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Associations

Celebrating a Century of AHEPA History 1922-2022

Between the 1890s and the 1920s 400,000 Greeks arrived in the United States and most of them settled there permanently. Greeks had crossed the Atlantic at earlier times, but in much smaller numbers. The big wave of Greek immigrants was part of an even bigger one that brought people from Southeastern Europe to America. Their physical, cultural, religious differences with the already settled immigrants or children of immigrants from northwestern Europe made the newcomers targets of discrimination. Although it was never as visceral or violent as the racism directed towards Black Americans, nativism, a mixture of xenophobic and racist attitudes, threatened the lives and properties of Catholic, Jewish, and Eastern Orthodox immigrants. Spearheading this movement was the Ku Klux Klan, which reconstituted itself in Atlanta in 1915.

 1920s

AHEPA is Born

On July 26, 1922, a group of Greek businessmen met in the basement of a Greek Orthodox church in Atlanta and formed the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association. Those eight were the founders of AHEPA. They were Harry Angelopoulos and his brother John, James Campbell and George Campbell, Nicholas D. Chotas, George A. Polos (who had changed his last name from Nikolopoulos), James Vlass (who had changed his fist and last names from Dimitrios Vlassopoulos), and Speros J. Stamos. All were from Peloponnesos excepting Vlass, who was from the island of Ithaca, and Polos, who was from Karpenisi in central Greece.

Their aims were: to advance and promote pure and undefiled Americanism among the Greeks in the United States, its Territories and Colonial possessions; to educate the Greeks in the matters of democracy and the government of the United States; to instill the deepest loyalty to the United States; to promote fraternal sociability; and to practice benevolent aid among this nationality. Those goals can be easily summed up as the ‘Americanization’ of the Greek immigrants, their integration into American society which would include acquiring U.S citizenship and a proficiency in the English language and supporting each other through philanthropy.

AHEPA Mother Lodge with members of Atlanta Chapter #1 at one of their first chapter meetings in 1922. (Photo: Courtesy of AHEPA)

AHEPA’s American Character

George Demeter, a College professor in Massachusetts who became nationally known with his ‘Demeter’s Manual of Parliamentary Law and Procedure’ served as AHEPA’s third president and helped consolidate its American character. He ordained AHEPA would have nothing to do with Greek politics, he introduced the term ‘chapter’ to the local AHEPA organizations, special regalia for the officers known as ‘the jewels’, and an installation ritual written and adapted exclusively for AHEPA.

AHEPA Grows under V.I. Chebithes

Vasilios Isidorou Chebithes, who became known as V.I. Chebithes or simply as ‘V. I.’ was a force that shaped AHEPA’s history in the 1920s and the 1930s. Chebithes was born on the island of Ikaria in Greece, but his experiences after arriving in the United States as a teenager and living with an American family in rural Kentucky prepared him very well to assume the leadership of an organization standing for the Americanization of Greek immigrants.

AHEPA elected Chebithes as its supreme president at the third supreme convention held in September of 1924 in Washington, DC, and he was re-elected in Chicago in 1925, and again in Philadelphia in 1926. By then AHEPA had over nine thousand members in chapters throughout the country. Chebithes pushed for the Americanization of the Greeks and their use of English, but he also understood AHEPA could and should highlight Hellenic culture. By presenting the Greek immigrants as the descendants of the Ancient Greeks whose culture was the cornerstone of Western and American civilization, AHEPA was able to deflect any anti-Greek sentiments on the part of the nativists. AHEPA stressed the Christian faith of its members but was circumspect about publicizing its Orthodox faith knowing the KKK liked to denigrate non-Protestant faiths. Locally, Ahepans were active in their churches and helped establish Greek Orthodox parishes. There were heated debates over the use of English or Greek at its meetings, with English prevailing though Greek was allowed and appeared in the Order’s magazine next to English. AHEPA’s caution over religion and language was misunderstood by the Greek-American press and many community leaders, and earned it considerable criticism. Another issue that created concern among the wider community was the rituals used at AHEPA initiation ceremonies and during the meetings, but those were drawn from mainstream American organizations and were thoroughly secularized.

Another important status symbol for AHEPA were the regular visits to the White House. President Calvin Coolidge received a group of delegates of the 1924 Supreme Convention held in Washington, DC. The visit to the White House became an annual event and a wonderful photo opportunity for AHEPA to underscore its respectability and its character as an American institution.

In 1926, on the White House grounds following visit with President Calvin Coolidge, George J. Willias, Arthur G. Stephos, C. J. Critzas, Dr. William A. Ganfield, U. S. Senator Richard P. Ernst (Kentucky), V. I. Chebithes, Nicholas A. Loumos, Dr. S. D. Zaph, Philip Stylianos, Andrew Nickas, Nicholas G. Psaki, P. J. Stamos, and Dr. C. J. Demas are shown. (Photo: Courtesy of AHEPA)

The Alfange Presidency 1927-1929: Between Americanism & Hellenism

Chebithes’ three-year presidency was followed by the two-year tenure of his chosen successor, New Yorker Dean Alfange. Born in Constantinople in 1897, Alfange moved with his parents to the town of Utica in upstate New York. He enlisted in the U.S. Army during WWI and after that became an attorney. Alfange eloquently expressed AHEPA’s commitment to both Americanism and Hellenism when he said a true Ahepan is an American who cherishes the deepest reverence for the land of his origin, its language, its history, and its traditions, and is proud of those mighty contributions which Greece has made to civilization.

AHEPA organized its first annual excursion to Greece in 1928. The nearly 1,000 Greek-American excursionists received red carpet treatment by the government in Athens and thousands of Athenians turned out to greet them. The excursion became an annual event which lasted through the 1970s when direct flights made travel between the United States and Greece much easier.

AHEPA’s First National Banquet

The most important public event AHEPA would stage in this period was in February, 1929, when it held its first national banquet in Washington, DC honoring the U.S. Congress. There seventy-five members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives in attendance, a sign AHEPA was welcome not only in the White House but also on Capitol Hill. As was the case with the excursion, this also became a regular event.

The Sons of Pericles, The Daughters of Penelope & the Maids of Athens 

In the 1920s, AHEPA acquired an affiliated junior Order for young men, the Sons of Pericles, and a senior Women’s Auxiliary, the Daughters of Penelope, both of which, along with the junior women’s affiliate the Maids of Athens, are all part of what is known today as the AHEPA Family. The Sons of Pericles were formed in 1926 in Manchester, NH. The Daughters of Penelope were formed in 1929 thanks to the efforts of twenty-five women in San Francisco, all relatives of Ahepans, led by Alexandra Apostolides. The affiliate Maids of Athens was created in 1930, and it would change its name to Maids of Athena in 1963. The first Chapter of the Maids of Athens was founded in Tacoma, WA in July 1930.

1930s

Thanks to AHEPA there was an increasing number of Greeks who were acquiring U.S. citizenship. The ‘Americanization’ of the Greeks was also proceeding because nativist discrimination and racism began ebbing as Americans learned about the horrors associated with the rise of Naziism, but AHEPA had to find a new goal to keep its members engaged lest it becomes a victim of its own success. The effects of the Great Depression the Wall Street crash of 1929 unleashed offered such an opportunity, and the 1930s witnessed several initiatives designed to support the welfare of Ahepans.

