NEW YORK – New York City Council Member Costa Constantinides was the keynote speaker for the graduation and scholarship ceremony at the Queens College Center for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies on May 24. He spoke in honor of the founder of the department, the late Professor Harry J. Psomiades and told the students that achieving their goals requires believing in yourself and hard work.
Constantinides noted that Prof. Psomiades founded the Center 44 years ago and since then it has been supported by thousands of expatriates along the way.
“Forty-four years ago, Harry Psomiades had a vision for this place. Surely, he could not know that in 2018 we would have all these graduates and these achievements. But he believed in it. This is a life lesson for us,” noted Constantinides, who graduated from the Department in 2005, recalling the many socially and professionally successful expatriates who have graduated from the Center.
Video: TNH/Costas Bej
Constantinides spoke about the shared history and immigration experience of all those in Queens, noting his father’s arrival during the era of McCarthyism when being different was not celebrated as it is today. “My father was afraid that if I learned Greek I would have been stigmatized for being different. If the climate had not changed since then, Centers like this would not exist. Today, 160 different languages are spoken in Queens,” said Constantinides.
Architect Amalia Bournias was awarded as the “Graduate of the Year” as she embarks on her career path. She is also known for her active engagement with professional and Greek community organizations.
“The Center is deeply rooted in my heart. When I came from Chios, at my age of 18, it was difficult to adjust. The Center was a home away from my home, my safe harbor. I had the honor to meet the late Prof. Psomiades. He could see so far in the future to create the next generation of leaders for our community,” said Bournias, who encouraged the graduates and current students to participate actively in professional organizations, in Greek-American organizations, and in church.”
Christos P. Ioannides, Director of Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, thanked all attendees and noted the fact that the interest in Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies was rooted in the Greek-American community and passed down from generation to generation.
“Today, 44 years after Professor Harry Psomiades, we have a new generation of Greek-American students studying here. We have the parents who studied here before, now seeing their children graduating tonight. We take pride in the achievements of the Greek-American community, especially in New York, in every aspect of our lives. The Center is a vital part of Queens College.”
College President Felix Matos Rodriguez congratulated the graduates and students and pointed out the important role played by the Center for Queens College.
“The end of the semester is a very important moment, we celebrate the achievements of our students. The Center is a family in which there is mutual support. The speech about Harry Psomiades is a gift to graduates.”
The Consul General of Greece in New York Konstantinos Koutras congratulated the students and encouraged them on their course for the future. “Open your wings, the University and the Greek community will be near you and we will be proud of you in the brilliant future that is in front of you.”
The out-going Consul General of the Republic of Cyprus, Ambassador Vasilios Philippou, who was awarded an honorary plaque, also expressed his emotion. In his speech, Amb. Philippou made a special mention of the contributions of Ioannides and the Center’s Assistant Director Effie Lekas whose valuable assistance helped Prof. Psomiades to institutionalize Greek Studies at Queens College.
Also present were Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York President Petros Galatoulas and the former president, Elias Tsekerides, who gave a greeting.
In total, scholarships of $14,500 were awarded to 26 students.
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, who was in Greece and could not attend, was represented by the Very Rev. Archimandrite Vasilios Bassakyros.