Consul General of Greece in New York Dr. Konstantinos Koutras was honored with a farewell event at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Manhattan with Archbishop Elpidophoros among those present. Photo: Maria Tolios
NEW YORK – Attendees crowded into Chiotes Hall at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Manhattan for the farewell reception on June 20 honoring outgoing Consul General of Greece in New York Dr. Konstantinos Koutras. Members of the Greek-American community and the professional organizations shared their best wishes and their heartfelt appreciation for Consul General Koutras and his remarkable efforts during his tenure which comes to a close in August.
Thanks were expressed for the impressive upgrades and improvements to the services at the Consulate General, the expansion of cultural events, and the overall support for community events highlighting Dr. Koutras’ dedication to his work and also to the people he served.
The event included greetings from participating organizations and friends: The Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce (HACC), The Hellenic Medical Society of NY (HMSNY), The Hellenic Lawyers Association (HLA), The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), The Hellenic American Association for Professionals in Finance (HABA), The National Hellenic Society (NHS), The Hellenic-American Cultural Foundation (HACF), East Mediterranean Business Culture Alliance (EMBCA), Cyprus U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Pangregorian of America, and the Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Fund.
“During his tenure in New York, Dr. Konstantinos Koutras offered services that no consul general has offered, while he used the philotimo for our community. He did his best to unite us in good times and difficult times,” said Nancy Papaioannou, Atlantic Bank President and HACC Advisory Board co-chair, who served as Master of Ceremonies for the event.
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America gave the invocation. The opening remarks were delivered by Ambassador of Greece to the United States Alexandra Papadopoulou and Permanent Representative of Greece to the United Nations Maria Theofili who both shared personal recollections of their friend and colleague Dr. Koutras. Ambassador Papadopoulou focused mainly on the human factor, remembering their first meeting, 25 years ago, emphasizing his determination and professionalism, while also praising of his wife, Popita.
Ambassador Theofili also spoke warmly about Dr. Koutras, noting his efforts at the Consulate General and commending his character.
AHEPA Supreme President Jimmy Kokotas noted that Koutras is leaving the office better than he found it. “You served the community so well, you were a rock in very difficult times for the Greek community… and while for other larger countries’ consulates were closed during the pandemic, the Consulate of Greece in New York was open and you were there,” said Kokotas.
HACC Advisory Board Chairman Clay Maitland highlighted Dr. Koutras’ support for the organization’s efforts for Greece and the U.S. in terms of investment and Greek shipping.
HMSNY President Dr. Panagiotis Manolas noted that Dr. Koutras “gave the bright colors to the fabric of the Greek community, because he supported all associations in a simple but never simplistic way.”
On behalf of the HLA, George Zapantis added that “Dr. Konstantinos Koutras opened the Consulate and made us feel at home.”
EMBCA President Lou Katsos noted the high level of academic knowledge of the Consul General, with Nikos Bardis from Pangregorian emphasizing that Dr. Koutras’ term exceeded even the most optimistic expectations. HACF Chairman Nicholas Kourides praised Dr. Koutras for his support of cultural events throughout his tenure.
Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas Raptakis thanked Koutras for building bridges between the U.S. and Greece.
Also offering their greetings were Executive Director of the 100 Leadership Paulette Poulos, former President of the HACC Markos Drakotos, AHEPA Past Supreme President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Nicholas A. Karacostas, artist George Petridis, and American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece President Solomon Asser.
Consul of Greece in New York Dimitrios Papageorgiou, who represented, in essence, the staff of the Consulate General, shared how Dr. Koutras received him when he first arrived in New York, his humble character, and the general relations he built at the Consulate General.
A special moment was when Dr. Koutras’ son, Dionysios, spoke, noting the “great honor” it was to attend the event, while expressing “great respect” for the work done by his father at the Consulate General.
“Today’s farewell event, after six years at the Consulate General of New York, demonstrates that the only thing that remains unchanged, in perpetuity, is the moral values, respect, appreciation and love that we shared with our compatriots, our colleagues, our friends, our partners,” said Dr. Koutras in his emotionally charged speech.
“So today, in this wonderful farewell event to my humility, you give me the opportunity to express to you from the bottom of my heart a big thank you! So I would like to thank you and congratulate you, all of you, who have experienced the recognition in this really great country, are the most important capital of our country,” he noted.
The Consul General then spoke about his work and the efforts made at the Consulate. He repeatedly expressed his gratitude to well-known and less well-known members of the community, including Andreas Dracopoulos and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which supported the endeavors of the Consulate General. Koutras mentioned the artistic events that were hosted and praised the level of service of his associates, especially during the pandemic, both in terms of issuing passports and settling military and registry issues.
“As for passports, in 2019 we issued 1,738. In 2020, in the heart of the pandemic, we rose to 2,735 and in 2021 to 4,034. For military issues, in 2019 we settled 257 cases, 461 in 2020 and 775 in 2021. In the registry, 718 in 2019, 2,692 in 2020 and 4,778 in 2021,” said Dr. Koutras.
In the course of his speech, he highlighted how much can be accomplished when the community is united and shared several inspirational quotes from famous authors and historic figures, including Helen Keller: “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”
He then asked the attendees to embrace his successor as they embraced him and give him time to settle into his position. Koutras also pledged that his relationship with the Greek-American community will never change.
“My tenure in New York does not limit our relationship, on the contrary it was the beginning and we still have many common struggles to take on together,” concluded Dr. Koutras.
The event ended on a particularly happy note with two surprise cakes, one decorated with the Greek flag and the other with a sailing ship, on the occasion of the Consul General’s birthday.
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