PANHELLENIC SCHOLARSHIP FOUNDATION’S ANNUAL GALA GOES VIRTUAL: TRADITION OF PROVIDING $250,000 IN SCHOLARSHIPS CONTINUES
Chicago, IL – The COVID-19 pandemic will not prevent the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation, a Chicago-based national charitable organization, from awarding $250,000 in total scholarships to 40 college students of Hellenic descent in 2020. Formed in 2002, the Foundation has provided over $3.5 million to over 550 students since inception and has held an annual gala in Chicago in June to celebrate and honor those awarded the scholarships during that year.
COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges with fundraising and planned events for many not-for-profit charitable organizations, including the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation. The Board of Directors, however, swiftly determined that the Foundation would honor the mission of the organization and continue the tradition of awarding the scholarships in 2020.
A live, in-person gala to honor the recipients, however, is not a viable option in 2020. Instead, the Foundation will hold a series of virtual events traditionally held live in Chicago, including a Virtual Awards Gala on Saturday, June 13 at 8:30pm EST/7:30pm CST/5:30pm PST. The event will be free to the world and streaming online through YouTube and Facebook. A streaming link will be made available to everybody on the Foundation’s website, panhellenicsf.org, on June 13. More information and teaser videos can also be found on the website.
Although many charities have canceled their galas and events, the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation is determined to celebrate the achievements of the scholarship recipients. “Our goal is always to focus on these exemplary students,” said Robert A. Buhler, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Foundation. “After we decided that COVID-19 would not interrupt our tradition of awarding annual scholarships, we knew we needed to create a virtual event to honor these amazing students. We could not forego the opportunity to recognize the 40 students that inspire us and make us all so proud.”
Beyond a Scholarship
Honoring exemplary students is at the core of the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation. The mission of the Foundation is to promote education by providing scholarships and programs to Greek American students who, guided by the values of their Hellenic upbringing, have the potential to become life-long significant achievers, and contribute meaningfully to society. The Foundation’s vision is to build a better America through Education and Hellenism.
The Foundation delivers on its mission and vision in a variety of ways, starting with needs-based and merit-based scholarships. The Foundation awards 40 students per year with scholarships totaling $250,000. To date, the PanHellenic has awarded over $3.5 million to over 550 undergraduate students from across the United States. The students are from all fields of study, and the alumni today are leaders and professionals in virtually every profession.
The scholarships are only one part of the impact the Foundation strives to achieve. Creating opportunities for networking, mentorships, and internships are ways the Foundation lives up to its Beyond a Scholarship tagline. Each year, the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation hosts a weekend of activities in Chicago, Illinois, in June, called the Alumni Weekend, centered on the students and designed for networking with Board members, special guests, mentors that are leaders from a variety of professions, alumni scholarship recipients, and—of course—each other. The Alumni Weekend includes social events and mentoring lunch, which also invites young professionals from other Hellenic-based organizations.
During traditional times, the weekend of activities was topped off with an Annual Gala to celebrate the year’s scholarship recipients. The 600+ person affair typically includes a graduation-style walk across the stage for each of the 40 scholars, along with a Paradigm Award presentation to a distinguished Greek American, followed by dinner and dancing.
In addition to Alumni Weekend and the Annual Gala, the Foundation has grown its activities to benefit scholarship recipients and alumni. “We wanted to begin offering something more to our scholars each year, and develop closer-knit ties between our Alumni, Donors, and supporters. We’ve begun offering internships and mentorship opportunities to our Alum, as well as totally re-organizing our fundraising efforts with new planned and individual giving initiatives,” said Robert A. Buhler, who in addition to chairing the board is one of three Trustees, along with John G. Manos, Treasurer, and Tom P. Sotos, Secretary. “This is exemplary of what we call ‘beyond a scholarship.’” Internship opportunities are increasing year to year, and strong bonds and mentor relationships benefit alumni and donors alike.
Applications and the Academic Committee
The PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation application process is rigorous and very competitive. The Foundation receives an average of 200+ applications per year. An Academic Committee, independent of Board and staff affiliation, with extremely prominent credentials volunteers to review the applications and select the 40 students that will receive the scholarships by a very thorough review process. The Foundation’s national Academic Committee is comprised of academics from coast to coast, serving institutions like UCLA, The University of Chicago, and Stevens Institute of Technology, to name a few.
All qualified applicants must possess a cumulative 3.5 GPA, submit letters of recommendation and character references, as well as financial documents if applying for a needs-based scholarship. Other factors are also considered in a carefully developed rubric, which includes Hellenic engagement, extracurricular activities and volunteerism.
The Board of Directors, Advisory Board, and Alumni Board
The Foundation boasts a national Board of Directors with members located in the Midwest and East Coast, including Illinois, Wisconsin, Maryland and New York; a large Advisory Board with members from Coast to Coast—including Maryland, Delaware, Florida, North Carolina, Illinois, and California—as well as a 4-year old Alumni Board that is also national in scope, comprised of previous scholarship recipients who are living across the nation completing their undergrad or graduate work, getting started in new careers, or becoming seasoned professionals. The creation of the Alumni Board is another way that the Foundation has enhanced networking opportunities and developed ways for the alumni to get involved with the Foundation to benefit future generations of scholars. Much like the exceptional students the Foundation represents from almost all 50 states, it’s Governance includes talented, dynamic individuals from a variety of professional backgrounds who strongly believe in promoting the mission of the Foundation.
The Founder of PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation
The PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation was founded by Chris P. Tomaras in 2002. Although most people have enjoyed a gyro sandwich, many may not be familiar with Chris Tomaras, the founder of Kronos Foods, the largest distributor of gyro product in the United States. Kronos Foods also developed the patented Kronomatic, used for cooking the upright cones.
Chris came from Greece to America on a student Visa to attend Columbia University—but when the money and his sponsorship dried out, so did his dreams of pursuing a college education. Through hard work and a tenacity for business and entrepreneurship, Chris became incredibly successful, and also became a very generous philanthropist. Even though he didn’t complete his studies, he viewed education as the most important pillar of success, and devoted the last two decades of his life establishing and growing the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation. He considered all scholarship recipients his family, and that is a notion still being nurtured by everyone involved today.
Chris Tomaras passed away in 2015, but his legacy lives on through the work of the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation.
2020 Virtual Weekend and Gala
In light of COVID-19, this will not be a typical year for the gala weekend. But the Foundation has made plans to celebrate the scholarship recipients and continue with the mission of networking and mentoring—all virtually.
The PanHellenic Weekend, June 12-13, 2020, begins with a Welcome Reception which will be virtual via Zoom for all scholars. In past years, the event was hosted by Holland & Knight and sponsored by Elias N. Matsakis, the Foundation’s pro bono legal counsel.
On Saturday morning, current and past scholarship recipients will participate in a virtual zoom Mentorship Luncheon, held in partnership with The Hellenic Initiative and underwritten by Nicholas W. Alexos. This intimate setting allows scholars to receive career advice and mentorship by 10 to 15 mentors who are leaders in their fields – stemming from business, law, medicine, finance, education, and many more. The weekend culminates with the Virtual Awards Gala to honor and celebrate the individuals at the core of the Foundations’ mission – the exceptional Greek American college students.
The Virtual Awards Gala is free and open to everyone. Join the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation on Saturday, June 13 at 8:30pm EST/7:30pm CST/5:30pm PST for the 2020 VIRTUAL AWARDS GALA. Check panhellenicsf.org for updates or text “GALA” to (206) 736-1901 – we’ll see you at home!