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President of ‘Paideia’ Ilias Tomazos Discusses its Projects with TNH

BOSTON – The president of the Hellenic Society ‘Paideia’ that founded the Center for Greek Studies at the University of Connecticut, Ilias Tomazos, who is also the founder and director of the Center, in an interview with The National Herald said that “after many years of work, with lots of good people and volunteers, and with the financial assistance of the ‘Omogenia’, we managed to achieve something worthy of our Greek culture.”

Speaking about the visit of the Greek Minister of Culture, he said that, “Ms. Mendoni visited us after our invitation. With her help, we have done a study of the interior of the ‘Spartan’ Museum. Ms. Mendoni has also sent us permanent historical representations of artifacts, which we have already installed, along with 3D casts of original artifacts.”

Tomazos also mentioned that “Ms. Mendoni has helped Paideia for many years. Twelve years ago, Paideia made a request to the Ministry of Culture to grant us a building in Rhodes for our programs. Mrs. Mendoni, who was then Secretary General of the Ministry of Culture, was the one who assisted the most for our request to be granted, and conveyed a public building to Paideia.”

The president of ‘Paideia’ Ilias Tomazos listens attentively to the Greek Minister of Culture, Lina Mendoni. (Photo by TNH/Theodore Kalmoukos)

Asked about funding, Tomazos answered that, “we never received money from Greece for the Center, nor for the theater, the Museum, or Paideia’s programs in Greece. Paideia is taking students to Greece, as part of its Study Abroad Programs. Since 1984, Paideia has taken to Greece over three thousand students. We make sure that each student gets a small scholarship from Paideia, and we try to find ways to help the students. Since 2010, Paideia’s scholarships have exceeded three million dollars. From 2010 to 2020, Paideia’s scholarships exceeded two million.”

Regarding where Paideia finds the money for the scholarships, Tomazos said, “the same way that Paideia finds resources for the buildings, i.e. donations from ordinary people, from pizza parlor owners, and organizations such as the ‘Pan Gregorian’ organization, who gave us over five hundred thousand dollars, especially for the theater. The Pan-Laconian Federation of U.S. and Canada has also given us about five hundred thousand for the Museum.”

He also noted that Paideia, as an organization, releases a financial statement of income and expenses. “Of course, every year, and for all these years since our inception, Paideia has its financials audited by certified public accountants. These certified accountants are not of Greek origin, but rather an American CPA firm that audits our financials and prepares their report.”

When he was asked what is the budget for the operational expenses of the Paideia Center, Tomazos said that “none of the Board Members of Paideia are paid, nor are the teachers who teach at our Center.”

When asked who pays him, he replied that, “I am a professor at the University of Connecticut,” and clarified that, “the University does not help to maintain the Center because we have the Chapel, so Paideia has to take care of the heating, the electricity and for all the expenses. That amounts to ca. fifty thousand dollars” per year.

The Minister of Culture, Lina Mendoni visits the newly constructed ‘Spartan’ Museum of the Center ‘Paideia’ for Hellenic Studies. Shown Are Ilias Tomazos, Theodoros Pavlakos, and Gregory Stamos. (Photo by TNH/Theodore Kalmoukos)

Asked what happened at the University of Rhode Island (URI) where the Center for Greek Studies and a chapel were being built, he said that, “the Center for Greek Studies at URI could have been open by today. The official excavation of the soil took place on June 30, 2009, but another event was held in 2005, when the State granted us the plot. It was granted by a decision of the House and Senate of Rhode Island with the signature of the then-governor and the attorney general for five hundred years, which is the maximum period of time that could be granted to us, because they also granted to the Ministry of Defense (Navy) land for five hundred years.”

When asked how the endeavor got stuck, Tomazos said that, “everything was going well with the first administration of URI, with which Paideia made initial contact. When the University administration changed, we understood, right from the beginning, that things had changed. We started building at the beginning of August 2009, and at the beginning of November we held the cornerstone ceremony with Metropolitan Methodios and many Greek-American supporters. During that cornerstone ceremony, no one from the URI administration appeared, neither the new President, nor anyone else. Paideia continued to work on it. From the first day, when the excavators began to dig the foundations, we discovered that the water level was very high, and that delayed us. We had to change the plans, and all this required time. After working continuously for two years, and had completed almost forty percent of the project, the University asked us to stop on the grounds that we had not finished. We were told that that we had abandoned the project, which is not true because we had been working continuously. They even threatened to tear down the project. They took us to court because we were citing the agreement that URI had signed with Paideia. We went to the Supreme Court and it vindicated us two years ago. Despite all this, they insisted on demolishing the project. We finally went before an arbitrator, a retired Chief Justice of Rhode Island, who will make a decision by December 18, 2022. We have paid over five hundred thousand in legal fees and have spent $1.7 million so far on the buildings.” Tomazos added that “all we want is for URI to allow Paideia to finish the project.”

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