NEW YORK – The Cyprus – U.S. Chamber of Commerce honored United States Secretary of Energy, Dr. Ernest Jeffrey Moniz at its 10th annual Award Dinner on December 12 at the New York Hilton.
Moniz was lauded as a philhellene and friend of Cyprus for helping to establish the Cyprus Institute, an educational institution with a scientific and technological orientation that was launched in 2005 and began operations in 2007.
He also “headed a joint research endeavor on the strategic choices available in relation to the hydrocarbons’ reserves in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone,” according to the event’s invitation.
Both endeavors are vital to the future security and prosperity of Cyprus.
During his acceptance speech, Moniz – who has visited Cyprus every year except this one since 2001 – told the guests his efforts were “labors of love.”
Despina Axiotakis, the Chamber’s Executive Director, welcomed the guests and introduced Nicole Petalides, FOX Business Network’s Wall Street anchor who served and the MC. Bishop Sevastianos of Zela, who was born in Cyprus, offered the invocation representing Archbishop Demetrios, whose message he later presented.
Elpida Tsivikos sang touching renditions of the Greek and American national anthem.
Karacostas, the President of the Chamber, also greeted the guests and called for a round of applause for Petalides for taking time out of her busy schedule and family life to serve as MC that night, and for generally “giving back to the community.”
He thanked the Chamber’s officers, and especially Nikos Mouyiaris and Nikos Nikolaou for supporting and sponsoring the young professionals in attendance, his predecessor Vasos Vassiliou, and Philip Christopher, who could not attend due to a business trip to Hong Kong.
Karacostas then introduced the honoree, whom he noted had already been presented by the Republic of Cyprus of the Grand Cross of the Order of Makarios III “for his contribution to research, technology, and education.”
Moniz thanked the Chamber and “many others” and pointed out to the Greek Consul General, George Iliopoulos, that in addition to the Grand Cross he is proud of his honorary Ph.D from the University of Athens.
He told the story of the birth of the Cyprus Institute, which was “the classic gleam in the eye of a few visionaries, one of whom is its current president, Costas Papanicolaou,” who was his student at MIT.
The founders discussed how one would establish “a world class research and educational institution that would be devoted not only to developing new directions for the Cypriot economy, but would also be an organization that would address the major problems in the region with the hope that science and data and hard analysis would help address the problems that too often plague relationships there.”
When Papanicolaou and his team presented their plans, Moniz told them, “You are crazy. You can’t do it that way.” But although the Cypriots were deflated, Moniz said “they didn’t take very long. These Cypriots don’t back down…and eventually the Cyprus Institute was born.”
According to its website, “It is governed by a board that includes international academics. It is a non-profit institution aiming to promote research and education in Cyprus and abroad. It collaborates with the MIT, Tel Aviv University and IBM, among others, and launched Cyprus’ first supercomputer in early 2012.”
Moniz, an American nuclear physicist and the 13th United States Secretary of Energy, is one of the founding members of the Cyprus Institute. He was born in 1944 in Fall River, Massachusetts to Georgina (Pavao) Moniz and Ernest Perry Moniz, both of whose parents were Portuguese immigrants from Sao Miguel Island, Azores.
Moniz also contributed towards an important collaboration agreement between the Institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and headed a joint research endeavor on the strategic choices available in relation to the hydrocarbons’ reserves in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.
George Iliopoulos, the Greek Consul General, congratulated the Chamber for choosing Moniz as this year’s honoree. “The energy map of the world is changing rapidly,” he said, and emphasized the huge natural gas fields discovered in Israel and Cyrus promise both cleaner energy and self-sufficiency for Europe. He also noted that the latest indications for hydrocarbon deposits in Greece are also promising.
“Co-operation between Israel, Cyprus and Greece will enhance security and prosperity for the whole Eastern Mediterranean region,” he said.
Michael Schmidt, the Regional Director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) attended the dinner with Benita Gayle-Almeleh. Schmidt said of the deepening of relations between Greece, Cyprus and Israel that “in some ways it’s a natural evolution because Israel and Greece not only share longstanding democratic values and history and culture.”
He said “the evolution of the last few years makes a lot of sense and we are hopeful that that it will continue to grow and strengthen.”
When Petalides invited Koula Sophianou, departing Cypriot Consul General, she acknowledged her “hard work and dedication.”
Sophianou thanked those present and the community for its support “for Cyprus, the consulate, and to me personally…during these wonderful four years when we worked together every day to promote Cyprus and the relationship between Cyprus and the United States.”
Sophianou then offered greetings from Nikos Anastasiades, the President of Cyprus, who wanted to attend, but was unable. She then read his message, which began with congratulations to the Chamber and to Moniz, whom he thanked for his role in the establishment of the Cyprus Institute and for his support for the studies regarding discovery and development of the resources in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone.
Petalides acknowledged additional special guests, including, the democratic candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, Kathleen McGinty, Nick Welch, the Director for International Relations at Noble Energy, which discovered the natural gas in Cyprus’ EEZ.
Welch told The National Herald “We are happy to support the chamber and hopefully we will be a key part of commerce in Cyprus as we develop our project…we feel humbled to be a part of it…Secretary Moniz has been a great supporter of Cyprus and as he said that in addition to developing the economy it could have a much bigger impact.”
Regarding the possibility of oil deposits, Noble is currently evaluating 3-D seismic data from Cyprus’ EEZ with prospects they believe are oil prone. Their new ventures and business developing groups are also in communication with Greece.