WASHINGTON, DC – Each of the honorees at the 40th anniversary awards dinner of the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) – Eugene T. Rossides, George Lois, Aris Melissaratos, and the late Ted Spyropoulos and Anthony Quinn, were distinguished by their passion for Hellenism and dedication to excellence, but the evening’s most moving moment was a video tribute – which was a complete surprise to him – of Rossides’ “extraordinary life, from academia, to sports, to law and of course, government and the founding of AHI,” in the words of AHI President Nick Larigakis.
Another highlight of the event that filled the ballroom of the Capital Hilton on March 14 was a letter of greetings, congratulations, and appreciation addressed to AHI’s Board of Directors by Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. “I congratulate you on behalf of Greece, because despite the fact that you are distinguished American citizens you have not stopped thinking of, loving, feeling a part of and fighting for your country of origin.”
Larigakis then cited the evening’s honorees, beginning with Spyropoulos, whom he called “a giant of our community who left an indelible mark, but left too early. God must have needed Ted Spyropoulos in heaven to perpetuate and support Hellenism in heaven; because that’s the kind of man he was here.” Spyropoulos’ wife, Erika, and daughter, Mariyana, accepted the award.
Turning to the other recipients of the Hellenic Heritage Achievement and National Public Service Awards, noted that “many companies owe their success to George Lois, an advertising and visual arts genius,” and said that “the name of Aris Melissaratos is synonymous with in the state of Maryland with excellence in business, academia and philanthropy.”
Anthony Quinn’s wife, Katherine, accepted the award on her late husband’s behalf, as reverent laughter was evoked when Larigakis said that “Quinn is probably the most recognized Greek in the world, except for the fact that we all know that he wasn’t Greek.”
Rossides was presented with the first Hellenic Heritage Lifetime Achievement Award. After a remarkable tenure as Columbia University’s quarterback, which culminated in his leading his team to a stunning upset victory that snapped Army’s unbeaten streak in 1948 – guests was amazed at the athletic feats they witnessed on the video screen – Rossides was offered a contact by the New York Giants. The president of Columbia became agitated when he learned about the offer, and calling Rossides into his office, told him he would receive a full scholarship to Columbia’s law school – on academic merit – so that he could become a lawyer, but on condition that he not play professional ball.
After showing a video consisting of tributes from luminaries including former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker, retired Senator Paul Sarbanes, who attended with his son and Congressman John, and concluded with George Stephanopoulos declaring “Axios – He is worthy,” Rossides addressed the guests.
“Oh boy, oh boy. I never expected that,” he said. Collecting himself, he first thanked his wife Aphrodite and family “for putting up with me for all the efforts I put in for AHI” and then praised and acknowledged its dedicated staff, including Yola Pakhchanian, who has served for more than two decades, including a two year stretch when she was the only employee.
Nicholas Karambelas, Treasurer of AHI’s Board of Directors, welcomed the guests to the ballroom of the Capitol Hilton and introduced Emcee Larry Michael, the Senior Vice President and longtime voice of the Washington Redskins.
During his greetings Dr. Spiros Spireas, President of the AHI Foundation, set the tone for the evening when he declared that “each year when we come here to single out members of the Hellenic Diaspora for their achievements we simultaneously honor the culture that produces such talented philanthropic, creative and industrious people.”
After highlighting AHI’s role on promoting Hellenism nationally and working in Washington to strengthen U.S. relations with Greece and Cyprus and thanking everyone for their support, he made an appeal for unity, saying “regardless of your political feelings, please support the cause of protecting the land where we come from”.
The event began with the traditional presentation of the colors by the Marines of Headquarters Battalion and the singing of the national anthems by Maria Pearce and the rest of the night was bookended by the invocation by Fr. Konstantinos Pavlakos of St. Katherine of Falls Church, VA and the benediction by Fr. James Antokas of St. George of Bethesda. In between the guests enjoyed the band Apollonian.