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10 Greeks of Diaspora that Left Their Mark in 2011

2011 was a year marked by uncertainty, economic crisis and natural disasters that now is history. However during this tough period of time some individuals of Greek descent made great progress in their field as well as gave back to the world proving that even during harsh times people can imagine positively and realize their dreams. So here is a list with the Greek-Americans that made progress and marked positively the year of 2011.

Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington sold The Huffington Post to AOL for $315 million. Huffington Post was co-founded by the Greek-American and is considered one of the Web’s most prominent news and opinion sites. As part of the deal, Huffington – who co-founded the left-leaning site in 2005 with investor and well-known communications exec Kenneth Lerer – became president and editor in chief of the Huffington Post Media Group within AOL. Arianna Stasinopoulos-Huffington (Greek: Αριάννα Στασινοπούλου) is a Greek-American author and syndicated columnist. She is best known as co-founder of The Huffington Post. She is the ex-wife of former Republican congressman Michael Huffington. In 2003, she ran as an independent candidate for Governor in the California recall election.

Peter Economides

Peter Economides, a brand strategist with a global perspective sparked the flame for an ongoing talk about re-branding Greece. Greece that faces the worst economic crisis since 1974 is “a brand that has never been branded” according to Economides. With his speech at a business forum in the fall of 2011 Economides managed to get Greeks inside and outside of Greece thinking about how they can change their image internationally. Economides has lived on four continents doing work that has impacted brands and consumers almost everywhere. Owner and founder of Felix BNI based in Athens, Peter is a former Executive Vice President and Worldwide Director of Client Services at global advertising agency McCann Erickson Worldwide and Head of Global Clients at TBWAWorldwide. His journey through the world of advertising and marketing started in his native South Africa and took him via Hong Kong, Greece and Mexico to New York, and back to Athens. At TBWAWorldwide he structured and rolled out the global “Think Different” campaign following the return of Steve Jobs to Apple. Peter’s work is focused on change – on the strategic responses to shifting culture, consumer habits and behavior, and the challenges of regional and global expansion.

Thomas Belesis

Thomas Belesis is founder and CEO of John Thomas Financial. In Spring 2011 he was appointed Co-Chairman of the New York State Finance Committee for the Republican Party. In May 2011 he also received the Businessman of the Year Award from the Queens County Republican Party. Thomas Belesis founded his firm in 2007, naming it after his two grandfathers. In the years since he has grown it from a three-person brokerage to 300-employee firm providing a full range of retail brokerage, investment banking and corporate advisory services. Mr. Belesis is regularly invited by the leading news outlets to discuss macroeconomic trends and economic policy. He found a broad audience in “Wall Street II: Money Never Sleeps” appearing as a trader alongside Jacob “Jake” Moore (Shia LaBeouf). His role in that film was larger than what appeared onscreen – he also served as advisor to Director Oliver Stone, helping to ensure the film captured an authentic view of Wall Street. Outside of his work at John Thomas Financial, Mr. Belesis sits on the Executive Board of the World Energy Forum. He actively supports organizations including the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Greek America Foundation and Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research, as well as animal rights and rescue charities.

George Logothetis

George Logothetis is the CEO of Libra Group, a privately owned global conglomerate created in 2003. In 2011 his company experienced great growth and George came up with an idea to help Greek and Greek-American students. Working with the American College of Greece and the Greek America foundation, Libra group established an internship program in which the company covers all the expenses for Greek and Greek-American university students to travel and work at Libra’s offices throughout the world. The objective is to provide opportunities for students to learn about businesses, strategy and management philosophy while they further develop the skills that will ensure their future success. Based in New York, George Logothetis, age 36, has principal executive responsibility for the Libra Group. In 1993 George joined Lomar Shipping, the Logothetis family’s London-based shipping company. In 1995 at the age of 20 he was appointed CEO. He spearheaded Lomar’s evolution from a three vessel fleet to a modern and diversified 55 vessel fleet before becoming the founding Chairman and CEO of the Libra Group when it was formed in 2003. As Chairman and CEO, George has led the group’s transformation from a shipping company to a diverse multinational and multicultural conglomerate.

Alexander Payne

Alexander Payne, the award winning Greek-American film director & screen writer after a 7-year hiatus returned to the director’s chair to make “The Descendants,” a movie worth at least an Oscar nomination. The film, starring George Clooney has received excellent reviews from critics and audiences. Payne, a Greek American (his grandfather’s family name was Anglicized from Papadopoulos), was born in Omaha, Nebraska to parents who were restaurant owners. He was the youngest of three sons. Payne attended Creighton Preparatory School high school and later Stanford University, where he double majored in Spanish and History. Payne’s films revolve around adultery in marriage and relationships. He also tends to set his films in Omaha. He has scenes of historical landmarks and museums in his films, and tends to use non-actors for minor roles. He is on the short list of directors who have final cut rights for their films. Payne is on the Board of Directors of an Omaha non-profit film theater, Film Streams. He maintains a passion for preservation.