The Early 1930s

From 1930 to 1935 AHEPA was led by three able Supreme Presidents, George Phillies an attorney from Buffalo, NY who had been born in Stimagka, a village in northern Peloponnesus, Harris J. Booras, an attorney based in Boston, and Achilles Catsonis, an attorney in Washington, DC who was born on the island of Lemnos. All three had to balance between welfare programming and other projects the Order decided to pursue. Ahepan restaurant owners produced meals for 15,000 needy persons each day. As the economic depression grew AHEPA turned towards aiding its members by cancelling debts owed by members to their chapters for delinquent chapter dues; cancelling of debts owed by the Chapters to the Supreme Lodge, and offering of complete reinstatement back into the fraternity for suspended members and a reduced initiation fee for membership for newly initiated members. The other activities included formalizing AHEPA’s expansion into Canada, continuing the excursions to Greece, and persuading New York’s Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt to join AHEPA. Roosevelt remained a dues-paying member of AHEPA up to the time of his death in 1945, including the years he served as President.

 

The Five-Year Chebithes Presidency 1935-1940

AHEPA turned to Chebithes in 1935 and elected him again as the head of the Order, hoping this leading personality would be able to address the negative effects the Depression had on the organization itself and move AHEPA ahead. He did not disappoint. In what was a defining feature of an AHEPA leader, Chebithes managed to balance between three major goals – he continued the push towards Americanization but also deepened AHEPA’s ties with the homeland, and at the same time, he took charge of the initiatives that were already underway to offer relief to members and the wider Greek-American community who were facing difficulties.

In terms of AHEPA’s growing concern with the welfare of its members and the Greek-American community in general, the most important new project was the adoption of the AHEPA Silver District Sanatorium in Albuquerque, NM as an AHEPA national project. The Ethnikos Kirix hailed the opening of the sanatorium and described AHEPA as “the mother and sister” of all Greeks who were facing misfortune. The AHEPA magazine issues of those years gave extensive coverage to the fundraising, the preparations, and the operation of the sanatorium.

During this period AHEPA condemned the rise of violent anti-Semitism in Europe.

U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt receiving a certificate from AHEPA at the White House. (Photo: Excerpt from the book Conversations With F.D.R. at his AHEPA Initiation: Frigates, Battleships, Espionage and a Sentimental Bond with Greece, by Leonidas V. Georgiou, Knollwood Press, © 2019)

1940s

The outbreak of WWII brought new challenges and responsibilities for AHEPA. Its members contributed to America’s war effort by joining the campaign to sell government War Bonds. While most Greek-Americans joined the army, navy, or air force, a number of them formed a Greek Battalion from which several were recruited by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor of the C.I.A. to go as undercover agents in Greece in the 1940s after Greece fell under Axis occupation. George Vournas, who served as AHEPA Supreme President during the 1940s, was involved in that project and was an OSS member himself. Those Ahepans who could not fight helped raise more than $253 million for United States War Bonds during World War II, for which AHEPA was named an official Issuing Agent for United States War Bonds by the United States Treasury Department, an honor no other civic organization would achieve at the time. AHEPA also stood by its homeland in the 1940s. Greece fought heroically during WWII, then it endured several harsh years of occupation by the Axis. Following liberation in 1944 Greece also had to deal with a civil war and the challenge of reconstructing its devastated economic infrastructure.

AHEPA played a key role in the campaign of the Greek War Relief Association (GWRA) to offer aid to Greece during the Greco-Italian War of 1940-41 and during the country’s occupation by the Axis. AHEPA’s supreme president Van A. Nomikos attended the founding meeting of the GWRA in New York over which Archbishop Athenagoras presided. Nomikos issued an appeal to all Ahepans to mobilize in support of Greece’s war effort and collect funds for the GWRA. His message was published in the Ethnikos Kirix in November 1940.

AHEPA Delphi 25 Chapter Brothers at the installation of the FDR bust in 1945, among those present were Stephen S. Scopas (front left) of the AHEPA Supreme Lodge, Tom Clark (front right) U.S. Attorney General, sculptor Walter Russell (top left), and then-AHEPA Supreme President Harres F. Booras (top right). Photo: Courtesy of AHEPA

Looking Ahead to a Post-War Greece

Most of AHEPA’s business those years was devoted to anticipating the aid that could be offered to Greece after the end of the war. Among the resolutions passed were: to take steps to secure from the U.S. Government permission for orphan children of Greece to enter the United States and that a survey be taken of the fraternity to find sponsors for these children for adoption; to obtain volunteer college men and women of Greek extraction to go to Greece to aid in its rehabilitation, and to invite Greek students to America. In 1945 AHEPA decided a National AHEPA Hospital should be established since it was evident Greece was sorely in need of such institutions following World War II.

AHEPA also stood by Greece in its campaigns to achieve: its union with the Aegean Dodecanese islands; the union of Cyprus with Greece, and  a favorable determination of the frontier line between Greece and its northern neighbors Albania and Bulgaria. Towards that purpose AHEPA formed a ‘Justice for Greece’ committee with several other Greek-American organizations in 1945 – it was presided over by past Supreme President George Phillies.

1947: AHEPA Visits Greece

The Ahepa Hospital in Salonika, Greece. (Photo via ahepahistory.org)

In April 1947, AHEPA held its first post-war excursion to Greece, which was also the first air-borne one. Twenty-four members, headed by Supreme President Booras, flew to Athens from Boston in a 30-hour trip. King George of the Hellenes died while the plane was en route, and the Ahepans attended the coronation of the new King Paul after their arrival in Athens. The Ahepans were enthusiastically received by the people of Greece and met with King Paul. They also laid the cornerstone for the AHEPA wing of the Evangelismos hospital in Athens, and the cornerstone for the AHEPA hospital in Thessaloniki. In the next few years health centers were also established in several Greek provincial towns.

A month earlier, the announcement of the Truman Doctrine signaled the beginning of U.S. involvement in the affairs of the Eastern Mediterranean and created a strong alliance between America and Greece which in turn strengthened AHEPA’s role as a cultural bridge between the two countries.

In 1948 the U.S. Congress approved the Displaced Persons Act which authorized for a limited period the admission into the United States of 200,000 certain European displaced persons (DPs) for permanent residence. It inaugurated a string of legislative initiatives which gradually enabled a number of Europeans, including Greeks, whose livelihoods had been shattered by war, to emigrate to the United States. It was also the beginning of a sustained effort by AHEPA to bring as many Greeks as possible over to the United States. This campaign lasted through the mid-1950s and helped hundreds including young children, although in their case there were complicated issues not always dealt with appropriately. Towards the end of the 1950s there were concerns about corrupt practices, especially in the case of the transfer of Greek children without families to American parents. Those abuses were grave and injurious to many children and brought those programs to an end, as far as AHEPA was concerned.

1950s

AHEPA’s activities in the 1950s were varied. One area was work towards increasing the numbers of Greeks allowed to emigrate to the United States, another was support for Hellenic ‘national issues’ and especially the Greek Cypriot struggle for union with Greece. A third was continued aid to Greece for the purpose of the post-war reconstruction of the country and to alleviate the effect of national disasters, with the dedication of the AHEPA Hospital at Thessaloniki in 1951 as the best example. A fourth area echoed the initiatives taken in the 1930s, namely, the mutual benefit type of projects which would be of assistance to the Order’s members.

