A Unique Centennial Symposium of Panchiaki Korais Society, Inc. and Chios
By Catherine Tsounis
Panchiaki Korais Society is known for its philanthropic work in the United States and Greece. In 1992, upon the celebration of Chios’ 90th Anniversary of freedom from the Ottoman Turkish Empire, Antonios Harokopos, international Byzantine History scholar, presented the society with a recognition award from the Academy of Athens. Panchiaki Korais Society has been donating its funds to Greek-American schools of New York City during its ninety years of existence. The island is primarily known for its predominance in the shipping industry with legendary ship owners who changed the business world. Intellectuals in ancient times, such as Homer, Thales and Anaxagoras and modern day scientists and scholars are playing prominent roles in scientific and intellectual circles.
The Panchiaki Korais Society, Inc. sponsored an exceptional Centennial on the occasion of its 100th Anniversary, 1912-2012. The topic was Milestones in History: United States and Greece. The symposium was held on Saturday, October 14th, all day at the Chian Federation, 44-01 Broadway, Astoria, New York.
The scholarship was exceptional and is worthy of calling it on the same level as the events featured by the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation (USA) and the foremost education institutions on Greek Studies. The finest scholars of Greek background made presentations. Koula Sophianou, Consul General of Cyprus, Evangelos Kyriakopoulos, Consul of Greece community activists, leaders and members of Greek-American organizations of the tri-state area. The absence of legendary educator Constantine Parthenis was noticed. Panchiaki Korais Society and Chiaka NEA periodical was part of his identity. He was a force mainstreaming the organization’s generous scholarship on the university level.
“It was one hundred years ago, on November 11, 1912, that the island committed to seek its liberation from the Ottoman Empire and be united with Greece,” said Athena Kromidas, Educator/Scholar/Principal of William Spyropoulos School of St. Nicholas Church in Flushing, New York. “A series of events titled ‘The Centennial Celebration’, taking place throughout the year of 2012 have been organized to honor the centennial anniversaries of the liberation of Chios and the founding of the Panchiaki Korais Society….We have a very ambitious program for the say with speakers of the highest esteem who will be presenting topics on political and financial developments in Greece, intellectual developments as well as the flourishing of maritime in Chios, key scientific milestones and Hellenic presence in America. Our goal today is to have you leave this symposium with a wealth of knowledge and a deeper appreciation of our Greek Heritage.” And that they did. Abundant refreshments exhibited the Chian traditional hospitality that comes from their Ionian descent of ancient times.
The Program had the following format: 9 a.m., Registration-Continental Breakfast; Welcome, Mrs. Athena Kromidas, Chairlady, Centennial Symposium; Opening Remarks, Christopher Stratakis, Esq., Chairman Centennial Committee; “Hellenic Heritage: The Marble Head of the Poet”, Ambassador Loucas Tsilas, Executive Director, Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation USA; “The Megali Idea: A messianic Dream Unfulfilled”, Dr. Christos Ioannidis, Director, Center of Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies; “Elements of Economic Transformation of Greece and Chios During the Last Century”, Dr. George Tsetsekos, Dean, LeBow College of Business, Drexel University; “Authors and Poets of Chian Origin During the Last One Hundred Years and their Contribution to the Intellectual Developments in Greece” (In Greek), Mrs. Athena Kromidas, Principal, William Spyropoulos School of St. Nicholas, Flushing, New York; Lunch Buffet; “Chios Liberated – Shipping Continues Upward” Dr. Mattheos D. Los, General Manager, Vrontados, S.A., Treasurer, Union of Greek Shipowners, Vice President Emeritus, HELMEPA; “The Shooting Star”, Mr. George Negroponte, Artist, President of the Drawing Center 2002-2007; “Key Science Milestones and Their Relevance to Chios”, Dr. Stamatios Krimigis, Member, Academy of Athens, Head Emeritus, Space Department, John Hopkins University; “Hellenism- The American Experience” Christopher Stratakis, Esq., Senior Partner, Poles, Tublin, Strata is & Gonzales, LL.P.; Closing Remarks; Reception.
The final presentation of the Symposium was by the Hon. Christopher Stratakis, Esq. My encounter with Mr. Stratakis scholarship was at the 2008 Sophocles and Louisa Zoullas Memorial Hellenic Lecture at Kimisis Tis Theotokou Church, Southampton, New York. Thomas Jefferson’s legendary correspondence with Greek linguist Adamantios Korais was described. The speaker’s excellence in research was revealed again in his topic “Hellenism-The American Experience.”
