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Hellenic Bar Association of Illinois Foundation: Continuing the Legacy Celebrating 70-year commitment to education and Hellenism
Celebrating 70-year commitment to education and Hellenism
In 2020, many organizations canceled events or turned to technology. The Hellenic Bar Association of Illinois (HBA) is no exception. On November 7, their charitable arm, Hellenic Bar Association Foundation (HBAF) hosted a virtual version of their annual Scholarship Ball. “We wanted everyone to still enjoy the event but be able to do so in the comfort of their homes. Our commitment to financially assist law students of Hellenic descent remains steadfast,” said Koula Alevizos Fournier, HBA president.
HBA, one of the largest and most successful ethnic bar associations in the United States, has a long-held commitment to the legal community. Founded in 1951 as a professional and social organization, the group quickly evolved into a force for electing Greek-American judges to the judiciary. One year later, Member James Chelos became the first elected Greek-American judge in Cook County, Ill. Since then, dozens of their members have been elected or appointed to the judiciary. At its inception, the greater percentage of their members were solo or small firm practitioners. Today their diverse membership includes attorneys representing all areas of law, in government, judiciary, and corporations, plus small, regional, and international firms. Through the HBAF, the organization gives back to the community through annual scholarships for law students of Hellenic descent and educational events for both current and future attorneys, including a Law Day Essay Contest for elementary school students.
According to its president, HBA wanted to do something special to commemorate the event’s 70th year, to make it memorable. “Basile the Comedian hosted the event. He attended law school, so he has insight into the legal profession. Plus, he relates to the audience,” Fournier said.
The pre-show cocktail hour featured Basile in a live interactive improv comedy that segued into the main event. His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael offered the invocation, then extended congratulations to the honorees.
Immediate Past President Vicki Pappas Karl received an award for her service to HBA. “I’m proud to be part of this organization that’s committed to serving the Greek-American legal community through scholarships, continuing education, and providing legal services for the indigent of our community through Hel.LAS (Hellenic Legal Assistance Services).”
The organization awarded six $10,000 awards to deserving Greek-American law students. “The past several years, we have been able to obtain matching donations for every dollar raised, doubling our giving power. The Hellenic Bar is proud to continue this legacy to preserving our commitment to education and Hellenism by helping law students further their education and become the future leaders of our community,” said Fournier. The 2020 HBAF Scholarship Recipients are Eleni Eliopoulos, Haridimos Kouklakis, James Heracklis, Christos Kapsalis, Nicole Mouzakiotis, and Maria Palivos.
Eliopoulos, a second-year student at the University of Illinois at Chicago John Marshall Law School, is also a Nikos Mouyiaris 2030 Leadership Fellow with the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC). As a HALC fellow, she has traveled to Washington D.C. to lobby Congress for strong foreign policy with Greece, Cyprus, and Israel.
Kouklakis is a third-year law student at DePaul University College of Law. As a proud AHEPAn, he co-founded the Sons of Pericles (SOP) Bloomington, Ind. and founded the Merrillville, Ind. chapters. During his undergrad years, he served as president and vice president of the Hellenic Student Association.
Third-year student at the Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent College of Law Heracklis is the editor for the school’s Journal of Intellectual Property. He’s involved with the Chicago-Kent IP Clinic, and is president of the Hellenic Law Student Association. He is also a Patent Agent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Kapsalis is a third-year student at University of Illinois College of Law and ranks in the top 10% of his class. He’s Articles Editor for the University of Illinois Law Review, a participant in the moot court program, and an intern for the Illinois Attorney General’s office. He has also worked at the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau; at Meyer Capel, P.C. in Champaign, Ill.; and at the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
A second-year student at DePaul University College of Law, Mouzakiotis also ranks in the top 10% of her class. She’s a staffer of DePaul Law Review, a teaching assistant, and vice director of marketing for the Jaharis Health Law Institute. She has worked as a legal extern for Walgreens Corporation; a legal intern at Blitt & Gaines Law Firm in Wheeling, Ill.; and interned at the Rust-Oleum Corporation.
Palivos, a second-year student at DePaul University College of Law, is on the Dean’s List; received the highest grade in legal writing; and is on the staff of Loyola University Chicago Law Journal. Currently, she’s a law clerk at Romanucci & Blandin. She has interned at the Illinois Appellate Court in Chicago and at the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois with the Honorable Charles P. Kocoras.
As part of the HBAF tradition, each year the event honors distinguished members of the community.
“Awards are presented to prominent members of the Greek-American community who embody the unwavering commitment and dedication to supporting and advancing the Hellenic community,” added Fournier.
John G. Manos is the 2020 Hellene of the Year. Archon Eutaxias and Archon Co-commander for the Metropolis of Chicago, he is a well-known businessman, philanthropist, and youth advocate. The former president of the Pancretan Association of America established the PAA Mentorship Program to provide youth guidance and assistance as they apply to and complete their academic studies, to provide access to internships, and lead them to job opportunities. His dedication to youth and education is also evident in his role as trustee of the Pan Hellenic Scholarship Foundation. Manos received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2015. His list of accolades and awards is numerous.
