NEW YORK – For 15 years, Greek-Americans and philhellenes have made the first day of Lent an occasion for the support of Orthodox Christian and Hellenic Culture by attending the Kathara Deftera/Clean Monday benefit dinner for the Gennadius Library of the American School of Classical Studies of Athens (ASCSA).
The Water Club, literally docked at the East River, was the venue on February 23 for the event beloved for fellowship and lenten fare too delicious for ascetics, overseen this year by celebrity chef Diane Kochilas.
Alexander Zagoreos, Chairman of the Library’s Overseers, welcomed the guests. He called the Library, which now contains 125,000 volumes “the leading institution that contains within it the written record of Hellenism.”
He reported that the Library is “fiscally sound and growing. We are one of the few construction sites in Athens now with the new West Wing going up. It is a model, a beacon for our heritage…at this time it has a special significance and needs our support.”
Zagororeos thanked Mina Lee, the School’s Interim Director of Development, “for organizing and doing a terrific job” and invited Robert McCabe to the podium to make some announcements and acknowledge special guests.
After expressing deep appreciation to the donors in attendance, Zagoreos introduced Maria Georgopoulou, the Library’s Director, who said “being on the water reminds me of Greece.”
The view was spectacular, two bridges being visible as the East River glittered with reflected skyscraper light.
Georgopoulou also thanked the institutions’ supporters and said the event’s theme is connections, with the past, and between people.
She pointed out there are two current building sites, the West Wing and the Weiner Laboratory for archaeological science.
“For us the West Wing is just a big hole now…but it is something that will be transformative,” with special collections space for rare books, open stacks and a museum area.
Amb. George Iliopoulos, Consul General of Greece, declared “My wife, Anthousa, and I are truly honored to be with you… I just want to express my gratitude for two institutions that enrich the academic and cultural life of Athens and Greece, that have a great tradition do important work.”
Amb. Vasilios Philippos, Cyprus’ Consul General, said “This event shows that Greeks abroad are a bridge with the homeland, supporting it economically and culturally,” and thanked the Board for its work in behalf of an institution he calls a diamond of Hellenism.
Industrialist and scientist Sotirios Vahaviolos again attended with his wife, Aspasia, and is always impressed with the number of non-Greeks who attend.
Retired judge Leo Milonas is pleased the dinner makes the School and Library better known in America. “The collection is spectacular, the building is beautiful and the school has trained some of the greatest classicists in the world…I am so proud to be part of it, since my parents were poor immigrants from Greece,” he said.
Robert Shaw has visited the Library, which he called a unique institution. “It is a great cause and I am happy top support it.”
Paul Lountzis has been coming for years. He told TNH, “it’s wonderful to support the Library in every way. I was introduced to it by Board member George Soterakis and this is a great event.”
Music was provided by Grigori Maninakis’ trio, which included Glafkos Kontemeniotis and Kostas Psarros.