By David Bjorkgren, Editor
Special to the Hellenic News of America
Elegance ruled the evening as guests gathered Sunday, Nov. 12, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Hellenic News of America.
It was a feast of the senses, a fitting tribute to the newspaper, the man and the family that have helped link the Greek American community together for three decades.
Delicacies from Greece and fine dining greeted guests as they talked about their common heritage within the beautiful interiors and the formal European style designs of The Merion Event Center in Cinnaminson, New Jersey. The evening concluded with music by Greek musician Dimitris Basis.
Guests came from Greece and all over the United States, from all professions and business backgrounds to share in the newspaper’s success, a demonstration of the networking energy and determination of founder and publisher Paul Kotrotsios. Assisting him along the way has been his wife, Linda, and his three daughters; Aphrodite, who is a co-publisher; Stavroula and Ioanna.
“Continuing the Hellenic legacy” was the theme of the anniversary gala. The formal ballroom buzzed with the energy of that idea. People came to celebrate the newspaper but they also celebrated themselves.
“This night is very special to my heart as it marks 30 years of dedication, faith and perseverance of my family’s oath to the Greek Diaspora of the United States of America,” began Aphrodite. “Hellenic News of America is more than just a newspaper covering the news of our community. It’s a platform where Hellenism comes to life.”
The newspaper was the first monthly bilingual newspaper of its kind. From its 12-page humble beginning in 1987 serving the tri state area, it has grown to 64 pages, reaching an international readership in print and on line.
“It’s so hard to believe that this newspaper that was brought to life in my parent’s basement has developed into a unifying force for Hellenism. It is such an honor to work alongside my father as he undertakes this herculean task of uniting, promoting, informing and inspiring the Greek diaspora in America,” Aphrodite said.
Paul Kotrotsios came to the United States from Greece in 1979 with a degree in economics from the University of Thessaloniki. He went on to earn a Master’s degree in business from St. Joseph’s University in 1984. His parents endured war, starvation and migration, working three jobs a day so he and his late sister could receive a good education with hopes of a better future.
“Along his course, he realized there was a communication gap between Greece and the Greek Diaspora in America, so he sought several ideas on how he could pay it forward and connect the two countries,” Aphrodite said.
Working in the 1980s as a general manager of a Greek radio network, Paul met with Dr. Michael Papaioannou who was a business associate at the time. “I vividly remember our first discussion with Paul in starting a paper. Topics to be covered? How to keep the Hellenic ideals in America. How to recognize and inform the Greek American community and how to educate the non-Greeks on who we are… ”, Dr. Papaioannou told the gala crowd. Soon after, the Hellenic News of America was born. “From that time I had no doubt that Paul’s passions, enthusiasm and education would make this dream a reality and he did it.”
Dr. Papaioannou was one of nine Greek Americans honored at the gala by the Hellenic News of America for their accomplishments. Today, Papaioannou serves as an expert at the International Monetary Fund and is a visiting scholar and professor at the LeBow School of Business, Department of Economics at Drexel University.
Chairman of the anniversary event and keynote speaker was Dr. Spiros Spireas, Ph.D., owner, founder, chairman and CEO of Sigmapharm Laboratories in Bensalem, Pa. Dr. Spireas, who has also served as past president of the American Hellenic Institute Foundation, came to the United States in 1985 from Kalamata, Greece. He spoke of the importance in continuing the connections between Greek Americans. “The question is, is the new generation going to continue that?” he asked. “Somehow we have to keep institutions like newspapers, Greek TV, churches. We have to keep these organizations alive and the challenge we have as a community is to do that. To you Paul and your family, I wish you another 30 years,” he said.
Other voices weighed in. Guest speaker Appo Jabarian, publisher and editor of USA Armenian Life Magazine who traveled from California talked about the common bonds between Greeks and Armenians.
“As a founder and publisher and managing editor, I feel with Mr. Kotrotsios and I know what kind of challenges the publisher goes through in order to keep his publication going like Duracell batteries,” he joked. The Lebanese Armenian American talked about growing up with Greek and Armenian music in his household. “Now I continue to grow up with issues concerning our two peoples, cousins, Armenians and Greeks,” he said, referencing the problem of Turkish-occupied territories in their two countries.
“I am a deep believer that Hellenism, like Armenism, has a world mission so we must keep the torch lit in the hearts and minds of the Greek Americans and the Armenian Americans together and we must continue the journey together,” he said to applause.
The night also offered many philanthropic opportunities, silent auctions and a paddle raise, all to generate funds for the New York Ronald McDonald House, Greek Division; the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Scholarships, AHEPA’s Hellenic Relief Fund and the Disaster Relief Fund: Lesvos, Greece.
The Hellenic News of America and the Mid-Atlantic Greek American Foundation also continued a tradition of giving away scholarships at the gala to high school and college students of Hellenic descent who presented winning essays this year on two themes: “The significance of the ‘OXI DAY’ for the Greeks and the world” and “The importance of the Greek American Print Media as the intercommunication means to our communities.” Six students received scholarships to help them with their education and offer opportunities to study abroad for a semester in Greece.
Louis Katsos, president of the Eastern Mediterranean Business Culture Alliance in Queens, New York, served as master of ceremonies for the evening. Katsos introduced the nine Hellenes and Philhellenes that were honored for outstanding work in their fields.
This year’s recipients included Professor Marina Angel, Temple University Emerita for her work to improve social justice for women and minorities. Judge Ourania Papademetriou of the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia, a former student of hers, accepted the award on her behalf.
“My best wishes to the Hellenic News of America on this important anniversary. Enjoy yourself. I’m sorry I’m missing a great party,” Professor Angel relayed in a message read by Judge Papademetriou.
