Interview with Leadership 100 Chair Tsandikos

NEW YORK – George Tsandikos is the new Chairman of Leadership 100, an organization that collects money from wealthy Greek-Americans and supports the sustenance of various ministries of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Senior Client Advisor for Rockefeller Wealth Advisors and Managing Director of Rockefeller & Co., Tsandikos is the son of a successful and prominent priest, Rev. Solon Tsandikos, now retired and living in Worcester MA.

Tsandikos has been a churchgoer his entire life and an Ecumenical Patriarchate Archon. He earned a AB in economics from Brown University, and graduated Cum Laude from Boston College Law School, where he earned a JD.

A Trustee at the Bancroft School in Worcester and the Kallinikeion Foundation in New York, Tsandikos was also an associate at Burns and Levinson, Counselors at Law, in Boston.

“I am humbled and excited and looking forward to the next two years with great anticipation,” Tsandikos told TNH about his Leadership 100 appointment. Though it didn’t come as total surprise because it is customary for the vice chairman advance to that position.

He said that “Leadership 100 is in its 30th year of its existence and has developed excellent corporate governance, and included in the corporate governance is a succession plan, which is necessary with any organization and especially an organization so large and important. So, naturally, there are appointments of executive committee members who have an opportunity to work closely with the chairman.”

Nonetheless, “the selection is not guaranteed; the decision was made by the Executive Committee and approved by the Board of Directors. But again, as a normal course of a well-run organization, there is a careful plan of succession in place.”

Why doesn’t the Archdiocese have such a succession plan, considering Archbishop Demetrios is 86 years old? “I hope that he has many, many years left as an archbishop and as I watch him in his energy and his abilities” and such a succession won’t be necessary for many years to come, Tsandikos said, “but I also think that the decisions of the Holy Synod and the Archdiocese are met with careful thought, and even as a member of the Archdiocesan Council I am not privy to those discussions.”

 

 

Seeking to refocus the discussion to Leadership 100 because “I am not qualified to speak about Archdiocesan or Patriarchal matters,” Tsandikos said “Leadership 100 has been successful because it has tremendous transparency, tremendous accountability. A very well-run office with very talented and dedicated staff, led of course by [Executive Director] Paulette Poulos.

“We support the ministries of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, but we are a separate entity whose purpose is to help the Archdiocese carry out its holy and sacred missions.”

The organization has $95 million in its coffers, with investable assets equal to $82 million, Tsandikos said.

“We give it away,” he said of the money. “We invested carefully, but since our beginning back in 1989 we distributed over $30 million to ministries of the Archdiocese and our purpose is in fact to give away the money.

“The investments have done extremely well. We have a very active and strong investment committee that is led by Peter Vlachos, with other distinguished members who meet monthly and have invested carefully without risking capital, but with appropriate allocation to growth assets. So, over the past year the portfolio benefited from the equity markets and grew.

“The annual operations budget is below $1 million, and that includes the rent and the salaries of the entire operation.”

Though Tsandikos explained that Leadership 100 has given the School of Theology $16 million for scholarships, he said it was not to fund the School’s operating expenses. “Likewise, the monies we give to the Archdiocese are to seed and nurture the programs, not to support its general operating expenses.”

Further elaborating on the transparency to which he had referred, Tsandikos explained the process of determining how much is given to whom: “There is a grant committee part of the body of the Leadership 100 that meets with the chairman, and the executive director and His Eminence at the beginning of the year to understand the goals and the priorities His Eminence has said forth for the Archdiocesan missions for the year and grant requests are submitted by the various ministries and departments that are then reviewed by the grant committee. The grant committee then makes its recommendations to the Executive Committee, which has the final say if a grant is approved, denied, or modified.”

Hasn’t Leadership 100 given money to various ministries that hasn’t reached the parishes to promote Hellenism and education?  “We care deeply about Hellenism, Tsandikos said. “Every dollar that we give is to promote Hellenism via the Church. Is there any Hellenism without the Church? I don’t think so.”

Then what about the four day schools that closed in New York in recent years – why didn’t Leadership 100 give money to them?  “A few years ago we gave $160,000 for the Greek Education. The mission of the organizations and the size of it simply is not big enough to do all the good that has to be done. I love the Greek language. I believe that its beauty has to be kept. I believe though that the best way to do that is to keep our youth and to keep people involved in our Church for which the language will perpetuated.”

Under his leadership, Tsandikos pledges to “stay true to the founding fathers, goals of the organization, and to the stated regulations, which is to fund support the ministries of the Archdiocese, through which I believe Hellenism, the Greek language, is perpetuated.

“My immediate goal is to reach the milestone of having 1,000 members in the new term, to see the assets continue to grow so to have more to give.”

Why not simply give money directly to specific churches and to Theological students – why even go through Leadership 100, TNH asked the new chair: “Because there is an richness of programming, a sense of community, a sense of involvement, a sense of common heritage that one doesn’t get in giving individually.”