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Education: The Means to Advancing Hellenism in America

By on April 16, 2014
Chris P. Tomaras

Chris P. Tomaras

by Chris P. Tomaras*

Reading the article, “Maintaining the Greatness of Hellenes,” written by Andy and Mike Manatos in the January issue of the National Herald, one feels pride in our ancient and modern legacy. Our contributions to civilization have had a lasting impact.  Andy and Mike Manatos are to be congratulated for their efforts in preserving our Hellenic identity, history and heritage through the Washington OXI Day Foundation.

The article’s poignant account of OXI Day, which I lived through, brought back a myriad of emotions.  It truly was a David versus Goliath encounter.  The Nazi occupation laid the seeds of mistrust that gave way to a Civil War, threatening the cradle of democracy’s very existence.  With family members and friends pitted against one another, with lives lost thoughtlessly—including that of my mother’s—the stakes were none higher than those of the Great War of Independence.

As freedom and democracy prevailed, we witnessed the resiliency that Greeks are famous for. The final victory led to Greece’s membership in NATO and helped define the ideological balance of power in the Aegean Sea.  Greece’s emergence demonstrates not only its strategic importance, but the inherent value of its numerous contributions to the modern world.

Hellenism in America

For more than 134 years, the glory that is Greece has thrived in America.  According to historian Alexander Kitroeff, the first wave of immigration between 1880-1920 brought more than 400,000 Hellenes to the United States.  They laid the foundation of Hellenism in America, instilling the values of “ethos and filotimo, honesty and integrity” that have sustained us for nearly five generations, with thirst for education being at the top. It is true that we have an “unceasing pursuit of knowledge and excellence.”

It is this pursuit of knowledge and excellence that drives us to make meaningful contributions to society. The PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation (PHSF), which I founded to ensure that Greek American college students have the resources they need to pursue their educational goals, has witnessed this quest for excellence in our scholarship recipients. It has also helped them shape their future by following real life examples as demonstrated by the recipients of our Paradigm Award.  The Paradigm Award is given to outstanding Greek Americans whose values and accomplishments emulate our Hellenic virtues and serve as role models to our scholarship recipients

The distinguished group of Paradigm Award recipients includes: Senator Paul Sarbanes, Congressman Michael Bilirakis, John Calamos, Sr., founder of Calamos Investments, the late Constantine Papadakis, President of Drexel University, Peter Diamandis, founder of the X Prize Foundation, the brilliant NASA scientist, Dr. Thanasis Economou, Frances Fragos Townsend, the first woman to be Homeland Security Advisor and Alexander Payne, famed Academy Award winning writer, director and producer.  Each of the recipients embodies Hellenic ideals and has incorporated Hellenic values and principles into their very being and their life’s work.  Hellenism has shaped them and fueled their ambition to pursue excellence, but it was education that set them on their path to greatness.

An Educated Society is a Better, Stronger Society

Education is a cornerstone of American society. Greek Americans are among the most highly educated Americans. We need to ensure that this trend continues.  However, today’s Greek American college students are faced with the challenge of having sufficient resources to complete their education.  According to the NationalStudentClearinghouseResearchCenter, nearly half of all students enrolled in college will not complete their education.  Why?  These are the three top reasons:  rising tuition, decreasing financial aid and a lack of support from the private sector.  Can we afford to let this happen to our Greek American undergraduates?

At the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation we say a resounding NO!  On June 14, 2014 at our Awards Ceremony and Gala at the Hilton Chicago, outstanding students from across the United States will receive scholarship awards totaling $250,000. By the time of this event, the Foundation will have awarded more than $2 million to over 260 deserving undergraduates.

Education is also our means to advance Hellenism. John F. Kennedy said, “Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.” Our goal at the PHSF is to build a better America through Education and Hellenism.  We ask you to join us in this effort.

The Chairman’s Challenge

Education is my passion.  I have witnessed how education has made an impact on one’s personal growth and on society in the accomplishments of our award recipients.  They are outstanding future leaders.  Their letters have expressed not only gratitude, but how their scholarship has had a life changing impact in helping them continue their education. I want other deserving students to experience this success.  In doing so, I have initiated The Chairman’s Challenge.

The Chairman’s Challenge is a matching gift program designed to “challenge” individuals, businesses, and corporations to join the PHSF as a philanthropic partner.  As Chairman of the PHSF, I will personally match each monetary gift of $1,000 to $10,000 up to $200,000, for a combined total of $400,000 to support our scholarship awards and leadership programs.

Imagine your donation doubling in value, multiplying resources and magnifying the impact on financially deserving, academically excellent Greek American college students.  AND for every $10,000 donation you give, you will have the opportunity to dedicate one scholarship in the name of your choice.

There is no greater gift than the gift of education.  It is a gift that can never be returned, only increases in value and as Aristotle has proclaimed “is the best provision for life’s journey.”  I ask you to accept our challenge and join us!  Visit our website at www.panhellenicscholarships.org to make your contribution today or call me at 312-357-6432.  Together, we will build a better, stronger and educated America.

*) Chris P. Tomaras is Founder and Chairman of the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation.

The PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to promote education  by providing scholarships and educational programs to Greek American students who, guided by the values of their Hellenic upbringing, have the potential to become life-long significant achievers and contribute meaningfully to society.  

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