Letter to the Editor: On Hellenic College-Holy Cross

The graduation ceremony of Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology at Pappas Auditorium. (Photo by TNH/Theodoros Kalmoukos)

To the Editor:

I read your article, “Hellenic College-Holy Cross Expectations Gone Awry” by Prof. Dan Georgakas. I was Registrar and Director of Admissions from 1968-71 at Hellenic College (HC). I left a position at Northeastern University to go there. Other lay people left their college positions to go there, professors and administrators; I believe we were brought there just to get it accredited.

After 3 years and accreditation, the lay people were let go! A hardship! The clergy and some of the student body staged a “faux” strike.

I never saw a serious attempt to turn Hellenic into a viable institution- known at that time to only a few- we started to assemble a small student body. It appeared to be a good choice with 52 acres of land, etc. Many Boston collegiate institutions would have loved having that type of facility, land wise, etc.

I believe the clergy there wanted to keep it a “private” club!

Ironically, the Boston Celtics trained there! We brought them!

We had a basketball team that got a little notoriety. I got one of the players in Sports Illustrated “Faces in the Crowd.” People were starting to hear about Hellenic.

Anyway, there was no strong desire to develop the college. I anticipated a loss of accreditation a long time ago. I believe an opportunity was lost!

A lot of small established colleges are phasing out due to today’s costs. It’s time to move on. The concept of a Hellenic college is long gone. That situation pretty much ended my college administration experience unfortunately.

The seminary must survive as we need priests! If they keep the seminary, they have to teach the clergy how to speak better Greek! As I understand it!

Thank you!


William Pappas

Weymouth Heights, MA


  1. Thanks to Mr. Pappas for raising some important points. Please allow me to expand. There are many reasons Hellenic College Holy Cross has failed to grow. Let us take them separately initially. Holy Cross was first put on a path to probable sound academic standing with the arrival of the Very Rev. Dr. Nicon Patrinacos in the early 50s. He put the school on a two semester academic basis and began to hire professors who had doctorates in the fields they were hired to teach. He lasted about a year and a half but the school of theology managed to function well and produced some outstanding priests and scholars. That is when things began to change, primarily because of the thought of starting a college.The Very Rev. Dr. Panteleimon arrived in the early sixties. He was an unusually cultured and very well educated man who also carried about him an air of spirituality not often seen at Holy Cross. The idea of Hellenic College began to be implemented in 1961 with the admission of the first seven year class. He was not able to move the college forward and he left after about three years. He was succeeded by the Rev. Dr. Leonidas Contos, another unusually cultured and well educated man who became the school’s first president and who managed to get the college initial accreditation. He managed to last several years longer, into the seventies, but then he was unceremoniously relieved of the presidency. He was succeeded by Dr. Thomas Lelon who held the distinction of being the first layman to head the school as well as being the first head of the school to have had experience in higher education administration. He would be the last with those two qualifiers. Dr. Lelon was intent on growing the college and knew what he was doing and that proved his downfall. He grew the school, ultimately achieving a student body, in both schools, of several hundred students. He was eventually summarily dismissed despite his record of leadership. Years of turmoil, distrust and malaise followed until Fr. Nicholas Triantafilou became president.

    Now, one could ask where this is heading. Each of these leaders shared one characteristic….the desire to improve the school without regard for negative influences. They went about doing what they thought was good for the school, good for the community and good for the church. That, unfortunately, was their undoing. Mr. Pappas identifies clergy as a root problem of the school. There were, and continue to be, several factors which have held back the growth and success of the school.

    It is not just clergy at the school, but laity as well, combined in the faculty, who have resisted change and growth, motivated by jealousy, preferring to protect their supposed stature as big fish in a little pond. This has been a chronic problem for almost the entire life of the school.

    The idea of a college associated with the church was, and is, a good and valuable exercise. However, such a school also requires some degree of independence. This was and is impossible when the chair of the board of trustees, according to the by-laws, is the Archbishop. Also, naming it Hellenic College was a mistake because it most likely seemed unfavorable to non-Greek Orthodox. And, of course, a varied academic program had to be developed. That almost happened during Dr. Lelon’s tenure but that was also the prime factor of his demise.

    Now we come to the issue which has also plagued the school since its inception: money, plain and simple. It is both shameful and an embarrassment that a school founded 81 years ago that is a part of one of the most successful ethnic groups, socioeconomically speaking, in the United States, should have an endowment of about $25 million. It should be $500 million. Part of the reason is that it is a “church” school and, as such, has not been especially trusted (surprise) as a good steward. Holy Cross was founded ten years before Brandeis University. Enough said about that. Internal spending, especially of late, needs to be carefully examined. Father Nicholas Triantafilou, a respected and honorable priest and man, raised almost $40 million during his tenure but that is what kept the school afloat in the face of the lack of other sources of income and support. Even the single largest gift to the school in its history is not managed by the school itself. That says a lot.