AHEPA & Hellenic National Issues

On April 1st, 1955, the struggle for the end of British rule over Cyprus and its union with Greece which began in earnest after WWII took on a militant dimension with the EOKA organization launching a guerilla war against the British. AHEPA took a number of steps in support of principles of the Greek Cypriot cause. It decided to petition the United Nations to vote in favor of incorporation and unification of Cyprus with Greece, formed a national advisory board – the Justice for Cyprus Committee, and requested the assistance of the United States government toward the solution of the Cyprus question and granting the Greek Cypriots their right of self-determination.

Aid Following Natural Disasters in Greece

In the early 1950s Greece was struck by a succession of devastating earthquakes. The first occurred in early August 1953 on the Ionian islands off the western coast of mainland Greece and caused widespread destruction; up to 800 people lost their lives. The second earthquake hit in 1954 in Thessaly in central Greece, killing 25 persons and destroying 6,559 buildings. The third big earthquake hit the town of Volos, also in Thessaly. AHEPA responded to all three by immediately raising thousands of dollars for aid and long-term relief.

Mutual Aid Initiatives

In the same way AHEPA moved towards including mutual benefits programs in the 1930s to shore up and increase its membership, it did the same in the 1950s, when the Scholarship Trust and Loan Fund got under way. Persons eligible for the Loan Fund for scholastic work were members in good standing of AHEPA or its affiliates. The loan fund eventually reverted to an outright Scholarship grant fund.

The Abolition of the AHEPA Refugee Relief Committee

AHEPA’s Thirty-Fourth Supreme Convention, held in New York City in 1956, decided to abolish the AHEPA Refugee Relief Committee and dispose of all pending cases as soon as possible. The Refugee Relief Committee had become a law unto itself and was pursuing the refugee cause with an unjustified zeal and with a troubling treatment of the financial side of its activities, especially in the cases of the adoption and placement of young children.

Harry Agganis

Harry Agganis. (Photo via ahepahistory.org)

Aristotle George ‘Harry’ Agganis, known as the ‘Golden Greek’, played from 1954 to 1955 for the Boston Red Sox as a first baseman. Born in Lynn, MA to Greek immigrants, he had the potential to become one of the greatest stars of professional baseball, but a sudden illness overtook him and he died in June 1955. Shortly after his death, AHEPA instituted the ‘Harry Agganis Award’, given annually by the fraternity to an outstanding American athlete of Greek descent. Awardees included not only players but also coaches and broadcasters. The award continues to be conferred annually and underscores the Order’s commitment to promoting Greek-American athletes and excellence in general.

1960s

The 1960s were a transitional era for AHEPA, with a new generation of leaders stepping in to lead the Order. Chebithes had passed in 1959 and Booras two years later. Stephen Scopas and Leo Lamberson, who had served as supreme presidents more recently, were dealing with the legal implications of the mismanagement of the adoptions process. New leaders brought new ideas and new internal political formations within the Order. The end of the Chebithes-Booras era brought two new groupings within the Order, the AHEPA First Party and the New Horizons party. These two formations have survived to the present, while others have come and gone in the meantime. The alternatives they presented to the members usually revolved around policy priorities and choosing between strong leadership figures vying for office.

‘E’ is for Education

AHEPA addressed the issue of education in the supreme conventions that took place in the early 1960s. A good example of  their actions are the decisions taken at the convention in 1960 in Montreal, the first ever in Canada, an acknowledgement of AHEPA’s growth in that country which had witnessed increased numbers arriving from Greece in the 1950s. Initiatives taken during and after the convention included the inauguration of a Greek Classics program, which entailed offering a seven-volume set of the complete Greek Drama, the Greek Historians, the Dialogues of Plato, and the Works of Aristotle, to all Chapters for purchase and presentation to their local city, college, and high school libraries. Also, the newly completed AHEPA School at St. Basil’s Academy in Garrison, NY was dedicated in June 1962 with a large group of Ahepans and their families in attendance, as well as church leaders. Towards the end of the decade AHEPA initiated the ‘AHEPA -Anatolia College Summer Scholarship Program’ for the Sons of Pericles and Maids of Athena, which consisted of 8 weeks in Greece for students between the ages of 15-18. The success of the program would lead to several other similar initiatives over the next decades.

The Truman Statue

In May 1963, the AHEPA-funded statue of President Truman was dedicated in Athens with great pomp. The bronze statue, twice life size, featured the President holding a scroll representing the Truman Doctrine. Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis was present and offered remarks, as did AHEPA Supreme President Margoles and Archbishop Iakovos of North and South America, who also officiated in a service along with Chrysostomos, the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece. U.S. Ambassador to Greece Henry Lambouisse and mayor of Athens Angelos Tsoukalas also spoke. The statue was made by Felix W. deWeldon the American sculptor who created the Iwo Jima war memorial in Washington, DC.

AHEPA’s First Socratic Award

The 1964 AHEPA National Banquet honoring the U.S. Congress was held on March 16, 1964 and featured the first and initial presentation of the new AHEPA Socratic Award to Henry R. Luce, Editorial Chairman of LIFE and TIME Magazines, in appreciation and recognition of the series of articles published in LIFE Magazine in 1963 titled ‘The Miracle of Greece.’ The articles depicted the contributions of Ancient Greece to modern civilization and the Western World. From then onwards, the award was conferred every two years, on the occasion of the banquet.

The 43rd Supreme Convention, 1965 Athens, Greece

After a great deal of debate AHEPA agreed to hold its first ever Supreme Convention in Athens during the week of August 7-13, 1965. It was another sign of the Order’s growing closeness to the Hellenic homeland. It proved to be the the fraternity’s most spectacular and best-attended convention in history to that point. Fifty AHEPA Charter Flights left the United States for Greece carrying 8,000 members and their families. An additional 4,500 members and their families travelled to Greece on either AHEPA steamship excursions, or on other non- AHEPA flights. The huge numbers involved, the inadequacy of the available facilities in Athens and close relatives in Greece wishing to participate meant there were constant problems of overcrowding. However, the convention was considered by all as having been highly successful. Towards the end of the week AHEPA hosted a banquet in honor of Greek government officials at the Grande Bretagne Hotel, and a Farewell Dance was held on the same evening at the Athens Hilton. The King and Queen of the Hellenes also gave a special audience to the officers of AHEPA. The business sessions were held at the Athens Hilton, and there were 750 Chapter delegates in attendance, or an overall total of 802 voting delegates at this convention, the largest voting delegation in the history of the Order.

AHEPA & the Colonels’ Regime

President Richard M. Nixon is presented an Ahepa gold medal commemorating the 150th anniversary of Greek Independence at the White House. With the President are: Supreme Vice President Sam Nakis, Supreme Secretary Dr. Michael N. Spirtos, President Nixon, Supreme President Louis G. Manesiotis, Supreme Treasurer William P. Tsaffaras, and Supreme Trustees Chairman Col. Peter N. Derzis. (Photo via ahepahistory.org)

AHEPA’s leaders and members seriously misread the situation in Greece when in 1967 a group of colonels established the 21st of April dictatorship that ruled the country through 1974. The tolerant attitude of the Johnson administration through 1968 and then the more open support the Nixon administration offered the colonels may well have also clouded the judgement of many Greek-Americans and Ahepans. The victory of Richard Nixon had been celebrated by many Greek-Americans and Ahepans, not only because of the conservative turn it represented but also because his Vice-President was Greek-American Spero Agnew, whose father had been an active member of AHEPA. Ahepans evidently decided the suspension of democracy and the constitution in the name of protecting the country from a supposed communist threat was a credible reason for the establishment of a regime that arrested political leaders, banned free speech, imposed censorship, and tortured political prisoners.

