CHICAGO – The PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation (PHSF) awarded over a quarter million in scholarship funding to 45 students of Hellenic descent pursuing a higher education in the U.S. at its annual gala held at the Hilton Chicago on June 16th.
Recipient of this year’s Paradigm Award was former White House Chief of Staff for President Donald Trump, Greek-American Reinhold Richard “Reince” Priebus. Taking the stage, Priebus spoke about his Greek roots and faith, emphasizing their impact on him as a student and professional.
“I was blessed to grow up in such a resilient foundation, but I also discovered that faith is extremely personal as well. Faith will get you through some of the most challenging times of your life and will help you determine which direction you turn,” Priebus said.
“As the world around us changes rapidly and brings us new and complicated challenges, faith is what keeps us centered, education is what prepares us, and history is what already provides a blueprint,” he added.
Some 550 guests attended the black tie event, which included two cocktail receptions, an awards ceremony, dinner, live entertainment, $10,000 grand prize raffle, and an after party. Mistress and master of ceremonies were TV personalities and PHSF alumni Trish Christakes and Pete Zervakis.
“Each year, friends and supporters of the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation continue to answer the call and lift up our best and brightest, providing the building blocks of a strong and fortified future,” Priebus said.
Of Greek descent on his mother’s side, Priebus served as White House Chief of Staff from January to July 2017, and as the chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2011 to 2017. During his speech, Priebus spoke of his dedication to work as a student, climbing the ladder as a young professional, eventually landing a role as Republican National Committee chairman.
“…I became chairman of the RNC and then became the longest serving chairman in the history of the Republican National Committee. I’d like to say that because I want to make sure you know I can keep a job for more than six months,” he joked as the crowd blew up in applause.
“The point I want to make for the students is…there really is no formula other than working really, really, hard and taking every single opportunity you have to do the best you can do…and slowly but surely, good things happen.”
After resigning from his White House post, Priebus has since returned to private practice as an attorney, and is a speaker with the Washington Speakers Bureau.
Of the 45 scholarship recipients, a total of 20 received the need-based $10,000 award, while 25 received the merit-based $2,500 award.
“The financial assistance is a huge help. Everyone knows that an education isn’t cheap nowadays in the U.S, but it also means a lot to be recognized among these scholars and future leaders and superstars of the world within the Greek-American community,” said Darden Livesay, 2018 PHSF scholarship recipient. “To be here as a recipient is a huge honor for me,” he added.
The PHSF gala was preceded with two networking events where alumni and this year’s award recipients had the opportunity to mingle with local and out of state professionals in various fields. On Friday, June 15th, a cocktail reception was held at the offices of law firm Holland and Knight, overlooking the Chicago skyline, while a weekend kickoff party was later that night held at 9 Muses in Greektown.
“I think it’s really amazing how the PHSF has expanded over the years…through the alumni weekend networking events you really have the opportunity to meet Greeks from all over the United States,” said Jimmy Schooley, 2009 PHSF scholarship recipient. “This is a great opportunity to meet people you wouldn’t know otherwise,” he said.
The weekend also included a Mentorship Luncheon, co-sponsored by The Hellenic Initiative at the Racquet Club of Chicago, featuringHis Eminence Metropolitan Nathaniel of Chicago as keynote speaker, and about ten mentors in the fields of business, medicine, law and technology.
“The ‘gift’ of a scholarship coming from the PHSF has a double merit because it not only gives the opportunity to the recipients to pursue their academic studies, but it also helps them and their families get involved with the Hellenic diaspora and maintain the strong ties with Greece,” said Michael Konidaris, economist and mentor at the joint THI PHSF luncheon.
Launched in 2002 by the late businessman and philanthropist Chris P. Tomaras, the PHSF gala celebrates the academic and business achievements of students and professionals of Hellenic descent.
“The Greek community…came to America to better themselves, and they very smartly realized the way to do that is get to schools and get an education,” said PHSF Chairman of the Board of Directors, Robert A. Buhler. “Not all of them could do that. Chris Tomaras couldn’t do that so he worked very hard and because of that, he wanted more people to more easily have that opportunity…and that’s the essence of succeeding I think.”
The PHSF, whose goal is to “build a better America through education and Hellenism,” has to date awarded over $4 million in scholarships to a total of 450 students.
“Mr. Tomaras became a close mentor and inspired me to stay involved in the organization,” said Demi Giannaras, 2007 PHSF scholarship recipient and junior board member.
“Being awarded a scholarship by the PHSF is akin to obtaining a lifetime membership into an amazing network. I owe a lot to the foundation, and am happy to have a seat at the table in order to pay it forward,” she said.