“I just wanted to add that Professor Angel is a leader in legal education. She has educated generations of attorneys by example that have gone on to the highest level of legal profession throughout the country,” Judge Papademetriou added. “We are honored to have her part of our Hellenic American community.”
Eleni Bousis received the Philanthropist of the Year award for her dedication to providing quality care programs for elders and their families. She relayed her greetings to the crowd in a pre-recorded video.
“To my dear friend Paul Kotrotsios, congratulations for your foresight in perpetuating Hellenic principles, ideas, faith and culture and being the voice of truth. Thank you for enlightening us with the inside stories within our communities in philanthropy, education, political reviews and individual triumphs and accomplishments,” she said in the video.
Archon Michael Psaros was named Person of the Year in Business and Philanthropy for his dedication to the Orthodox faith and his philanthropic interests. Psaros is co-founder and managing partner of KPS Capital Partners, LP who also serves on the Board of Directors of Georgetown University, creating the “Michael and Robin Psaros Endowed Chair in Business Administration” at the university. He also serves as treasurer of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the board of trustees of Leadership 100. He is a benefactor of the St. Nicholas National Shrine in New York City at Ground Zero and The Washington OXI DAY Foundation.
“My family and I are blessed, honored and humbled to receive the Person of the Year in Business & Philanthropy from the Hellenic News of America. We congratulate all of the distinguished award recipients, including my dear friend and brother Archon, John Koudounis. AXIOI! I congratulate the Hellenic News of America for celebrating its 30th Anniversary. The Hellenic News is truly a unifying force for Hellenism and Orthodoxy throughout the United States and for our omogenia worldwide. I commend Paul and Aphrodite Kotrotsios, and the entire staff of the Hellenic News of America for their vision, faith, philotemo and commitment to our people. May Almighty God grant the Hellenic News of America another 30 years of excellence and service. Me sevasmo, elphitha kai agape,” shared Mr. Michael Psaros.
John Koudounis received the Investor of the Year award for his dedication to investing in Greece. He is CEO of Calamos Investments with over 28 years of experience in financial services.
Nancy Papaioannou, president of Atlantic Bank, NYCB received the Women in Leadership Award for her dedication and leadership in banking. She is the first woman to lead Atlantic Bank since its inception in 1926.
“We have treasures that follow us,” she told the crowd in accepting the award. “We are Greeks and this, no one can take it from us. We need to be united because one cannot go far but together we can go far. We can work together and make Greece the best country in Europe.”
Dr. Michael G. Papaioannou was awarded for his dedication to the world economy. He was the Deputy Division Chief at the Debt and Capital Markets Instruments, Monetary and Capital Markets Department of the International Monetary Fund until July 2017. While there, he served as a special adviser to the Governing Board of the Bank of Greece.
Dr. Thomas Phiambolis received the Distinguished Professional of the Year award for his dedication to the advancement of heart health. Dr. Phiambolis established a Cardiac CT Angiography program for Main Line Health and now is the director of that program. More recently, he has established the Advanced Lipid Clinic for Main Line Health and initiated the new cholesterol program with PCSK9 therapy.
Chris Diamantoukos, AHEPA Supreme Governor Region 3 received the AHEPA of the Year award. His AHEPA Initiation was in 1999, serving as president and secretary of Camden Chapter No. 69 before joining the 5th District Lodge.
Markos Papadatos was recognized for his role as a senior editor and power journalist and has been a vital part of the Greek American music and entertainment community in New York. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music including Aerosmith, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow, Dame Vera Lynn, Olivia Newton-John, Donny and Marie Osmond, and Martina McBride among countless other noteworthy individuals in the United States and in Greece. Other interviews include Olympic caliber athletes, actors, and magicians, including Greek-American magician Criss Angel. In 2017, Markos won “Best Twitter Account from Long Island” for @Powerjournalist in the Arts & Entertainment category in the “Best of Long Island.”
“A journalist is only as good as his reading audience,” he said, thanking Paul and Aphrodite for giving him a platform and paying tribute to his work. Then he added, “I wanted to thank my biggest inspiration in life, my biggest champion, my mom who is here tonight. Thank you for raising me as a valuable member of the Greek American community.”
Toward the end of the evening, Paul Kotrotsios was presented a citation from the American Hellenic Institute and the American Hellenic Institute Foundation. Board members assembled to present the citation.
“Paul Kotrotsios and his team at the Hellenic News of America certainly exemplify the principles in order to do this in the Greek American community for 30 years and that means to have integrity, to have passion. You need passion to work on any issue, especially in the Greek American community. And he does it with excellence. That and so much more, we tip our hats to you tonight, to congratulate you because you do provide an invaluable service to the community. It’s been a great pleasure to work with you and your team for all these years…” said Nick Larigakis, president of the American Hellenic Institute.
The founder of the Hellenic News of America had the last word. . .
“Honored guests, thank you. What is written remains. What is said is forgotten. For 30 years, in the Greek American community, we feel very proud to have contributed to the cultural shape of our community by promoting our Hellenic heritage and writing the history of Omogeneia. This venue that started 30 years ago is solidly based on the support of its subscribers, advertisers and sponsors and friends like you,” he told the enthusiastic guests. He described the newspaper as a “mirror” of the Greek American community and American society in general. He pointed to its successes, using the annual Hermes Expo to bring together American and Greek businesses. “In 2018, the US will be the honored country at the Thessaloniki Fair and the Hermes Expo and the Hellenic News of America will play a role again in organizing not only a trip to Greece but making sure our American compatriots will be engaged with business people in Greece and the region,” he said.
“In our 30 years of commitment to the Greek American community, we hope you will join us in solidifying the presence of the newspaper into the next decade and beyond. Thank you for helping us contribute to the historical vault of the Greek American Community, by promoting and empowering the ideas and traditions of Hellenic American friendship. Thank you for sharing the dream.”