NEW YORK – More than 16,000 students have profited from classes at Queens College’s Center for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies since its founding by Dr. Harry Psomiades in 1974 and on September 23, thanks to one of its graduates, City Councilman Costas Constantinides, the Center was honored with a Proclamation in City Hall for its 40 years of dedication to academic excellence and the ideals of Hellenism.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito welcomed the guests present to honor three different groups to the elegant City Council chamber. The Center was honored first, and the Speaker noted that a recent trip to Greece was one of the best vacations she had ever experienced and looks forward to returning.
Mark-Viverito then invited Constantinides, the first Greek or Cypriot to be elected to the City Council, to preside over the ceremony which also paid tribute to Dr. Christos Ioannides its current director, Effie Lekas, Assistant Director who has been on staff since 1985, the faculty, and its Advisory Council.
Constantinides noted that Queens College has more students of Greek ancestry than any other college, and the Center, the largest Greek Studies program in America, is the only one that offers a B.A. in Greek studies outside Greece.
“I am proud to honor the Center….Not only does the program provide insight on Hellenic history to its student, it also plays an unparalleled social role among its graduates. I know the program instills Hellenic pride and a love for the Greek-American Community within its students and their families. In fact its students are now children of past students,” said Constantinides, who represents Astoria.
Dr. Ioannides said the ceremony is a vindication of Dr. Psomiades as a pioneer and visionary in Greek studies and that “it marks the success of an investment in education by the City.” He also told TNH “This is also about our former student “paying it forward” and “giving back” to the community.”
President Matos Rodriguez, who is in just his fourth week as the new President of Queens College, which is part of the City University of New York (CUNY), also addressed the gathering. He told TNH “it’s great to be here celebrating the Center’s 40 years.”
Matos, who is a historian and has a deep appreciation for Hellenic culture – “I have never been to Greece and that is something that needs to me fixed very soon” – he said, added that “I am also delighted to have followed a very distinguished Greek educator.” He was referring to Dr. Evangelos Gizis,” who served as Interim President of the college. It turns out Gizis was the one who hired Matos when he came from Boston to New York.
CBS anchor John Metaxas, who is an Advisory Board member, said “It is fitting that 40 years after Harry Psomiades founded this wonderful Center its getting the recognition it deserves from the City of New York. To see it acknowledged in City Hall with one of its graduates instrumental [in the ceremony] is very gratifying.”