John P. Calamos Sr., Founder, Chairman, and CIO of Calamos Investments, was awarded an honorary doctorate of humanities (DHum) by the Hellenic College and Holy Cross School of Theology (HCHC) at those institutions’ 76th commencement ceremonies, on May 17 in Brookline, MA.
His address follows:
Thank you your Eminence and the Board of Trustees. Thank you so much for this honor.
I congratulate all the graduates here today.
Graduating college for many is taken for granted. But not for me.
I’m from a Greek immigrant family that came to the United States and struggled through the years. Our family values and strong work ethic was very valuable to me. We had a grocery store in Chicago where I grew up. Growing up we went to church and Sunday school. I was the first of any of my family and relatives to go to college.
“I lived the American Dream.
“Looking back, that college experience changed my life along with my family values it gave me the foundation for any success I achieved.
“I worked my way through college. A very confused student, I changed my major several times. When I was a student at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), studying architecture and switching to finance, it was all about critical thinking. When I was in college, I gained knowledge about the history of the world through philosophy.
Looking back, my education was critical to my success over the years.
“From my experience in Sunday school I became very interested in philosophy and to support that effort I have endowed and donated to IIT a Chair in Philosophy.
I have often been asked: ‘why did you endow a Chair in Philosophy?’ My introduction to philosophy inspired me to take many courses in philosophy. It really stimulated critical thinking and how to create new ideas.My introduction to philosophers through my undergraduate coursework taught me how to really think. Philosophy asks what assumptions did you use here and why did you use them?
“I had interest in finance and as a teenager began managing my parents saving by trading stocks.In college I learned that economics is not a math problem. It is economic philosophy: how are we organized as a society? Reading many philosophers from Plato to Socratesand many others, I felt it taught me a great deal about life and gave me a perspective of history going back thousands of years.
“I continue to feel that learning philosophy today is extremely important. Socrates said ‘know thyself.’
What it teaches us is not what to think, but how to think.
Also, speaking earlier about the importance of faith and my history in learning about faith in Sunday school was also very important.
As you receive your degree today, what you are doing going forward into the ministry is extremely important. I commend you for doing that and encourage you to teach the younger generation the importance of faith whether you go into the ministry or not.
Teaching our children faith is extremely important.
My experience is that I did not realize at the time going to church and Sunday school growing up how important that would be for me. It created a value for me that became more important over the years. Creating those values for the younger generations is extremely important.
A good example of that importance is my experience.
I joined the Air Force through ROTC and as an Air Force pilot spent five years on active duty and twelve years in the reserves flying B52s and Jet Fighters.
Also as an Air Force Combat pilot in Vietnam I flew hundreds of combat missions as a FAC, Forward Air Controller. Some of them were very dangerous.
As a forward air controller, we were there to support the ground troops by controlling fighters to help them in time of need. The fighters could not drop or fire their guns unless the FAC gave them permission. After communicating with the ground troops that need help we set up the air strike by firing a rocket from our airplane with smoke to direct the air strike. As they came in to fire they could not unless they had the FAC’s permission. Our command was “your cleared in hot.”
Those critical experiences motivated me to remember my faith.Remembering my prayers from Sunday school I began praying every day.
In combat you make many life and death decisions. I still thank the Lord for bringing me home safe and helping me make the right decisions at critical times.
Remember that as you go forward, your teachings of the youth is extremely important. They may not know now how it will impact their lives, but in the future they will be thankful for your teachings and providing them with that foundation.
Again I commend you for your graduating from the Hellenic College and your future in teaching our faith.
Since I was the first in my family to go to college those four years of college, as I have said, my whole mindset changed completely.Anything I could do to help motivate kids and future generations to become educated is worthwhile.
As Chairman of the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago, it is important that we remember our heritage and use that to motivate future generations.
That foundation is extremely important to our children today. “You don’t know where you’re going unless you know where you came from.”
Our heritage and faith is important.
I am concerned on how the students are being taught today in many colleges.
Are they learning history, our values and our faith?
As a reminder, as you go forward remember: you are here not to teach them what to think, but how to think. Do not forget that.
Thank you for your devotion to our faith and your work in the future.
Thank you for this honor.