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Sold-Out PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation Gala Celebrates the Future of Our Community
First live gala since pandemic culminates a weekend of events designed to nurture future leaders
by Maria A. Karamitsos*
After two years of virtual galas and events due to the pandemic, the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation (PHSF) made a triumphant return to live, in-person events. Its 2022 Gala Weekend boasted several events, designed to celebrate and nurture tomorrow’s leaders, including a sold-out gala.
The weekend commenced on Friday, June 17, as scholarship recipients and alumni gathered for a Welcome Reception, hosted by PHSF Senior Counsel Elias Matsakis, a partner at Holland & Knight in Chicago. This event is designed for scholars and alumni to meet and network, as well as meet Board and Committee members and donors.
On Saturday, scholars and alumni connected with mentors at the 6th Annual Mentorship Luncheon at the University Club Chicago, hosted by The Hellenic Initiative (THI) and sponsored by THI Board Member Nicholas W. Alexos, Executive Vice President/Chief Financial Officer of Univar Solutions, Inc. The mentors, nationally-known experts in their fields, answered questions, offered guidance, and shared real-world stories. These events are among the many ways PHSF goes “beyond a scholarship”.
This year’s mentors included Konstantine Buhler, Partner at Sequoia Capital; Kate Chappell, Weekend Morning Anchor & General Assignment Reporter, NBC Chicago; Vicky Kalogera, Northwestern University Professor, Director of CIERA, Astrophysicist; John Kass, Journalist, John Kass News; Joe Kokolakis, President Kokolakis Construction; Jim Logothetis, Former Senior Partner at Ernst & Young (EY); Jonathan Man, co-Founder and a Managing Partner of Drumlin Capital Management, LLC; Alexandra Mihalas, ESQ Attorney – Partner Kirkland & Ellis LLP; George Pelecanos, Producer and Scriptwriter, Film and TV Industry; Georgia Spear, MD Chief of Breast Imaging, NorthShore University Health System and Clinical Associate Professor of Radiology, University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine; Louis Theros, Vice President & Legal Counsel, MGM Resorts International – Midwest Group; Dean Tsarwhas, MD Hematology and Medical Oncology Specialist, Medical Director, North Region Cancer Center, Northwestern Medicine; and Hon. Thomas Varlan, United States Disrtict Judge. United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee.
Scholarship Awards for Greek-American college students
On Saturday evening, 600 attendees packed the Hilton Chicago to laud the future of our community at the annual Awards Ceremony & Gala. Fox 32 Sports Anchor Lou Canellis returned as Master of Ceremonies. “I’m honored to be back,” Canellis said. “This event is very special to me because I knew Founder Chris Tomaras. He was a man who believed in all of us.”
PHSF’s late Founder Chris P. Tomaras, a businessman and philanthropist, envisioned a brighter future through education and Hellenism. Since its inaugural scholarship awards in 2022, PHSF has awarded more than $4 million in scholarships to more than 610 deserving Greek-American students. Each year, PHSF offers 40 scholarships, 20 needs-based and 20 based on academic merit. This year’s scholars were selected from 167 applications.
Trustee John Manos and Advisory Board Member Kiki Vale announced this year’s recipients, followed by a short video from each scholar, speaking to the influence of Hellenism, their studies and aspirations. These already impressive students, armed with the love of their culture and faith, plus the work ethic instilled from their forebears and the drive to make a better future for all, give hope for humanity. Scholarship recipients from 2020 and 2021 were also recognized.
Last year, PHSF partnered with The Renaissance Fund, a Chicago-based non-profit, to cultivate tomorrow’s leaders via a three-year fellowship, including an unprecedented $30,000 in scholarship funds, a mentor, and ongoing support to realize their leadership potential. College sophomore finalists are automatically eligible. Each year, they’ll select two or three Fellows to receive a renewable $10,000 award per year, part of $30,000 total. Additionally, Fellows are assigned an appropriate mentor for their field of study. Mentors assist Fellows to make and assess goals, select courses, identify scholarships, and foster their leadership capabilities. The Fellows report their progress to the Board on a quarterly basis, paving their way to receive their next $10,000 for the following year.
Working with their assigned mentors, the 2021 Fellows met their performance criteria and were presented with their second $10,000 installment. Next year, if all requirements are met, they’ll be invited back to receive their final $10,000. The 2021 Fellows are Chiara Munzi a Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology major and Business of Entertainment and Marketing minor at Washington University in St. Louis; Mina Baniewicz an English Rhetoric and Writing major and Communications minor at Saint Xavier University who is also a part of the pre-law program; and Yanni Patitsas, majoring in Modern Greek at The Ohio State University.