Citing AHEPA’s nonpartisan character and claiming the form of government in Greece was up to the Greek people to decide – as if the people could decide freely under a dictatorship – AHEPA’s leaders did take sides and opposed efforts that were being made in Congress to restrict the sale of arms to the regime until the restoration of democracy. Not all Ahepans were supportive or even tolerant of the regime in Athens, and Past Supreme President George Vournas was among those who made their criticisms publicly.

Vice President Spiro T. Agnew (left) is the recipient of the 1970 Ahepa Socratic Award, being presented by Supreme President Louis G. Manesiotis. (Photo via ahepahistory.org)

The Monument to the New Smyrna Settlement of 1768

On May 4, 1968, AHEPA dedicated the monument it erected at New Smyrna Beach, FL, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the first landing of Greeks on American soil. They were more than 400 Greek colonists who came to America as indentured servants with Andrew Turnbull, a former British Consul in the port city of Smyrna in the Ottoman Empire. They arrived in 1768 after a difficult transatlantic crossing only to encounter perilous living conditions. About a third of them survived after having to flee the settlement and making their way north to St. Augustine. The AHEPA Memorial plaque and monument ceremony was a fitting tribute to a group of intrepid but unlucky travelers who were among the first Greeks to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

 

1970s

If the 1960s were a time of transition for AHEPA, in which the Order focused on promoting education and fostering ties with the homeland, the latter with mixed results, the 1970s were a time of transition and growth in which AHEPA rediscovered its footing as the major Greek-American organization. This became obvious in 1974 when Greek America mobilized in an unprecedented way in the wake of Turkey’s invasion and occupation of the northern part of Cyprus.

The Early 1970s

The Order returned to Athens in 1970 and held its 48th Supreme Convention there. An estimated 6,000 persons attended the convention, about half the total of the 1965 meeting in Athens. Convention events were similar to those in 1965. The Greek government – in this case the colonels’ regime – proved to be an excellent host in conjunction with the City of Athens. Also, as in 1965, the highlight of the convention was the Festival at the huge Athens Stadium, which was filled to capacity with Ahepans and Athenians to witness the celebration given in honor of the AHEPA. The 1970 AHEPA Educational Journey to Greece program for high school students of the AHEPA Family coincided with the 1970 Supreme Convention, so students could observe convention events. The convention decided the newly-named ‘AHEPA Educational Journey to Greece’ student summer programs in Greece, be continued annually.

 

The 150th Anniversary of the Greek Revolution of 1821

The year 1971 was the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the Greek war of independence, also known as the Greek revolution, and AHEPA mounted several initiatives to honor the event. AHEPA issued a medallion commemorating the 150th anniversary of Greek independence and it published a 52-page booklet on the 1821 Greek War of Independence, in commemoration of its 150th Anniversary, titled ‘The 1821 Greek War of Independence and America’s Contributions to the Greek Cause,’ written by George J. Leber, AHEPA’s Executive Secretary.

 

A Socratic Award to the Ecumenical Patriarch

The 20th National Banquet honoring the U.S. Congress was held in Washington, DC. in March. Athenagoras I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodoxy, was named as the recipient of the 1972 AHEPA Socratic Award in recognition of 18 years as Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, and 24 years as Ecumenical Patriarch. He was unable to attend due to his physical health and age, and the award was received in his behalf by Archbishop Iakovos.

Cooley’s Anemia

In 1972 AHEPA and its affiliate organizations endorsed the Cooley’s Anemia (Thalassemia) Foundation for the purpose of supporting efforts to combat this hereditary disease of the blood which affects persons whose ancestors were natives of the Mediterranean region. Cooley’s Anemia, also called Mediterranean Anemia or Thalassemia, is inherited, and the severe form, known as Thalassemia Major, occurs in a child born of parents who are both carriers of the disease. The fraternity immediately began publishing information on Cooley’s Anemia to its membership, since information on the disease is not commonly known. AHEPA also urged support of Federal funding legislation for research.

1970 – Vancouver, B. C., Canada chapter presents statue of The Discus Thrower (Discobolos) to the city. (Photo via ahepahistory.org)

AHEPA Reaches 50

To mark its fiftieth anniversary AHEPA returned to the city where it had been established, Atlanta, where it had also met to mark its twentieth anniversary thirty years earlier, in 1942.The convention began with Archbishop Iakovos officiating at a Divine Liturgy at Atlanta’s Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation. In his opening speech at the convention Supreme President Sam Nakis spoke about the need for AHEPA to pay more attention to its youth policies and to return to the concept of an “AHEPA Family.” He spoke about the Order needing to not rest on its laurels and realize it was entering a new era in which its leaders should become more aware of the needs of the members.

AHEPA marked its golden anniversary the same year the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America was marking its own fiftieth anniversary. The Archdiocese’s tribute to AHEPA underscored the significance of that occasion: “The Greek Orthodox People of this hemisphere gratefully saluted the ORDER OF AHEPA, last August, as this great creation of its Mother Lodge and inspired pioneer members returned to Atlanta, Georgia, to joyfully celebrate its Golden Jubilee Anniversary. The church expresses warm wishes to AHEPA.”

AHEPA and the Greek-American Community’s Lobbying Efforts

On July 20, 1974, Turkish armed forces launched a military invasion of Cyprus which resulted in Turkey illegally occupying about a third of its territory within a month. The pretext for this was a coup the regime in Athens tried to engineer in order to overthrow Cyprus’ President, Archbishop Makarios. The plan was to install a Greek Cypriot nationalist leader who would bring Cyprus closer to Greece. The events triggered a series of major changes not only for Cyprus but also Greece, where the military stepped down and handed over power to the politicians whom they had banned from public life since 1967. That moment ushered in a new era in AHEPA’s history as well. Partially distracted by the Watergate crisis and Richard Nixon’s resignation in early August, but primarily wishing to preserve its ties to Turkey, the U.S. government appeared to stand by and do very little to reverse the unfolding tragedy in Cyprus, where many Greek Cypriots lost their lives, and many thousands were forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in the southern part of the island. In response, the Greek-American community launched a massive campaign to force the United States to intervene. AHEPA was front and center of that effort at the grass roots level while also managing to pursue the wide range of projects it was already engaged in.

