By Catherine Tsounis
“We can not always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future,” said President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who saved America from the Great Depression. I have had the unique honor of knowing two Greek immigrants. One immigrant was from the Pontos, Asia Minor.
The other immigrant was from Cyprus. They built a positive self image in our youth of all backgrounds, who are studying Modern Greek or involved in Hellenism. The late Maria Athanasiades and Kostas Athanasiades are probably one of the few middle class philanthropists who have given between 25 to 40 scholarships annualy to college students. Unselfish,never having an ulterior motive in giving scholarships to students, they acted fairly, basing their selection on college GPA’s. Whether one agrees with Mr. Athanasiades philosophy, one must admit one point: he is the only middle class Greek-American giving scholarships from his own pocket on such a large scale. There is no one else. They are becoming a legend.
On Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 3 p.m., the Athanasiades Cultural Foundation, Inc. presented their 19th Annual scholarships. Anastasia Nitis, a recipient , had an almost straight A GPA. The scholars attend the University of Tirana, Queens College, Baruch College, Long Island University, SUNY, Boston University, Iona College, Bard College, William Paterson University, Loyola University, NYIT, St. Joseph’s College, Columbia University, New York University and Syracuse University. Their academic majors stem from Biology, Social Studies, Music, Finance, Nutrition, Education, English, Music, Art, Mathematics, Philosophy, Occupational Therapy, Life Science, Chinese Pharmacy and Psychology. The scholarship recipients included: Bridget Barry; Eleni Catsimalis; Ilva Dhimo; Erjona Dhimo; Cathy Dimos; Stavroula Economou; Jason Efthimiades; Philip J. Halikias; Irene Kavalos; Leander Kobolakis; Kleanthie Lathourakis; Kally Labrinos; Anna Lilikias; Anastasia Nitis; Cali Pantazis; Constantina E. Pantelios; Emily Polihrom; Christopher Raia; Michael Skopelitis; Constantinos Stamboulis; Elena Christine Toumaras; Evangelia Tzelios; Shari Tumandao; Christina Vlahos and Maryann Vlahos.
The program speakers were Ms. Koula Sophianou, Consul-General of the Republic of Cyprus; representative of Consul-General of Greece; Christos Tzelios; John G. Siolas, Ph.D.; James Stathopoulos, Esq.; Theodore Kalavesios, Esq. and Mihalis Michalakopoulos. A reception followed.
Costas Athanasiades could not achieve so much without the full support, cooperation, help, love and encouragement of his devoted wife, Maria. She inspired him to greatness. Mrs. Maria Athanasiades passed away on July 7, 2009. Mrs. Athanasiades was working while her husband was publishing the non-profit Cambana newspaper. She was a fair and just person. A patriotic, courageous woman, she came from the Pontos. Mrs. Athanasiades and her husband lived a frugal life as environmentalists. They cared for the people and the earth. Mrs. Athanasiades was a co-founder of the Athanasiades Cultural Foundation, Inc. and a dynamic patriot. She was active to the last minute of her life and passed away in peace.
Maria Athanasiades roots were from the Black Sea coast of Pontos. She grew up in Thessaloniki, fluent in Pontiaka, an ancient Greek dialect. She immigrated to Australia. In 1959, she married Kostas Athanasiades. She was an educated woman in the Health Care Sciences as a nurse. She continued to practice this skill when she immigrated to the United States.
I personally heard about the Athanasiades’ as I grew up in Astoria. They were folk heroes to the first and second generation Americans. Everyone felt a celebrity walked the street of 37th Street between 31st and 30th Avenue, when Kostas Athanasiades and Archimandrite Germanos Polyzoides (the founder of St. Demetrios Cathedral) appeared. They literally gave away a fortune to college students in the United States, Greece and Greek Epirus, Albania.
She aided many, middle class students, who are forgotten in society, because they are neither rich nor poor. They changed the scope of Greek-American scholarships, by not looking at the income of the students, just academic record and their dedication to Modern Greek language and culture. Maria and Kostas understood the injustice of all governments from the left and right. Their Athanasiades Foundation is a beacon of light to students.
“The Foundation of Hellenism of America proudly presents to Costas Athanasiades ‘The Cleistheneio Award”, said Michael Servos, President. “He is awarded this distinction for his outstanding work as a freedom fighter, journalist, author, philosopher, philanthropist and founder of the Athanasiades Cultural Foundation. This award honors the memory of Cleisthenes, the Founder of Democracy in Athens.”
The Veterans of the Foreign Wars of the United States honored the journalist in 2004 for his “faithful support of America’s deserving veterans and their families.” The organization stated in the citation that “patriotic Americans like you, Mr. Athanasiades, ensure that our nation remains ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave for generations to come’.” The benefactor was inducted as a member of the “National Library of Congress.” The Honorable Carolyn B. Maloney honored the author in the March 2001 “Congressional Record”.
Costas Athanasiades was born in Kalavasos, Cyprus on March 3, 1921.
He studied in Italy and acquired a degree as an agriculturalist. He served valiantly with British Commander Montgomery’s Cypriot troops during the WWII. He immigrated to the United States in 1959. Mr. Athanasiades purchased the “Campana” newspaper in 1961. He has authored more than a dozen books over the years. He has been cited for his insights and contributions by prestigious institutions, including the National Library of Congress and the United Nations.
Costas Athanasiades has been challenging the status quo since the 1950’s. I have been honored by George Bush twice and Ronald Reagan,” said Costas Athanasiades. “Our Foundation gives scholarships with the hope that others will follow our example. One hundred universities have honored me with their presidents’ giving me the highest honors. Whatever we do, we do without publicity. From the day I came to America, I do everything from the heart for my adopted country.”