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Left to right: Mariella Phylactopoulos, U.S. Ambassador to Greece George Tsunis, and CYA’s
president, Dr. Alexis Phylactopoulos at the celebration on July 10
ATHENS – On a wonderful summer night in a delightful garden in the northern Athens suburb of Kifissia, Greek and American officials joined friends and supporters of College Year in Athens (CYA) to celebrate the 60th anniversary of a beloved institution whose alumni sing its praises across the United States and whose importance to U.S.-Greek relations has been growing through the years.
CYA is a not-for-profit educational institution that presents semester, academic year, and summer study abroad programs in Greece, in English and for college credit, but most importantly, according to its web site, “it offers a vibrant experience of day-to-day contact with the people, institutions, monuments, and landscape of Greece.” It has entered its seventh decade as a vital cultural bridge between important allies and a gateway to Greece for non-Greek and Greek-American students alike.
Hosted at their home by CYA’s president, Dr. Alexis Phylactopoulos and his gracious wife Mariella Phylactopoulos, and joined by his sister, CYA Trustee Daphne Hatsopoulos, the informal dinner on was an opportunity for Education Minister Niki Kerameus to spotlight CYA’s pioneering nature – it was the first study-abroad program in Greece for English–speaking undergraduates – and to point out that its principles, specifically devotion to excellence and extraversion, are showing the way for higher education reforms in Greece. She added that one the indicators of CYA’s success is the fact that almost 300 alumni are professors at American universities. She also praised the new U.S. Ambassador to Greece George Tsunis for immediately seeking her out, which she said shows his interest in promoting cooperation between America’s top schools and Greek institutions of higher learning, and endeavor which is progressing rapidly.
Also present was Minister of Development and Investment Adonis Georgiadis, reinforcing the crucial tie between educational reforms and economic development.
Tsunis, was invited to the podium and he praised CYA and Phylactopoulos. He spotlighted the importance of person to person ties in relations between countries and stated that CYA’s programs are stellar examples the activities that promote them.
Noting that academic exchanges constitute one of the legs of American diplomacy, he lauded CYA’s founder, Ismene Phylactopoulou – who came to Greece in 1922 as a refugee from Smyrna and eventually graduated from Wellesley College – for establishing a “program that is one of the most consequential ones… I am grateful that this organization gives so many Americans the opportunity to experience” Hellas and Hellenic achievements. Phylactopoulos, who followed up a distinguished career in Greece’s diplomatic service with his tenure guiding CYA, echoed the Ambassador, saying, “we have been turning out little armies of Philhellenes.”
Phylactopoulos was pleased to also introduce CYA alumni and trustee Endy Zemenides, Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC)P. Zemenides said that the foundation for what he has accomplished and is currently working on at HALC was laid during his student days at CYA. “We must have it as our goal and strategy every year to double Greek-Americans studying in Greece… there must be scholarships for them to come to Greece,” he said.
The CYA experience begins at the impressive Academic Center located next to Athens’ famed Kalimarmaro marble stadium and continues with activities throughout the Athens area and educational field trips all over Greece. CYA also provides value via associations with renowned institutions that help students to get internships in the NGO, academic, and private sectors. Phylactopoulos is proud that CYA also promotes volunteer work and community service.
Before sharing the story of CYA’s birth, Phylactopoulos expressed his gratitude and pride in his colleagues, “a dream team of people who are committed to work hard to make this a success. It is a very collective effort.”
He explained that as Greece’s post-war recovery progressed and the country became a desirable destination in the early 1960s, “American friends of the founder” – his mother, Ismene Phylactopoulos – “wrote to her and asked where their children could go to study as part of their college education. CYA was the product of the restless mind of an emancipated woman who did not fear failure and wanted to explore the limits of her vision…from the initial five students…there are now more than 11,000 alumni.”
Zemenides, noted that new programs and initiatives will soon be announced, and he summarized the spirit the evening: “The past 60 years have been important, but the best are ahead of us.”
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