The Greek-American community’s mobilization led to the creation of the so-called ‘Greek Lobby’ – which actually consisted of several Greek-American organizations, two of which were based in Washington, DC but thanks mainly to the activities of AHEPA members it had a presence across the United States. The leaders of the effort were legislators, led by the so-called ‘Gang of Four’ U.S. Senator Thomas Eagleton and Congressmen John Brademas, Joseph Rosenthal, and Paul Sarbanes, all of them Democrats, and it was also composed of specific organizations, locally formed Greek-American committees, and the Greek-American community at large – including AHEPA. Their work was supported by Greek-American newspapers and radio stations. The Community’s success came when Congress voted for an embargo of U.S. arms sales to Turkey that was implemented from 1975 to 1978. Throughout that period and onwards, AHEPA’s members played a foremost role, providing the necessary human resources to Eugene Rossides, a Washington, DC-based lawyer of Greek and Greek Cypriot descent to form a public policy organization that would spearhead the Community’s initial lobbying efforts and eventually become a think tank as well, the American Hellenic Institute – Public Affairs Committee (AHI-PAC). Andy Manatos – who would serve as Assistant Secretary of Commerce in the Carter administration – was also a key player for the Community on Capitol Hill. In 1983 he co-founded the lobbying firm of Manatos and Manatos in 1983 with his late father Mike Manatos, who was a high level official in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations. Mike A. Manatos, representing the family’s third generation in Washington, DC, is now president of the firm.

1969 – Eugene T. Rossides, New York City Ahepan, is appointed Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. (Photo via ahepahistory.org)

AHEPA’s members across the country spontaneously became active, many of them joining Justice for Cyprus committees formed locally. The work of Ahepans within the Greek-American community’s efforts involved informing the White House, Congress, and the American public about the situation in Cyprus and its incompatibility with American values, the rule of law, and national interests, and about the suffering of the displaced Greek Cypriot refugees. It was one of the Order’s finest hours. In 1973, a year before the Cyprus crisis and the collapse of the dictatorship in Greece, AHEPA’s Supreme President Michael Spirtos had expressed a clear criticism of the regime following a visit to Athens. Thanks to Spirtos, AHEPA is on record as distancing itself from the dictatorial regime in Athens. A few weeks earlier Archbishop Iakovos had done the same, describing it as being “tyrannical.” Now, both AHEPA and the Archbishop launched headlong in trying to reverse the regime’s thoughtless actions that had helped the Turks bring about the tragic invasion and occupation of Cyprus.

The 52nd Supreme Convention, 1974, Boston

Given the situation in Cyprus, AHEPA’s 52nd Supreme Convention in Boston on August 18th, 1974, was one of the most emotional and important in the Order’s history, as well as one of the best-attended by national and local political leaders. Just prior to the convention an AHEPA delegation had traveled to Greece and met with the new prime minister, Konstantinos Karamanlis, who had been installed when the colonels’ regime handed power back to the politicians in July. In Boston, a bi-partisan AHEPA committee worked on the resolutions that would be put to a vote at the convention, and a public Cyprus rally was organized. The speakers on that first day included Congressmen Brademas and Sarbanes, who condemned the invasion of Cyprus by Turkey and criticized U.S. policy. The other speakers included Massachusetts Gubernatorial candidate Mike Dukakis. Over the following days mobilization around the Cyprus cause was combined with church services and social events. An AHEPA Justice for Cyprus committee was formed during the convention and its members traveled to New York for a meeting with United Nations officials. Later that week another delegation met with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in Washington, DC for an hour – Kissinger was generally considered the key figure who was shaping U.S. foreign policy during the Cyprus crisis.

The year 1974 was a turning point in AHEPA’s history. Its response to the Cyprus crisis catapulted the Order to a higher plane. Its leaders and members displayed a profound sense of purpose at an organizational level that served its ambitious goals and propelled the Greek-American Community’s endeavors forward. AHEPA visited Greece and Cyprus every year and remained attuned to developments in Washington, DC, informing policy makers of its membership’s views.

 

America’s Bicentennial in 1976

AHEPA was the first Greek-American organization to mobilize around the need to take part in the nation’s Bicentennial celebration in 1976. AHEPA also managed to couple the Cyprus crisis with the bicentennial when it drafted an announcement on Cyprus that appeared as a full or half page advertisement in newspapers throughout the country. The banner headline read: ‘More than ever in this bicentennial year, America must stand up for Justice, Morality and the Rule of Law in its foreign policy.’ The celebrations began with the opening of the AHEPA Bicentennial Exhibit at the Washington Hilton Hotel. The other major event was the 22nd AHEPA National Banquet honoring the United States congress. It was the Order’s most important social event of the year with more than 1,500 persons in attendance, among them 25 U.S. Senators and about a third of the total number of members of the House of Representatives. The highlight of the evening was an address by President Ford, who praised the long friendship of Greece with the United States, and also praised the contributions of the Greek immigrants to the United States. Ford also described Greece’s prime minister Konstantinos Karamanlis as an outstanding leader of the free world. The evening’s principal honor, the Socratic Award, was to be presented to Karamanlis, but he was unable to travel to the United States because of the prevailing conditions in Greece.

The End of the Embargo

When Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford in the presidential election of 1976, there had been great optimism among Hellenes throughout the world because during his campaign, he had said he would work toward a fair and equitable settlement in Cyprus, and that he was in favor of the arms embargo on Turkey. But by the time AHEPA held its 55th Supreme Convention in August 1977 in New Orleans, all the optimism and enthusiasm Carter’s election generated had evaporated and in its place were growing concerns the new administration was continuing its predecessor’s pro-Turkish tilt This was soon confirmed when Carter managed to lift the embargo in 1978. AHEPA and other Greek-American community organizations fought against his attempts and after that continued to be committed to a just solution to the Cyprus crisis. During the second half of the 1970s AHEPA had grown and matured as an organization and had enhanced its standing in the eyes of the Greek-American community and officials in both Washington, DC. and Athens.

1980s

The 1980s were an era when Greek-Americans had become firmly ensconced in America’s mainstream, a fact underscored by the Democratic Party’s choice of Michael Dukakis as its candidate in the 1988 presidential elections. AHEPA’s response was to maintain its wide range of programs at home and abroad and foster ties with the homeland. The Cooley’s Anemia and the Housing programs grew significantly. ΑΗΕΡΑ created a Cooley’s Anaemia Endowment Fund to further medical research. AHEPA also formed a non-profit National Housing Corporation (ANHC). Through its sponsorship and assistance to local chapters, the AHEPA Housing Program continued to develop throughout the 1980s and beyond.

Cultivating U.S.-Greece ties was difficult because the two nations had governments led respectively by conservative Republican President Ronald Reagan and socialist prime minister Andreas Papandreou who were on different ends of the ideological spectrum. To its credit, AHEPA’s leadership, whose natural inclination would have been to side with Reagan, nonetheless maintained a courteously correct relationship with Papandreou, who, in any case, gradually toned down his criticisms of U.S. policy in the Eastern Mediterranean.

AHEPA & the Olympic Games

AHEPA’s involvement with the Olympic Games has been a permanent concern of the Order and a way in which it honors its Hellenic heritage. In early 1980 President Carter called for a boycott of the Olympic Games scheduled for that summer in Moscow. The reason was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Carter spoke about the boycott at AHEPA’s 24th Congressional Banquet in February 1980, and the Order responded enthusiastically. Earlier that year supreme president Nick Smyrnis had traveled to Greece as part of the fifteen-member of the U.S. presidential delegation to the Olympic Torch Ceremony staged at Ancient Olympia for the purpose of transmitting the flame that would burn during the Winter Olympic Games at Lake Placid, NY in early February.

The Cyprus Issue in the 1980s

The ongoing Turkish occupation in Cyprus became even more complicated following the unilateral declaration of the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in November 1983. In 1986 it became known the United States was considering a lowering of its economic aid to Cyprus. Both those issues were an opportunity for AHEPA to mobilize its resources and inform lawmakers of the views of its members and also contribute it services as a liaison between Washington and Athens.

