By Catherine Tsounis
The Federation of Hellenic-American Educators & Cultural Associations of America and Hellenic PAIDEA of America held its tenth annual “Honor to the Greek Teacher” testimonial, Sunday afternoon, May 3, 2015 at the Holy Trinity Cathedral Culture Center at 337 East 74th Street, New York. This year’s honoree was Dr. Ioannis Efthymiopoulos, Director of the Greek Education Department and prolific writer. The event was entirely in the Greek language. Dora Bakoyannis, member of the Greek Parliament, in the Federation of Hellenic-American Educators & Cultural Associations of America journal book believes “he is a man of extensive educational and administrative knowledge and experience in Greece, Germany Belgium and the United States. Since his arrival, he has contributed to the best of his great ability to the modernization and promotion of Greek-American education. ….Mr. Efthymiopoulos has recently undertaken the production of new textbooks for all levels of Greek American schools. I wish him a success in his new endeavor.”
His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, the clergy, prominent members of Greek organization. Education and business community were present. Every major newspapers and members of the mass media industry covered the event. The persons in the shadows were the real honorees. The entire Greek community of the United States from California, The Mid-West, Southern and Northeastern states had ads in journals created by both organizations.
Mrs. Stella Kokolis, President of the Federation of Hellenic-American Educators & Cultural Associations of America said “We gather in Celebration of the 10th Anniversary of “Honor to the Greek Teacher” testimonial. Let us reflect on the admirable work that the teachers have devoted to their students through the decades. With courage and perseverance, let us continue to kindle the light of Hellenic education.” Mrs. Kokolis is an educator for over forty years. She is a graduate of the Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences in Athens. Mrs. Kokolis holds graduate degrees from the School of Education of Columbia University. The educator is a warm, generous, philanthropist engaged in church and political projects
Her late husband, Dr. Panagiotis Kokolis, was a prominent physician in Brooklyn, New York. Philanthropist, Community Activist and Supporter of Hellenism described his life. He inspired his wife, Stella Kokolis, to expand the growth of Greek language, culture and religion internationally. He is best remembered by his patients for his outstanding medical ability and generosity.
This writer has worked with Mrs. Kokolis since the 1970’s. She is an exceptionally kind person without a mean bone in her body. No one can ever stay angry with Mrs. Kokolis. She is a great compromiser, negotiating and settling education disagreements. Her generosity is legendary. When someone needs funding for a project or a scholarship for a student, Mrs. Kokolis gives money from her own pocket. Her pleasant smile, enthusiasm and sincerity are unique. The educator is one of the giants of our time in the field of bilingual education in the global community. She is a role model for all to follow.
“GREEK the language they gave me; poor the house on Homer’s shores.
My only care my language on Homer’s shores… ,” Axion Esti by Odysseus Elytis.
“The Greek language and culture are admired and appreciated around the world,” explained President Vasiliki Filiotis of the Hellenic Paidea of America, Inc. “It is important to the languages and cultures of the world. Greek recorded ancient philosophy and is the basis of languages. Every language contains Greek words. Greek language spread Christianity.’
President Filiotis has been perpetuating Hellenic values and language. “We support Modern Greek language studies and urge all youth to enroll, she explained. “Our aim is to promote Greek language, literature, history, art and science. The Hellenic Paideia Organization’s goal is to encourage Greek-Americans and their friends to speak the Greek language. We must leave an inheritance to the next generation. European culture and civilization, of which our own country is a part, are rooted in ancient Greece. We must transmit to future generations, the knowledge, culture, traditions preserved and passed on to us. The Greek language survives today because it has offered the world a unique contribution. Only the Greek language could communicate the Christian faith in the gospels and St. Paul’s Epistles.
President Filiotis believes “Greek continues to communicate ideas, thoughts, and the arts. Parents must redefine their own ethnic identity, expressing their belief in the Greek cultural achievement. They must come forward to offer their time and talents to perpetuate the Greek Legacy. Greek education’s purpose is to provide students with the tools to become their own teachers throughout their life. They will think critically and independently, uplifting their minds. We must study Greek in order to prevent our own decline. Greek is the language of the bible and basis of Christianity. It is the obligation of parents to support an education of Greek language that will transmit these truths.” Her generosity is legendary and help to all is well-known. Mrs. Kokolis and President Vasiliki Filiotis are the real honorees. They are a two-woman show, who spent hours to pull off this exceptional event. Their journal books should be in the library.
Eleni Karageorgiou, former coordinator of Greek Education of the Greek Consulate of the City of New York, brought spring and rebirth to a position stagnated by “Old World” practices. Mrs. Karageorgiou has influenced all around her. Educator/Musician Konstantinos Stergioulis, her husband, has enhanced her work though his supportive role. Mrs. Karageorgiou is currently principal of the Greek School of Plato, Brooklyn, New York. Congratulations on her unique work.
The subject of writing Greek books was constantly being mentioned. One should go back to the Greek Education and Sunday School Departments’ materials of the 1970’s to 1990’s. Tripoli city, created a booklet entitled “Tripolis: in the heart of & tradition, the heart of Arcadia”. The pages explain every Greek passage in English. Their tourist agency is addressing a multi-lingual approach, with thousands of refugees entering Greece. This is a two language approach. “What is Unsaid is Understood.” For more information, email[email protected].
This exceptional event can best be summarized by Dr. David R. Weinberg’s lecture in the booklet “Three Lectures On The Value of Greek Paedeia” by Dr. Rick M. Newton, Dr. Nenos Georgopoulos and Dr. David R. Weinberg, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese N. & S. America, Department of Education, 1992. “The phenomenon of Hellenism is unique in the world,” Dr. Weinberg explains. “There is no other ‘ism’ which has commanded so much admiration and praise for so many centuries of human history. There is no other word in the collected pool of language which connotes so much idealism, perfection, arête, beauty and excellence. There is no other ‘ism” in history which so enflamed idealistic hearts and minds to sacrifice their lives for another’s cause as did thousands of Philhellenes in the Greek War of Independence. This is because there is no other ‘ism’ to which we all feel members and inheritors regardless of race, creed, religion or national origin. The British poet Percy B. Shelley stated it eloquently: ‘Our laws, our literature, our religion, our arts, have their roots in Greece. We are all Greeks.’”