NEW YORK – The Hellenic University Club of New York (HUC) is one of the most storied organizations in the Greek-American community. Its founders included the renowned Dr. George Papanicolaou and its impact extends beyond its membership to the thousands who have received scholarship through the years.
Over its more than a century of existence, the Greek-Amercan community has seen its major organizations cycle through periods of glory and relative quiescence. Time and chance happened to HUC also, but a group of about 11stalwarts heroically kept the Club and its vital scholarship program going in recent years. They never lost hope that the younger generations would pick up the torch and revive the club though new members and attractive events and last June, a new Board was elected which took that mission to heart.
Paid membership is now 60 and growing and on February 25 the members approved revised bylaws and a certificate of incorporation that the Board says are necessary for the Club to move forward.
President George Tsiatis told TNH “we’re trying to make an organization that has a rich history relevant again and putting into action its mission of supporting young people of Hellenic ancestry pursuing the dream of higher education and keeping a lively and vibrant community for the members…continuing the path of education, culture in a positive social setting…with program for the young, old and in-between.”
They are beginning with simple networking receptions and look forward to presenting lectures, symposia, theater outings and plan to partner with other Hellenic organizations with similar aims.
Some technical matters had to be addressed. Due to the lapse of HUC’s 501c3 status, lawyers from Hughes Hubbard and Reed working pro bono advised the Board that revising the bylaws and certificate of incorporation would help restore the tax exempt status, the loss of which puts into jeopardy existing and future substantial donations, including a six-figure distribution from the Frederick EG Valergakis Charitable Trust.
“The Board voted unanimously to present new bylaws to the members for approval,” Tsiatis told TNH, which happened in February 25.
Tsiatis applied simplified rules of order that eschewed cross-talk amd required each speaker to wait his turn, ensuring respect for all the ideas that were expressed.
The meeting appeared to be an informed discussion thanks to an exchange of emails had taken place accompanied by copies of the old and revised documents.
He also sent a note based on his conversations with some members who raised questions about the proposed changes.
The idea of relying permitting proxy voting for the first time was questioned – the failure to achieves quorums in recent years contributed to the Club’s difficulties – and another issue was the change in the organizations status from a public charity to a private foundation.
It was explained that was necessary because the Club’s recent operations did not manifest enough “public support,” under 501c3 law, but there is a good chance that “with HUC activity since last June, “we have proven a new trend towards public support,” that could make it a public charity again Tsiatis said.
Asked about the auditing provisions Tsiatis told TNH the sooner HUC is under 501c3. the more stringent the auditing requirements would be. “In the interim if anybody wants to review the books I’d be more than happy to make them available,” he said.
All those matters prompted some to advocate a go-slow approach, but as Tsiatis explained at the meeting held at Holy Trinity Cathedral, the group could not afford to wait.
The meeting began with welcome from Tsiatis, who was joined at a table by attorney HUC Governor Steven Ateshoglu, Treasurer Paulette Adamis Adamos, Vice President Nicholas Neonakis, and Recording Secretary Kristiana Poulon.
Tsiatis declared the purpose of the meeting was to review the revised documents and vote on them.
Longtime member and past president Margo Galson urged the members to take more time to discuss the changes and said they should not be put to a vote that night.
Ted Klingos acknowledged “the tremendous amount of work” done by the new Board and said “If you talk to 20 lawyers you’ll get 20 opinions about how to move forward.”
Governor Katherine Boulukos also expressed support for the Board’s initiatives.
The motions to vote and to approved the documents passed by votes of 27 to 2 with one abstention.
The Board acknowledged that the bylaws could be improved and invited members to sign up for a committee that would consider changes in the future, and “I welcome ongoing dialogue,” Tsiatis told TNH.
Treasurer Paulette Adamis spoke of the two restricted funds, The Estia Fund and the scholarship accounts.
The Estia fund is for acquiring a physical home for HUC. It is invested and the markets fluctuate but Adamos reported it is approximately $397,000.
The scholarship fund is fund is at $143,000 and the number of scholarships HUC gives depends om the revenue it generates. This year they are committed to giving four $1,500 scholarships.
The scholarship committee’s work is proceeding smoothly and students can now apply online at hellenicuniversityclubny.org.