NEW YORK – The first Lifetime Achievement Award fundraising gala of the Pancyprian Association of America was a rousing and inspiring success, with more than 600 people filling the Grand Ballroom of the New York Hilton on March 9 to celebrate their heritage and re-dedicate themselves to the cause of freedom and justice for Cyprus.
The Association honored Constantine (Dinos) Iordanou, a man whose rise from humble immigrant origins to noted commercial success, while never forgetting his roots, reflected the journey of the many of those present.
The Association was founded in 1975 in the aftermath of the illegal Turkish invasion and occupation of one-third of Cyprus, with an emphasis on sports, culture, and the mobilization of the community for the Cyprus cause.
The event is expected to raise $500,000, with proceeds to be used for the Association’s scholarship fund and a community center. The latter cause received a huge boost when it was announced that Iordanou pledged $500,000, matched by his mentor, industrialist and scientist Nikos Mouyiaris.
Nicholas Karakostas, former Supreme President of Order of AHEPA, served as the Emcee. As a colleague of Iordanou, he told the story of a 19-year old man who came to America’s shores with the proverbial old suitcase and $200 in his pockets.
But his feet were firmly planted on the foundations his father Philippos, a police officer, and his mother, Iphigenia, built for their six children.
“Did you find a job yet?” he was asked when he arrived in 1969 aboard the Princess Anna Maria oceanliner. “Father, I have only been here for three hours.”
But there could not have been any doubt in the son’s prospects. The speakers described a man who had a “map” in his mind based on Greek and Cypriot values, which took him from short order cook at a Wall Street deli, to taxi driver, semi-pro soccer player, onward to aerospace studies at NYU, studies opened a door into the insurance industry.
Along the way he also learned from financial giants like Warren Buffet and ultimately helped found the Arch Capital Group, of which he is now Chairman and CEO.
Iordanou expressed his appreciation to those who believed in him and helped him through the years — Mouyiaris, not least among them. “Dinos, you are axios – worthy – and I am very proud of you,” he said on the commemorative video.
William Casey, Chief Regional Officer of Arch Insurance, shared company stories of the solid executive they know Iordanou be, although the latter humbly replied: “I am only a player of a bigger team.”
“Everyone who works at Arch is my friend,” he said, noting that he both recruited talented friends and became friends over time with others.
Iordanou and his co-founders infused their values into Arch, which included a balance between dedication to firm and family, which they instinctively knew would better serve clients and investors.
Iordanou also spoke of the vital importance of promoting the younger generation, urging them to be more involved in the community, and inculcating in the m the values that contributed to their own success, with an emphasis on philotimo – and giving back.
“You feel so much better if you help others to have the opportunities we have been given.”
Philip Christopher, the founding and current president of the Association, thanked everyone responsible to the success of the event – including the organizing committee, led by Despina Axiotakis, and of the association through the years. He also acknowledged the dignitaries, such as the diplomats in the audience, including Cyprus’ High Commissioner in New York, Amb. Vasilios Philippou, and the heads of various community organizations.
Christopher illustrated the role of strategic vision and planning in Iordanou’s life by noting that when he was a cook “he knew what every customer wanted before they ordered, and apropos of International Women’s Day “where would we be without the women in our lives” – he praised the honoree’s wife, Marianne Iordanou.
Iordanou has three daughters, Danielle, Alexis, and Christine, the youngest, who plays soccer on Cyprus’ national team. Christopher said they kept the speaking program brief because Iordanou was flying to Cyprus right away to watch her play on Friday.
A special video highlighted the life of the honoree and the association’s five divisions, beginning with the Athletic in which Iordanou’s family was instrumental – his brothers, Dr. Michael Iordanou and George Iordanou, are its president and vice president, respectively. The other divisions are the Youth Athletic (Eleftheria), the Women’s Issues Network (WIN), the Dance Division, and the Cultural Division.
The Associations founders built on the insight that such an array of meaningful activities with intrinsic interest to Cypriot-Americans would reinforce the values and commitment to the Cypriot cause the group was founded to promote. Their focus on academics ensured that “hundreds of students have been educated at the best universities through Pancyprian scholarships.”
WIN President Dr. Florentia Christodoulidou highlighted the philanthropic dimension, which includes assisting the needy in Cyprus and fundraising that provided women with free life-saving cancer screenings in America through the years.
International Baritone Constantinos Yiannoudes sang stirring renditions of the Greek and American national anthems and the guests were entertained by DJ Sava and his orchestra and lead singer Olympia Milonas.
FOX Business Network anchor Nicole Petallides told TNH she loves events that honor and extraordinary persons. “As a little girl I watched Dino with his briefcase going to college and always knew he was dedicated and serious about everything and had a heart of gold; these things together made him the success he is today.”
She also expressed pride in her uncle, Philip Christopher. “He is a person of many hats who does so much for so many people. He spreads himself thin but always made sure to honor those who deserve it most. He knew Dino was the right person. They founded the Association together and my uncle never forgets the people that are most dedicated…he wants the community to continue to grow, and bring values, goals and drive to the younger generation.”