights of my industry and people that have been here many years before me, they look at me and say how did you do it, what does it take. And I think it’s the ‘philotimo’ that we learn from our parents, that basic instinct for the love of people,” said an exuberant Pappas in an interview with NEO, right after the ceremony. And not just the ‘philotimo’ is a family value among the Greeks. “The passion that I have for Cyprus today is because of my father and all his commitments to life and family and church. That’s why I’m honored to be recognized tonight and very overwhelmed.”

James Pantelides, a close friend, introduced Peter Pappas. Journalist Dorie Klissas was the mistress of ceremonies. Scores of prominent Greek-Americans, among them John Catsimatides, last year’s honoree, Nick Mouyaris, Philip Christopher, Charis Lapas, Assemblyman Mike Giannaris, who awarded Mr. Pappas a special Citation, and the Consuls General of Cyprus and Greece, Andreas Panagiotou and Agi Balta respectively, showed up to celebrate not just Mr. Pappas, but the community’s progress and success as well. The Chamber’s Executive Secretary Despina Axiotakis was also praised for a job well done and her contribution to the organization in general.

Besides a successful entrepreneur and renowned philanthropist, Peter Pappas is also the founding father of the New York Greek American Republican Association, and given that it’s election time, the temptation to talk politics was too big to pass up.

“We are doing very well. We are a small group of financially sound people and we can influence certain issues,” he said of the association. “We wait to see what we want and what is good for us, the community, Greece and Cyprus and then we react to it.” Regarding Senator McCain, Pappas didn’t seem very enthusiastic. “I will support him because I support the Republican Party. I think the Democrats (Barack Obama wasn’t officially the winner yet) have a serious issue in selecting a candidate and I think they are both (Obama and Clinton) weak.”

As for the possibility of having Cypriot American Florida Governor Charlie Crist running as McCain’s VP, his mood went up in volumes. “I met Charlie many times, I met his parents, I think that he would be a perfect, perfect candidate. I would like him to get national recognition. Should McCain lose, and I don’t believe that he will, and Charlie Crist will be there, even if he was just in the selection process, I think that elevates him nationally and I think that’s very good for us, the Greek-American community.”

For the moment though, his effort will focus on educating Senator McCain on the Greek-American issues. “We will surround him and give him all the information that he doesn’t have today.”

Striking a similar chord, the Chamber’s Chairman Andy Komodromos said that “we facilitate any way we can contacts between entrepreneurs from both sides of the Atlantic and at the same time we promote our national issues as Cypriot Greek-Americans.” The Cyprus U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to promoting trade and investment between the Republic of Cyprus and the United States and in forging a closer partnership between the business communities of both countries. “It’s a national organization, with members from all over the country.”

Regarding the challenges the organization is facing, Chamber President Peter Kakoyannis thinks the major one is to attract more young people and to pass the reins to them. “We need new blood now, so that we can provide them with assistance and make them ready not only to succeed us, but also to take the Chamber to new heights.”

Asked why the selected Peter Pappas for this year’s award, Kakoyannis thought this was the easiest question ever asked! “He embodies all that we believe in,” he said. “Our mission is to maintain who we are in this complex world. Once Peter’s name was on the table, the decision to honor him was unanimous!”

Peter Pappas was born in New York and is the father of three children and grandfather of nine. He is a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, an Archon of St. Andrews, a member of the Archdiocesan National Council, a Board member of the prestigious Leadership 100 Archbishop Iakovos Endowment Fund, and Past National Chairman of the Cyprus Children’s Fund (presently sponsoring 20 children in Cyprus) for which he was awarded the Honorary Gold Medal of the Republic of Cyprus. He is also a Board member of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, Biovest International, The Michael Wolk Heart Foundation and numerous other boards. Pappas is a staunch supporter of the Greek Orthodox Church in America as well as the Greek and Cypriot American community.

He began his career while attending New York University and trained with many of the leading equipment manufacturers in the field of commercial air conditioning. In 1971, he founded P.J. Mechanical Corp. and a year later, Delta Sheet Metal Corp. His list of accomplishments includes the renovations of properties such as the Chrysler Building, GM Building, Park Avenue Atrium, Citicorp Building, Morgan Stanley Properties and new construction, such as the Time Warner Center, in addition to many other premier projects throughout the city including the new stadiums, Citifield and Yankee Stadium. Other major tenant installations include Salomon Smith Barney, Paramount Communications, Scholastic Publishing, Credit Lyonnais, Societe Generale, Coopers Lybrand, I.T.T. Corp., Mizuho Corporate Bank, Estee Lauder, Grey Advertising, Revlon, and Ralph Lauren.

In addition to the new installations, P.J. Mechanical is one of the largest service and maintenance organizations in the New York City metropolitan area serving the most demanding tenant needs in the corporate world; i.e. data centers, communication centers, trading rooms, conference centers and office environments of all types, including hospitals and the manufacturing industry-- truly a full service mechanical contracting firm.

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