NEW YORK – The Association of Greek American Professional Women AGAPW celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8 by presenting Atlantic Bank President Nancy Papaioannou with its “Greek American Woman of the Year” and presenting an Excellence Tuition Scholarship to Madelein Ball at a reception in Manhattan’s Metropolitan Club.
The men and women who filled the ornate hall on the second floor of were reminded by Emcee Aphrodite Skeadas, former President of National Philoptochos, that it was not long ago that women in America faced discrimination and that around the world the fight for women’s rights continues amid violence and abuse.
AGAPW was established in 2010 as a 501c3 organization with a mission “to expand career opportunities and promote community and leadership building among Greek-American professional women by forging collaborations among ourselves and establishing partnerships with other organizations.”
The guests representing a cross section of the Greek-American Community’s leading professional and cultural organizations were proof of the fledgling organization’s progress.
AGAPW Founding President Dr. Olga Alexakos, who offered opening and closing remarks told the guests “I’m filled with tears of joy from my heart of hearts for supporting AGAPW with your presence.”
Skeadas introduced Keynote Speaker Dr. Miranda Kofinas, who spoke about the significance of International Women’s Day.
“Greek-American women have been challenge to reconcile their heritage and their families’ expectation with the great opportunities they found in the USA, and they accomplished it all…holding important positions” in all walks of life “and tonight we are honored to have one of these women in our company,” she said.
Born in Athens and excelling in the Arsakeio school, Papaioannou “from a young age had a healthy competitive streak and always strived for excellence and to do her best,” Kofinas said, which manifested itself in her career at Atlantic Bank, and as the first woman to be elected president of the prestigious Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce.
Kofinas concluded her remarks by saying that “she proves that hard work, perseverance and ethics can lead you to your desired destination,” prompting Papaioannou to exclaim “There are too many things going on. I don’t really deserve them, but I am very humbled, honored and happy tonight with all of you here…there are so many women here” who every day “do their job, do their duties, and really deserve recognition.”
Papaioannou did acknowledge that she, like the other women in the room “worked hard to attain the positions I hold. I have faced problems and obstacles as a woman in both my personal and professional life, but so far I have experience many valuable things… the ones that have me the most are: to say ‘yes’ to any challenges and opportunities I came across.”
Keys to her success, she said were “to always trust my instincts, be myself and never forget my background, to respect people and recognize teamwork,” she acknowledged the work of her colleagues, including Elpida Ferguson and Kimon Bakos – “to find ways to give back to my community, my country and to my people, and not forget that when there is a will there’s a way.”
The reception was also the occasion for the presentation of a Recognition Award to Greek Consul General Amb. George Iliopoulos whose tenure is drawing to a close. Guests noted that he and his wife Anthousa – and the art exhibitions they spearheaded – would be missed.
The couple were supporters of AGAPW and its mission from their arrival in New York in 2012 amid the fallout of the Greek crisis. Iliopoulos expressed thanks “for the great honor. I am truly humbled by it” and the community’s support as he and his colleagues, including Consul Manos Koubarakis, dedicated themselves to maintain a high level of service to community despite cuts in funds and staff.
Board member Dr. Aphrodite Navab – it was noted that the participation of two “Aphrodites” made it an especially auspicious night – introduced Ms. Ball, who is a double major in Hellenic History and Journalism at NYU.
The Greek and Cypriot diplomatic corps was well-represented among the dignitaries, including Greece’s Permanent Representative to the UN Amb. Catherine Boura, Amb. Vasilios Philippou – who was just appointed High Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus in New York and his wife Anthea – Greece’s Deputy Permanent Representative Nancy Vraila, Greek Consul Manos Koubarakis, former Ambassador of Cyprus to the United States Andreas Jacovides, and Penny Tsilas, wife of former Ambassador to the United States Loucas Tsilas.
Joanne James, who has produced a movie on women chefs, and her co-producer Anastasia Ganias, told TNH “we are thrilled to be here to support
AGPAW because our film is in that vein of congratulating the success of women all over the world and paying tribute to Greek culture and our unsung heroes.”