AHEPA & Dukakis  

The Democratic Party’s choice of Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis, a second-generation Greek-American, as its nominee in the 1988 presidential election was a momentous event for Greek America. Dukakis was the keynote speaker at AHEPA’s 65th Supreme Convention in Miami in August 1988 where he was received enthusiastically. Not to be undone, Bush cited the Order of AHEPA as one of the “Thousand Points of Light” he said brighten and diversify America through a “Nation of Community” in his acceptance speech for the Presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans in 1988.

1990s

If there is no better proof of the strength of any organization than its ability to recover from a crisis, then AHEPA’s experiences in the 1990s demonstrated the Order’s vitality. The crisis was occasioned by revelations of embezzlement of funds from within AHEPA and this of course raised concerns about the way it functioned, the accountability of its officers, and the transparency of its operations. The way the Order dealt with this issue forestalled any serious fallout. The subsequent election of Dr. Spiro Macris as Supreme president in 1995 also helped AHEPA recover quickly, indeed the new president, who was re-elected to a second term, is credited with leading a revitalized set of programs and a newfound relationship with the homeland. His re-election in 1996 was reported on the front page of the Ethnikos Kirix newspaper with the headline reading there was new hope for AHEPA following the election results.

The Ellis Island Immigrant Celebration in 1991

Supreme President James S. Scofield, who was elected in 1990, made a point of recalling the discrimination Greek immigrants had faced and led to the creation of AHEPA. During Scofield’s tenure AHEPA organized a major event on Ellis Island in April, 1991 to honor the early Greek arrivals to the United States. In a moving celebration of the Greek immigrant experience, more than 1,200 AHEPANs and friends gathered on Ellis Island for the benefit of the AHEPA Charitable Foundation.

The Olympic Games Tribute in Atlanta

Although Athens was not awarded the 1996 Olympic Games, which went to Atlanta instead, a group of Ahepans in Atlanta went ahead with their plan to commission a work of art sponsored by AHEPA and with funds raised from the Greek-American community. It was a sculpture that would pay tribute to three cities, Olympia where the Olympics had begun in Ancient Greece in 776 BCE, Athens, where the first modern Olympics had taken place in 1896, and Atlanta, the venue of the centenary Games of 1996. On June 1, 1996, the unveiling dedication of the sculpture took place in the presence of Archbishop Iakovos, Andrew Young, the Co-chairman of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, and former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and Mayor of Atlanta, Senator Paul Sarbanes, Bill Campbell, the Mayor of Atlanta, and AHEPA supreme President Spiro Macris and Johnny Economy, the president of the AHEPA Centennial Foundation.

The 1996 Supreme Convention and the AHEPA 2000 Proposal

Macris was re-elected at the Supreme Convention in Houston, TX. One of the highlights of the Houston convention was the the presentation of a new strategic plan for AHEPA. The ‘AHEPA 2000’ proposal aimed towards reorienting the association toward the future. The AHEPA 2000 proposal was presented by Bill Marianes, an Atlanta attorney, to a joint session of Ahepans, Daughters, Sons, and Maids and garnered a strong vote of approval. According to the AHEPA 2000 working document, AHEPA planned to re-articulate its primary goals as Hellenism, Education, Philanthropy, Civic Responsibility, Family, and the Pursuit and Recognition of Excellence. The paper foresaw AHEPA restructuring itself strategically and operationally to serve these goals using modern organizational models. The document was living proof that AHEPA had survived the difficulties it had faced and was ready, at least on paper, to modernize and keep up with the times.

The decade ended with a very symbolic moment. In November, 1999 President Bill Clinton visited Athens and in a historic speech acknowledged the mistakes the United States had made in supporting the colonels’ regime between 1967 and 1974 and looked forward to a close and equitable relationship between the United States and Greece. Witnessing the speech was an AHEPA delegation that had travelled with the president. It was led by George J. Dariotis who had been elected Supreme President earlier that year. At age 36 he was the youngest Ahepan to be elected to the post for three decades.

2000s

AHEPA entered the 21st century energetically, pursuing its broad range of domestic and foreign programs. At the Supreme Convention of 2000 in New Orleans newly elected Supreme President Johnny N. Economy evoked the sense of optimism and urgency about rising to the challenges of a new era, and the need for AHEPA to step up and protect and promote Hellenism, bridge the gap between the second, third, and fourth generation Greek-Americans, work for Justice for Cyprus, promote the 2004 Athens Olympics, and protect the Greek Orthodox Church. But first, he noted, came the need to strengthen the AHEPA family by working on ongoing issues that involved members such as Cooley’s Anemia, Autism in Greece, the Bone Marrow Registry, and the campaign to return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece. Another sign of AHEPA’s resurgence came with the establishment of chapters in Greece and Cyprus around this time.

The George C. Marshall Statue in Athens

In 1947 General George C. Marshall proposed a wide ranging funding program to help European post-war reconstruction – benefitting several countries including Greece – which became known as the Marshall Plan. Marshall received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1953. As part of its role as a bridge between the two countries, AHEPA and its affiliates raised $125,000 to erect his statue in Athens. The unveiling took place in 2000, in the courtyard of the American Embassy in Athens.

AHEPA’s Solidarity with New York City

At the 80th Supreme Convention in New York City in July 2002, during the grand banquet, a presentation of a check for $50,000 was made on behalf of the AHEPA family and the entire Hellenic community to New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

In response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and as a sign of solidarity with New York City, AHEPA held its 80th Supreme Convention in New York City in July 2002. At the convention’s grand banquet, a presentation of a check for $50,000 was made on behalf of the AHEPA family and the entire Hellenic community to NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. The donation was made to the September 11th Anniversary Fund, an entity to assist the families of the victims partake in the upcoming one-year anniversary of the events.

The convention elected Dr. James F. Dimitriou, Supreme President for the 2002-2003 term. He ran on a platform titled ‘Greek Fire: A 10 Point Strategic Plan for the Order of AHEPA – Preserving the Spirit of Hellenism Within the Context of the American Dream,’ yet another sign of the sense among AHEPA leaders that the Order had to plan its future creatively.

AHEPA & the 2004 Athens Olympics

In February, 2004 AHEPA held its 36th Biennial National Banquet in Washington, DC. The theme was ‘Honoring the Olympic Spirit’ to recognize the return of the Olympic Games to Greece, their country of origin. Senator Paul Sarbanes addressed the enormous challenges facing Greece on the eve of the 2004 Olympic Games, expressing confidence the Games would be successful. Archbishop Demetrios of America declared, “we see the Olympics as an opportunity for projecting this highest possible human value. By dedicating this evening to the spirit of the Olympics, you honor the spirit of human excellence and the spirit of a constant unyielding pursuit of peace, here and everywhere,”

The 2006 Supreme Convention

At the 2006 Supreme Convention in Hollywood Florida the highlight of the convention’s grand Banquet was the award of the AHEPA Medal of Freedom to Vice Admiral James G. Stavridis, Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense. At the time, Stavridis was awaiting confirmation of his promotion to the rank of Admiral from the Senate, which led him to being appointed to the Southern Command and taking charge of the Pentagon’s operations in Latin America and the Caribbean. He would go on to be appointed as NATO’s top commander.