“It is not I who deserves this award for Hellene of the Year, for all I have strived to do is continue and mimic the work of my aunt, my parents, and the Greeks who built the Hellenic community in America. It was through their example that I learned how to support Hellenism. If we want to preserve Hellenism, we all must now take time and do the work to make sure our Faith and culture is instilled in our youth. Now we must step up and pay it forward. Pay it forward to them by supporting their studies, goals, and ambitions while keeping them connected and tied to our Greek Orthodox Faith and our rich heritage,” said Manos.
The United Hellenic Voters of America (UHVA) and Founder Dr. Dimitrios Kyriazopoulos received the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. K., as he is known, established UHVA in 1974, as a nonpartisan grassroots political organization serving the Greek-American community in the Chicago metropolitan area. The group is dedicated to addressing issues vital to the Greek-American community by actively participating in political and community affairs. Additionally, they strive to forge close relationships with elected officials. Today he serves as its honorary National Supreme Chairman.
“Dr. K.’s vision for UHVA brings together Greek-Americans to provide them a platform to be represented,” said Kiki Stamatiou Whitehead, Dr. K.’s stepdaughter and the group’s current National Supreme Chairman. “Our group is unique, as we are nonpartisan. This allows us to choose candidates that best represent our community. We choose people, not parties.”
A retired senior professor at DePaul University where he taught for more than 40 years, Dr. K. has served in leadership positions in the American-Hellenic Organization, United Hellenic American Congress, and AHEPA. He’s listed in the Who’s Who among Hellenic American Leaders and Hellenes of the World.
The 2020 Professional Achievement Award recipient is Designer Annie Diamantidis. For her company, Annie Handbags, she creates handcrafted handbags made from luxurious materials, including exotic crocodile, python, ostrich, and stingray, featuring bold colors and 14K gold hardware. In homage to her Greek roots, her creations are named after Greek Goddesses. Her bags have caught the attention of celebrities like Angelina Jolie, and have become “red carpet go-to handbags”. Her collections are sold in luxury boutiques and hotels nationwide. Her handbags have been featured on hit TV shows like ‘Billions’ and ‘Gossip Girl’. Recently, she appeared as a handbag expert on the new hit reality TV show, ‘Hardcore Pawn’. She has partnered with several charities including Bear Necessities, which helps fight pediatric cancer; Hippocratic Cancer Research Foundation, which aims to discover, develop, and implement effective new treatments for cancer patients; and Save A Mother Foundation, that helps reduce childhood mortality in the villages it has served. “I’m humbled and honored to be recognized and rewarded as a distinguished member of the Greek-American community for preserving Greek heritage through my work as a handbag designer,” Diamantidis said. “Dream big, know that anything is possible if you work hard to achieve it.”
Lawyer of the Year is Georgia Loukas Demeros. A partner at the law firm of Thompson Coburn LLP in Chicago, she serves as an estate planning advisor and personal general counsel to closely-held businesses, business leaders, and other individuals. Her background as a CPA informs her work. Demeros is among the 2020 Notable Women of Law, named by Crain’s Chicago Business. In 2010, Law Bulletin Publishing Company named her among the “Top Forty Lawyers Under 40 to Watch.” For the past six consecutive years, she’s been recognized as an Illinois Super Lawyer and in 2014, Chicago Magazine recognized her as a “Five Star Professional” for estate planning. She currently serves as a member of the Academic Advisory Board for the Accounting Department of Loyola University of Chicago. Demeros also serves many community organizations. She’s among the legal advisors to The Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago and is an inaugural member of the Order of Myrrhbearing Women, a women-led initiative of the Metropolis. “I know that I would not have achieved the professional successes I have achieved without my family and my community. My parents instilled in my siblings and me the love of Hellenism, the Orthodox Faith, the importance of education and hard work. And while this award has my name on it, what it stands for and the road leading to my professional achievements, equally belong to my parents, and I can’t thank them enough for their sacrifices and guidance,” Demeros said.nShe expressed important words of advice for our youth. “To everyone in the next generation of Greek-Americans, please always remember, no matter how successful you become, never forget your Faith, your family, and your Hellenic roots.”
Proceeds from the event and the silent auction will apply to next year’s scholarship awards.
For more information about Hellenic Bar Association of Illinois, their website is hellenicbar.org*
* Maria A. Karamitsos has been a positive voice in Greek media since 2002. She was the Founder, Publisher, & Editor of WindyCity Greek magazine. For 10 years, she served as the Associate Editor & Senior Writer for The Greek Star newspaper. Her work has been published in GreekCircle magazine, The National Herald, GreekReporter, Harlots Sauce Radio, Women.Who.Write, Neo magazine, KPHTH magazine, XPAT ATHENS, and more. Maria has contributed to three books: Greektown Chicago: Its History, Its Recipes; The Chicago Area Ethnic Handbook; and the inaugural Voices of Hellenism Literary Journal. She’s working on her 1st novel. Learn more at mariakaramitsos.com.