Hellenic Letters Celebrated in Chicago

A selection of the 2014 "Agrafon" award recipients stand by His Grace Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos with Mrs. Maria Litsas.

CHICAGO – Celebrating the Feast Day of the Three Hierarchs – Saints Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John the Chrysostom – Chicago’s Hellenic Letters Week organizing committee announced the 2014 Aristeion Fotiou Litsa “Agrafon” awards at a ceremony held at the Chateau Ritz, January 26th.

The tradition of Hellenic Letters Week started over 25 years ago, bringing together Greek Schools from the Midwest to participate in a celebration of Hellenism and the Hellenic language. For the past 12 years, in memory of Dr. Fotios Litsas, the program has also included a school-wide essay competition for which winning students representing each of three grade levels at various local Greek schools are chosen annually.

Present at the awards ceremony, Consul General of Greece in Chicago Ioanna Efthymiadou, and Greek Consul of Educational Affairs in Canada and Midwestern U.S.A. Dr. Despina Hatzidiakou, spoke about the importance of preserving the Hellenic language and culture. A luncheon followed with keynote speaker Dr. John Fotopoulos, associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, in Indiana. The event included a presentation by Pythagoras Greek School of St. Demetrios in Elmhurst. His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago then bestowed the Agrafon awards to students, while his Grace Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos gave closing remarks.

The Agrafon award, which started off as a monetary scholarship for top essay contest winners, has in recent years expanded to include winners from each participating parish Greek school program, awarding certificates and books, or icons of the Three Hierarchs to students, said Maria Hatzinakos Litsas, wife of the late Dr. Litsas, and director of the Hellenic Education at the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago. Parishes of the Metropolis of Chicago who hosted various Hellenic Letters events and celebrations during the week included St. George and St. Demetrios churches in Chicago, Saints Constantine and Helen in Palos Hills, and Holy Taxiarhai St. Haralambos in Niles.

ABOUT DR. LITSAS

Arriving in Chicago in 1974, Dr. Fotios Litsas dedicated his life to the cause of Hellenic letters and culture, serving as Greek School superintendent of the Greek Archdiocese of Chicago for over 20 years. Planning curriculum, writing a series of books for the teaching of Greek as a second language, and advising teachers, Dr. Litsas communicated his passion for, and knowledge of Hellenic traditions. First to initiate the annual week-long celebration of the Hellenic Letters in Chicago among Greek Schools, Dr. Litsas also taught at the University of Illinois in Chicago for over a decade. Dr. Litsas was a graduate from the University of Athens Greece, department of Classics with a BA in Archeology. He studied at the University of Ann Arbor Michigan from which he graduated with a MA in History and received a PhD in Byzantine History from the University of Chicago.

A prologue in one of Dr. Litsas’ books titled “Ellinika Grammata, Tribute to Hellenic Letters,” expresses his attitude toward the importance of preserving the cherished Hellenic language even far from the homeland. It reads: “Classical Hellenic Letters have always been the Muse and the constant inspiration to all aspects of the Western Civilization; most of its artistic forms and its humanistic thought are rooted in the Greco-Roman past. After a period of decline, Hellenic Letters at least as an academic discipline, is recovering. Students and teachers have once again discovered both the pleasures and the usefulness of the Hellenic Letters.”

Winners of the 2014 Aristeion Fotiou Litsa “To Agrafon” awards are:

St. Andrew, Chicago

  • Stavroula Nikolaou

Holy Apostles, Westchester

  • Eutihia Feggou

St. Haralambos, Niles

  • Sotiria Selli
  • Nikolaos Katsambas
  • Giannis Politis
  • Hrisovalantis Maroutsos

St. Athanasios, Aurora

  • Nikolaos Andreas Black
  • Sofoklis Timiou Stavrou
  • Grigorios Georgiou
  • Konstantinos Katsoudas

St. Demetrios, Elmhurst

  • Vasiliki Nikolson Kallas
  • Maria Giannoudakou

St. George, Chicago

  • Maria Morakali
  • Ioanna Karra
  • Giota Konstas

SS. Constantine and Helen, Palos Hills

  • Ioanna Baniewich
  • Eirini Theodoropoulou

St. Sophia, Elgin

  • Alekos Hamrik
  • Kuriaki Karavasi

St. Nicholas, Oak Lawn

  • Vasiliki Georgelou

National Hellenic Museum, Chicago

  • Marilena Halkias
  • Dimitris Merchant

St. Spyridon, Palos Heights

  • Aristotelis Vainikos
  • Dimitra Alikakou

SS. Constantine and Helen, Merrillville

  • Pepina Oikonomopoulou
  • Giannoula Tzortzi

St. Demetrios, Chicago

  • Ekaterini Tsiampa
  • Georgios Stamatis
  • Aggeliki Zervou
  • Georgia Mitrakou

St. John the Baptist, Des Plaines

  • Marianna Mannino
  • Eirini Nikita
  • Vasilios Liakouras

Hellenic American Academy, Deerfield

  • Stefanos Sarris
  • Niki Fouseki
  • Garifalia Kapsali
  • Ioannis Nikas
  • Christos Nikas
  • Christos Vasilakos