Mossaidis Talks to the National Herald

During the 2007 convention in Denver, an interview by AHEPA Executive Director Basil Mossaidis to The National Herald newspaper explained AHEPA’s mission and conveyed a vivid picture of where AHEPA stood at the moment and how it had evolved over time: “The mission in the 1920s was to protect Greeks who were immigrants. Our priests had beards and wore a ‘kalimavchion’, and they were persecuted by Ku Klux Klan and other racist organizations, so AHEPA was founded to bind Greeks in America together, and the concept was so good in Atlanta, where it began, that chapters began to spread all over the country… today’s mission is an obligation to our forefathers to protect Hellenism in this country; to preserve the language and the culture, even if it is within our own community.” Asked what some of AHEPA’s most critical challenges over the next 5-10 years were, he answered that “in any membership organization, two things are very important: financial viability and the influx of new members to maintain that…today we have 401 active chapters, and the Daughters of Penelope have 250. We also have Sons of Pericles and Maids of Athena chapters; Collectively, we have about 700 altogether, with a total membership of around 28,000. With 1.3 million Greek Americans, we have 28,000. We should have more, of course. My personal belief is, if you’re a Greek-American and you care about any Greek-American issue, you should automatically be an Ahepan. We invite everybody.”

At the convention’s banquet, the Demosthenes award for excellence in journalism went to the Ethnikos Kirix/The National Herald newspapers publisher Antonis Diamataris. In his acceptance speech he said that AHEPA and the National Herald were the only Greek-American organizations which have managed not only to survive, but also to thrive, on a national level for decades, and added that the Greek-American community’s future depended on two factors: getting closer to one another and getting closer to Greece and Cyprus.

Soon after the end of the convention in Denver, AHEPA was back at work, sending the first installment of $250,000 worth of goods and an additional $250,000 in financial assistance to victims in Greece of wildfires which swept through Peloponnesos in August.
AHEPA’s Supreme Convention in Athens

AHEPA held its 86th Supreme Convention in Athens in 2008, 35-years after the last time the convention met there. Events included wreath-laying ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Truman and Marshall Statues, a basketball tournament between Greek-American Division I players and the Greek national team, and the ‘Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles’ presentation at the University of Indianapolis’ Athens Cultural Center. At the convention, which took place in July, minister of foreign affairs Dora Bakoyannis was one of the many Greek officials to speak and praise AHEPA’s work. Supreme President Ike Gulas was reelected, having run unopposed. The successful return to Greece rounded off a decade of diverse and constructive service.

2010s

In the second decade of the 21st century one of AHEPA’s primary responsibilities was to offer aid to the Greek people who were suffering from the effects of the country’s foreign debt crisis for about ten years, beginning in 2009. Aside from economic instability there was political instability and a turnover of administrations in Greece, but true to its non-partisan character AHEPA was able to work with both the right- and left-wing administrations that alternated in office. Within AHEPA itself, the different groups appeared to have come to an arrangement to have their candidates for president alternate in power. Thus, the Ahepans who served as Supreme President in the 2010s ran for office unopposed. They were Nick Karacostas, John Grossomanides, Anthony Kouzounis, Philip Frangos, John Galanis, Andrew Zachariadis, George Lucas, Carl Hollister, and George Horiates

AHEPA & St Nicholas

Affirming its commitment to the rebuilding of St. Nicholas Church, destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, AHEPA took the rare step of organizing a small demonstration in July at Ground Zero in New York City calling for the process to regain the momentum it had lost. The rebuilding plans were stuck in a feud between the Church and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey which culminated in a lawsuit. AHEPA’s initiative earned not only coverage but also praise from several Greek-American media outlets, including the Ethnikos Kirix. The event gathered about 200 people in the square at Liberty Street and Trinity Place, just a block from where the church originally stood. Nearly a decade after the attacks, the AHEPA and some Greek-American political leadership was onstage, calling for the rebuilding, while a row of elderly female St. Nicholas parishioners silently held up signs. AHEPA Supreme President Karacostas emphasized the church’s value to all Christian denominations, adding AHEPA would not rest until the rebuilding project would be completed. Within the next months the wish that the project to rebuild St. Nicholas would continue was to be fulfilled. As the process regained momentum, and in marking the ten-year anniversary of the church’s destruction, the Ethnikos Kirix noted AHEPA’s energetic espousal of the cause of rebuilding honored Greek America and was to be commended. In October, 2011 Archbishop Demetrios and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the church would be rebuilt near the site of the old one.

Aid for Greece

AHEPA continued its efforts to offer aid to Greece throughout the decade through the International Orthodox Christian Charities organization (IOCC). In February 2013 medical equipment valued at $650,000 was sent to the AHEPA hospital in Thessaloniki and to the AHEPA wing of the Evangelismos hospital in Athens. Earlier, in October, 2012 another batch of medical supplies had been sent to the island of Chios. The total value of aid provided jointly by AHEPA and IOCC in early 2013 was $1.2 million. And in April, 2013, AHEPA’s annual excursion to Greece in April was focused on how to provide more aid. In Athens, President Karolos Papoulias received them at the Presidential Mansion.

Aid was also provided to Cyprus whose population faced similar hardships, albeit on a smaller scale and for a shorter time period. In early 2015 AHEPA sent a message to the newly elected Greek government stating “the AHEPA family continues on a humanitarian campaign that provides medical supplies to hospitals all throughout Greece. We have also donated more than $500,000 to help feed Greece’s most hungry citizens. Going forward, please consider the Greek-American community, and of course, the members of the AHEPA family, as resources to help Greece.”

The 2014 Leadership Mission

In 2014 AHEPA continued building on its ties with the Jewish American community, a process launched a few years back, and continued to contribute to strengthening ties between Greece and Cyprus and Israel. AHEPA, along with the American Hellenic Institute were joined by B’nai B’rith International in participating in a historic three-country visit to Israel, Cyprus and Greece. Also participating were representatives from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

The purpose of the trip was to analyze the strategic and emerging relationship between the three countries. It was the first of several such jointly organized trips that took place over the next years.

AHEPA & the 50th Anniversary of the Selma March

In March, 2015 AHEPA participated in the events held in Alabama to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights march. That was when Greek Orthodox Archbishop Iakovos marched side by side with the Reverend Martin Luther King. AHEPA’s delegation was led by Supreme President Frangos. At the 41st Biennial Congressional Banquet of that year U. S. Representative John Lewis (D-GA) received the AHEPA Pericles Award presented by U.S. Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD). In his introduction of Lewis, Sarbanes described him as “a hero of our time and of all time.” In addition to the Pericles Award, Congressman Lewis was presented with a custom-framed copy of the historic March 26, 1965 issue of Life Magazine ‘Memorial at Selma’ with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Archbishop Iakovos on the cover.

The AHEPA Service Dogs for Warriors Program

At the Supreme Convention in Sand Diego in 2016, AHEPA created its own Service Dogs for Warriors Program. The program has grown steadily since then. Its mission statement states it aims to match veterans with specially trained service dogs to help mitigate and assist them in their path to recovery and management of their disabilities, as well as provide the veteran with the companionship and therapeutic qualities of a specially trained service dog that was rescued from a dog pound. Beyond the undoubted virtues of this important project lies a much broader symbolism, AHEPA’s patriotism in honoring of its own and all of America’s veterans throughout its history.