“Who were the first Greeks?”, asked Esq. Stratakis. “Columbus was of a Genoese family from Chios. The first Greek known to have been to what is now the United States was Don Theodoro, a sailor who landed on Florida in 1528. In 1592, Greek captain Juan de Fuca sailed up the Pacific coast under the Spanish flag. The Strait of Juan de Fuca is named after him. In 1768, Dr. Andrew Turnbull, whose wife was born in Smyrna, transplanted around 1500 settlers, from Smyrna, Crete, Minorca, Majorca, Ibiza, Mani, and Sicily. They were mistreated, abandoned colony. Orphans from the 1822 Chios Catastrophe were adopted and brought to America. The first significant Greek community to develop was in New Orleans. Louisiana. Nicolas Benakis, headed a group of export/import businesses, establishing the oldest Greek Orthodox Church in 1864. Most Greek immigrants were from Asia Minor, and the Aegean Islands under the Ottoman Empire from the early 1890’s and early 1900’s, because of economic opportunity and displacement from the Ottoman Empire.” The speaker described the 1923 quota system against Europeans, the advancement to middle class status in WWII, small immigration till 1965.
“In 1965, the Greek immigration increased…,” he said. “This fresh wave gave vitality…The Greek Orthodox Church and national societies became a place to make friends and hold on to Hellenic ethnicity. The Greek American Press preserved ethnic consciousness. Ddemonstrations over the Cyprus question after 1974 gave rise to a Greek Lobby. In the U.S.A. The Hellenic achievements are remarkable. Greeks represent less than one half of 1 % of the United States population. The first generation of immigrants is gone. The second generation is in their seventies. The third generation generation is in their forties and fifties and the fourth generation in their teens and twenties. The early and post WWII generation are not replenishing themselves. The Greek-American population is shrinking.”
“What happened? One theory is that Greek-Americans are part of the Diaspora. The second theory is that descendants of immigrants mainstreamed, remembering culture values…..A new form of Greek consciousness is developing. The third and fourth generations are the weakest link to ancestral culture. …Unless links are preserved, future generations will disappear such as the colony of New Smyrna. The story of the Greek-American community is not over. ..Hellenism is not lost. We must hold on to the soul of Orthodoxy, music, food and visits to the ‘Old Country’.”
A question and answer period followed the end of the Symposium. Captain Tatsis mentioned more Greek Studies Chairs should be established in Universities in America. Nicholas Poulis, Chairman of the Chios Relief Fund of the Chian Federation, said “We send Five thousand a month to Chios for supplies to the soup kitchen. We are feeding 570 families currently.” Members of the Chios Relief Fund include: Dr. Nicholas Rallis, Co-Chairman; Alex Doulis, President of the Chian Geriatric Foundation; Vagelis Kavvadas, former President of the Chian Federation; Maria Papagiannakis, President of the Woman’s Auxiliary of the Chian Federation. Stavros Haviaras is the 2012 President of the Chian Federation. For more information, email [email protected] or visit https://www.chianfed.org/mos/index.php.
“Symposium in ancient Greece always concluded with wine and food,” said Chairman Stratakis. “We invite all to share wine with us with a pleasant exchange of ideas.” The Panchiaki Society Board of Directors and Members include: Stelios Gerazounis, President; George Vasilakis, 1st Vice President; Nick Menis, 2nd Vice President; Evangelia Klidas, General Secretary; Stanley Neamonitis, Treasurer; Christos Stratakis, Esq. Legal Advisor.; Members, Anthony Almyroudis, Antonios Fegoudakis, Vasilios Gerazounis, Stavros Karatzas, John Klidas, Costas Kojes, Mary Kojes, Demitrios Kontolios, Simone Moraitis-Lago, George Pappas, Costas Parthenis, Petros Parthenis, James Psaltakis, Capt. Stelios Tatsis, Capt. Takis Tsevdos; Honorary Presidents, Dr. Theodore Kalamotousakis and Emmanuel Moraitis.
The Centennial Committee and members are the following persons : Honorary Chairpersons: Matrona Xylas Egon, Angeliki Frangou, John C. Hadjipateras, Antonios Harokopos: Christopher Stratakis, Esq. Chairman; Capt. Stelios Tatsis, Co-Chairman; Armodios Papagianakis, Treasurer; Members Amalia Bournia, Stelios Gerazounis, Costas Kojes, Mary Kojes, Dimitrios Kontolios, Athena Kromidas, Hon. Matthew Mirones, Stanley Neamonitis, Costas Parthenis, Dimitrios Psaltakis, Dr. Nicholas Rallis and Elisavet Tzoumaka.
Photo 1 – Chairman Stratakis saying “We invite all to share wine with us with a pleasant exchange of ideas.”, as Symposium speakers listen.
Photo 2 – Dr. Stamatios Krimigis, Koula Sophianou, Consul General of Cyprus, Mrs. Christopher Stratakis and Dr. George Tsetsekos.