    Perhaps it is too late to save the college. But let’s look at what could have been, and just possibly can be in the future. Change the name of the college to be more attractive to non Greek descent students and which would also get away from the “Greekiness” aspect which has long plagued the college. Separate legally the college and the school of theology. Separate boards and separate endowments with no clergy members on the college’s board. Hold faculty to the terms of their contracts, which is not the case today. Create programs in the college that will be useful and send students into our society as good representatives of Orthodox Christianity. The college dean and the president of the institution should have experience in higher education administration elsewhere, but be Orthodox and male or female. Create an advisory group to assist in moving forward which would consist of Orthodox laity who hold administrative positions in varied institutions of higher learning in the US.

    This all would require a major shift in thinking and doing and require a great influx of money. Perhaps it can be done but it will be difficult. Other than that, I believe history will probably record the concept of Hellenic College as good and valuable but which was doomed to failure for a variety of reasons that needn’t have been.

    1. One further comment. The hierarchs have never properly supported HCHC, not even close to what they are capable of and what, it can truthfully be said, they should. They are content as long as Holy Cross continues to produce candidates for the priesthood. And, of course, if so much money wasn’t drained from the parishes they could afford to have second priests in the larger communities which would, in turn, create unfavorable and unwanted pressure on the hierarchs to support Holy Cross. As for Hellenic College it is apparent they could not care less.

    2. It should read Very Rev. Dr. Panteleimon Rodopoulos. Additionally, concerning the hierarchs, all, with the exception of Metropolitan Alexios, are graduates of HCHC, and the Archbishop has, of course, been intimately involved as professor and chair of the trustees.

  2. When the institution no longer stands for those who comprise that institution, why remain part of that institution?

    Servant leaders put others ahead of themselves and are prepared to sacrifice for the greater good. Five characteristics stand out for servant leaders. Which of them do you possess

    Leadership is not about telling people what to do. A true leader is one who knows how to serve. Servant leadership means different things to different people. The philosophy closest to my heart, one that I learned at an early age from my father is of “service above self.” I watched him work tirelessly to develop other people and focus on what he could do to help selflessly.

    Being a true servant leader is putting the needs of others ahead of your own in service to a larger purpose. I grew up heavily influenced by books on the life and philosophies of great servant leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa. These were ordinary people who became extraordinary leaders as they found their purpose in service of others—who dedicated their entire lives serving a purpose bigger than themselves.

    So what sets servant leaders apart from other types of leaders? I find these five qualities stand out.


    John Maxwell famously said “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

    I am a strong believer that an organization is not defined by its products or its glitzy marketing. The people who work for the organization are its true assets. A leader who takes care of his or her people will never have to worry about poor customer service. When you take care of your people, they will take care of your customers.

    Servant leaders recognize that you are placed on this Earth alongside other wayfarers in this journey of life for a purpose. That none of them come into your circle of influence by coincidence and that, ultimately, you must extend your circle of care to include everyone you know and meet. Servant leaders care without restraint, without constraint, without condition.

    Clarity of Vision

    Ken Blanchard says in his bookServant Leader, “Servant leadership begins with a clear and compelling vision of the future that excites passion in the leader and commitment in those who follow.”

    In order to understand your purpose, and focus on your objectives, clarity of vision is critical. Once you are clear about the vision, it is important that you communicate it to your team and unify them towards reaching a common objective. When your team can see that their leader knows where they are going and what they are doing, they are much more likely to be involved and engaged every step of the way.

    You must realize that when you are in service of others, you are ultimately part of a grand master plan. As a servant leader, when you provide a clear vision everyone knows their role, and feels like their part is important to achieving the vision.

    Core Values

    Values are the pillars that uphold the entire structure of servant leadership. Your core values define who you are as a company and who you are as a leader. Core values are the DNA that makes your organization tick.

    Honesty, truth, compassion and acceptance are some of the intrinsic core values shared by servant leaders everywhere. An unwavering commitment to these values is a core part of servant leadership philosophy. These values will serve as the light that dispels the inevitable darkness along the path towards your vision.

    Core values are not marketing buzzwords. They should represent what’s truly important to your organization’s culture— to its fabric and what it really stands for.

    Commitment to Growth

    The biggest investment you can make in your people is your time. When you give them your time to help them develop both professionally as well as personally, it shows genuine interest in them as individuals. They know they are not just cogs in a wheel that add to a bottom line.

    Servant leaders help their people become their best selves and create a culture of growth in their organization.

    Creating a Will to Sacrifice

    Historically, almost every servant leader didn’t choose to lead. They had leadership thrust upon them. They were the ones most prepared to sacrifice, give up, surrender, and do whatever was necessary to attain the goals for the greater good.

    The willingness to sacrifice everything for their cause is a powerful tool that unifies all those within the fold while inspiring and motivating them to greater success. Ultimately, success will always painstakingly collect a price. This price has to be paid either along the way, or even on rare occasions after the fact. It is inevitable and has to be recognized as a practical consideration of every leader in developing their strategy.

    You lead by what you do, as opposed to what you say. It is the most challenging, yet most rewarding path to leadership. And there is no question in my mind that it is the only kind of leadership that prevails through the travails of time.

    Vijay Eswaran is a successful entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and philanthropist and the author of the best-selling book In the Sphere of Silence

Comments are closed.