AHEPA Honors the outgoing Archbishop and welcomes the new one

The annual excursion to Greece, Cyprus, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 2019 coincided with the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s announcement of the election of His Eminence Metropolitan Elpidophoros of Bursa as the new Archbishop of America. The Ahepans were the first representatives of Greek America to meet and congratulate Elpidophoros. In a private audience with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Supreme President Loucas reaffirmed the AHEPA family’s unwavering support for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and presented His All Holiness with a $25,000 joint donation from AHEPA and the AHEPA Canadian Foundation.

The announcement of Archbishop Demetrios’ resignation had occurred only a few days earlier, and AHEPA expressed its gratitude for the prelate’s service. AHEPA had enjoyed a close and warm relationship with the Archbishop and this was evident in the statement which mentioned,  “since 1922, the Order of AHEPA has forged a strong relationship with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. This relationship has often been described as embodying ‘The Twin Pillars of Hellenism’ in America. For the last two decades, with the wisdom and guidance of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, AHEPA’s relationship with the Archdiocese has grown even stronger. Since the moment of His Eminence’s enthronement, he has walked side-by-side, hand-in-hand, with AHEPA family leaders at significant, even historical occasions for the community.”

The 97th Supreme Convention, Chicago 2019

The end of the decade had a strong feel of an end of an old era and the beginning of a new one. The Supreme Convention held in Chicago in 2019 was addressed by the new Archbishop Elpidophoros. Greece was coming out from under its financial and social woes and a new and pro-business and pro-western government emerged from the Greek elections that year. AHEPA was also looking forward to the future, marking its centenary and entering the second century of its existence. As always there was continuity balanced against the anticipation of a new era. The full range of AHEPA’s programs were discussed, and newly elected Supreme President George Horiates reaffirmed the Order’s commitment to defend Hellenism.

2020s

A delegation of AHEPA leaders, seen above in the garden of the Presidential Mansion, was invited there by the President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou during the 2021 AHEPA Supreme Convention that was held in Greece. Also present were Ambassador of Greece to the U.S. Alexandra Papadopoulou and U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt. (Photo by Eurokinissi)

The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic prevented AHEPA from holding its Supreme Convention in 2020, but 2021 witnessed a hugely successful convention held in Athens in honor of the Bicentennial of the Greek revolution. At the outset of the pandemic AHEPA donated $30,000 to Support Public Health in Greece. The funds were earmarked for

an Athens-based research center working to support the public health of the people of Greece in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Because of needs created by natural disasters in the United States, AHEPA National Housing Corporation (ANHC) president Carl Hollister announced a $25,000 donation to the AHEPA Emergency Relief Fund in 2020.

AHEPA & the Bicentennial of the Greek Revolution of 1821

In the first six months of 2021 AHEPA’s Supreme Lodge organized several events to commemorate the bicentennial of the Greek Revolution of 1821, as did many chapters in the United States and abroad. In March AHEPA began the celebration of Greece’s Bicentennial with a tribute to the best-known American philhellene, Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe. AHEPA first went to Brown University, the site of the flagpole and base dedicated to Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe and Supreme President Horiates placed a wreath at its base. AHEPA continued in its campaign celebrating the Greek Bicentennial in Annapolis, MD. There was a dual commemoration there, one that honored Constantino Brumidi who was of Greek and Italian descent and whose frescoes adorn the building of the U.S. Capitol including the Rotunda in Washington, DC and the other honoring revolutionary hero John M. Allen, a midshipman of the United States Navy. Allen was one of many American philhellenes who went to Greece to assist the struggle for Greek Independence. The third of the major commemorative events took place in March in Astoria, at the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York’s Stathakion Center, where AHEPA paid homage to American support for the Greek War of Independence. There was a reenactment of the ‘Greek Ball’ of February 27, 1827, that had raised funds for the Greeks. Another event took place at the marble monument of revolutionary hero Dimitrios Ypsilantis, in the town of Ypsilanti in Michigan.

Ypsilanti, Michigan Commemorates the 200th Anniversary of the Greek Revolution. (Photo via goarch.org)
Ypsilanti, Michigan Commemorates the 200th Anniversary of the Greek Revolution. (Photo via goarch.org)

The 99th Supreme Convention, 2021, Athens

AHEPA took the bold decision to go ahead with its 99th Supreme Convention in Athens, and it turned out to be a historic accomplishment. It was a way to honor the bicentennial of the Greek Revolution and AHEPA’s roots. AHEPA was the only Greek-American organization that held such a major event in the homeland. The response by Greece was a very warm welcome. The first Supreme Convention held in Greece since 2008 began in front of the Hellenic Parliament with a wreath laying ceremony before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There were several major evening events that took place after the convention’s business sessions, including a reception hosted by Hellenic Republic President Katerina Sakellaropoulou on the grounds of the gardens of the Presidential Mansion, an event at the Greek War Museum which honored  Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos, and Chief of the National Hellenic Defense General Staff General Konstantinos Floros.

A ‘Greek Night’ was held on the upper-level terrace of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) on the coast of the Saronic Gulf south of Athens and hosted by AHEPA Supreme Treasurer Savas Tsivikos. Greece’s Ambassador to the U.S. Alexandra Papadopoulou accepted the prestigious Periclean Award on behalf of Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, who was unable to attend. The convention’s Grand Banquet was emceed by AHEPA Board chairman Nicholas Karacostas and featured both Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades. In introducing President Anastasiades, Philip Christopher spoke about the struggle for Justice in Cyprus – which continues with the recent provocations over Varosha – and thanked AHEPA as a reflection of the vital role of the Diaspora, words echoed by the President, who in his speech emphasized the importance of the Greece-Cyprus-Israel Trilateral relationship. Antonis Diamataris, Advisor to the Publishers of Ethnikos Kirix/The National Herald and past Deputy Foreign Minister of Greece with responsibility for Hellenes Abroad introduced Greece’s prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The Prime Minister said he had prepared some speech points, but he would speak from the heart and began by thanking AHEPA for all it had done for Hellenism and noted “AHEPA is always present in the fair struggles of Hellenism. We know we can count on you and you know you can count on us.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos receives AHEPA’s prestigious Socratic Award from past Supreme Presidents George Horiates and Nicholas Karacostas, who is now AHEPA Board Chairman. (Photo by Eurokinissi)

One of the concluding evening events of the convention was thePresidents Reception’ an occasion for honoring U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey F. Pyatt and Greek Ambassador to the U.S. Alexandra Papadopoulou. The convention ended with the AHEPA Family Event at the terrace restaurant of the Acropolis Museum and the honorees included Athens’ Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis, who impressed with a thoughtful yet down to earth speech welcoming and thanking the Ahepans. Also addressing the Ahepans were Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, President of the ‘Greece 2021’ Committee for the celebrations of the Bicentennial, and Harry Theocharis, Minister of Tourism. The 99th Supreme Convention in Athens will go down in the history of AHEPA as one of the most symbolic and most successful.

In May, 2022 it was AHEPA’s turn to be honored by Greece. Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic Kyriakos Mitsotakis presented the Order of AHEPA with the Grand Commander of the Order of Phoenix, the highest honor Greece bestows, at a dinner held in concert with the prime minister’s visit to Washington, DC, May 17, 2022. It was a fitting gesture that came two months before AHEPA would mark its centennial celebration.

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