In a surprise to all, the 2021 Fellows revealed the 2022 Fellows: Helen Georgitsos, a rising junior at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, majoring in Finance & Political Science and minoring in Legal Studies; Alexia Maniadaki, a rising junior at the University of Detroit Mercy, majoring in Biology with acceptance to the BS/DDS 7-year Dental Program; and Zoe Pozios, a rising junior at Michigan State University, majoring in Genomics & Molecular Genetics and minoring in Bioethics and Leadership in Integrated Learning. They received their first $10,000 installment and will soon meet with their mentors to begin their three-year fellowship.
The Paradigm Award’s name is derived from the Greek word, paradeigma, meaning example. Each year, PHSF honors a distinguished Hellene, who has not only risen to the top of their field but can also serve as a positive example for Greek-American youth. Recent honorees include Attorney and Sacramento Kings COO Matina Kolokotronis; Calamos Investments President & CEO John Koudounis; and Former White House Chief of Staff, and President & Chief Strategist at Michael Best & Friedrich LLP Reince Priebus.
Trustee Tom Sotos introduced 2021 Honoree, Author and TV/Film Writer & Producer, George Pelecanos, who accepted the trophy he’d been presented virtually. “I look forward to seeing how the students in this room make their mark in the world, with great anticipation,” Pelecanos said, then introduced the 2022 Honoree, Regeneron co-Founder, President, and Chief Scientist George Yancopoulos, MD, PhD.
“I congratulate the leadership of the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation for your work, trying to inspire and help the next generation of young people to make a difference in the world. I don’t think there’s anything more important,” Yancopoulos said.
He described his path to his profession and his drive to develop lifechanging and lifesaving medicines. “It starts with where I come from. We should always be proud of where we come from. If you stop and really think about it, you realize the millions of acts of courage and survival by your ancestors, over thousands and thousands of years, happened just so you could be alive today.”
He shared the story of his parents’ immigration from Makedonia following WWII and the Greek Civil War. “My parents came here with nothing to escape these wars. With nothing but their hopes and dreams, memories and stories. They told me we had greatness in our genes and in our history. We were survivors and heroes. If we work hard and study hard, we could do great things again,” he said. “All of our ancestors went through great trials and tribulations and committed countless acts of heroism just so we could be here today. We cannot waste that. We cannot allow all of that to have been in vain. We owe it to them to do our part, to be the best ancestors that we can be to those who follow us. Our sole goal should be to do our best to ensure the future of humanity, just like those who came before us. There are a million ways for us to make the world better. You’re the best and the brightest. You’re future heroes and I believe in you and in the future of humanity.”
New PanHellenic Young Leaders initiative
Chairman Robert Buhler announced a new program, “designed to be more inclusive for all young professional Hellenes.” PanHellenic Young Leaders program will now allow those not selected for scholarships to participate in mentoring events and planning. Along with PHSF Alumni, they can now be considered for internships.
PHSF had partnered with multiple companies to offer internship opportunities, however, the Internship Initiative launch was postponed due to the pandemic. Buhler announced that it will officially re-boot this fall, when 30 young leaders will be selected for internships. Also, through the generosity of Board members Ted and Demetra Argeropoulos, young leaders will be invited to National Hellenic Society’s “Heritage Greece” trip. More information about the program and eligibility are forthcoming.
“All of this does not happen without our PanHellenic ‘core’ donors, specifically our Endowment donors—Varlan, Man, Anderson; Paterakis; Mitchell. And our key donors via our Scholarship Society, donors who pledge $10,000 per year for 5, 10, or 20 years. We’re so grateful.”
Dancing to the sounds of Mylos Entertainment from New York kept the party going until the wee hours. Scholarship applications for 2023 will be available this fall. For more information about the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation and all the ways they cultivate tomorrow’s leaders, their website is panhellenicsf.org.
*) Maria A. Karamitsos has been a positive voice in Greek media since 2002. She’s the former Founder, Publisher, & Editor of WindyCity Greek magazine; and former Associate Editor & Senior Writer for The Greek Star newspaper. Her work has been published in GreekCircle, National Herald, NEO magazine, XPAT Athens, KPHTH magazine, GreekReporter, Harlots Sauce Radio, Women.Who.Write, and more. Maria has contributed to three books: Greektown Chicago: Its History, Its Recipes, The Chicago Area Ethnic Handbook, and the inaugural prose & poetry collection Voices of Hellenism Literary Journal. She’s currently querying literary agents for her debut novel, FINDING ELEFTHERIA. mariakaramitsos.com