Gregory C. Pappas

Gregory C. Pappas is the Founder of the Greek America Foundation. He and the foundation managed to gather some of the most important Greek-Americans to celebrate Greek Heritage and pay tribute to the first Greeks who immigrated to the US. The event titled the GABBY Awards (Greek America’s Best and Brightest) honored individuals of Greek heritage in several categories including Science, Arts, Politics, Education and Philanthropy. The black-tie event was exceptionally orchestrated and produced and it has been called the Greek Oscars. With the Manhattan skyline as backdrop, the awards ceremony took place inside the Immigration Hall of Ellis Island. It was a galvanizing experience to be celebrating the success of first, second and third generation Greek-Americans inside the building where hundreds of immigrants from all walks of life got their start in the New World. Pappas is also the President of The Pappas Group, a media and public relations firm based in Chicago and the publisher of Greek America Magazine. The Greek America foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of Greek culture, history and ideals in America.

Kosta Koufos

On February 22nd 2011, Konstantine Demetrios Koufos, a Greek-American professional basketball player was acquired by the Denver Nuggets in a three-way blockbuster deal which also involved New York Knicks that brought Carmelo Anthony to New York. Koufos was playing in important teams throughout his university years. Koufos holds dual citizenship of both the United States and Greece. He plays for the senior Greek national basketball team. Koufos attended GlenOak High School in Canton, Ohio. He was a McDonald’s All-American as a senior, and he was ranked the #3 center of the 2007 high school class by He also played for the AAU team sponsored by LeBron James. In 2007, Koufos finished second to Buckeye teammate Jon Diebler in the Mr. Ohio Basketball voting. Koufos was selected by the NBA team Utah Jazz with the 23rd overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. In March 2009, the Jazz assigned him to the NBA D-League club the Utah Flash. On July 14, 2010, Koufos was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a deal involving Al Jefferson. On February 22, 2011, Koufos was acquired by the Denver Nuggets. Koufos was a member of the junior Greek national under-18 team at the 2007 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship in Spain. Koufos is considered to be one of the top Greek basketball center talents. In 2009, he debuted with the senior Greek national basketball team and competed at the EuroBasket 2009, where he won a bronze medal.

Chrysa Tsakopoulos

Chrysa Tsakopoulos is the Vice President of AKT Development Company who has done great philanthropy for underprivileged students in Bangladesh. In 2009 she spent a month in the village of Sripur picking out trees to turn into benches and desks, learning how electricity can be fueled by cow dung, and doling out money. The final cost of construction for the school was $7,000.The Pabna Association for General Education opened in June 2009 with 54 students – about a third of whom are girls. Tsakopoulos who still spends about $6,000 a year to keep the school running announced in 2011 that she is working to open a second school for 500 students. Tsakopoulos, a proud Greek-American, also sits in the UC Davis MIND Institute board of Directors and supports Hellenic causes actively through her participation in different Greek-American non profit organizations.

Van Vlahakis

Van Vlahakis, the CEO of Earth Friendly Products, produced “A Green Story,” a movie about the tale of a young immigrant’s vision for a brighter future, the struggle to create an entity that placed people ahead of greed, and threatened billions of dollars in corporations’ profits. The film is based on Vlahakis’ life. Van left Greece five decades ago with 22 dollars in his pocket. He arrived in the US hoping for a better future for him and his family. Eftehios – as is his Greek name- not only managed to live the American dream for himself, but also created Earth Friendly Products, a US giant for environmentally friendly cleaning products. His story, which is not just about transforming his life but also the lives of the ones around him as the owner and CEO of Earth Friendly Products was filmed in the fall 2011. The movie is set to hit the big screens in 2012. The movie centers on the modern day Vlahakis (O’Ross), who is misdiagnosed with cancer and given only few months to live. During this time, he reflects on his early life as an immigrant (Finn) during the 1950’s and ultimately decides to push himself to the limit by closing one final business deal that will concretize his company’s success, even if he is not around to see it. Van Vlahakis is a green issues advocate and has donated thousands of dollars to organizations that support such causes.

Paulette Poulos

Paulette Poulos is the Executive Director of the Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Endowment. Poulos has been the heart and soul of L100 but only in 2011 she was named it’s executive director by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios and the Executive Committee “in view of her dedicated and productive work.” Poulos had been Acting Executive Director since June of 2006, having served as Director of Development in 2005 after the passing of Archbishop Iakovos. She has been associated with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese since 1965 and served as the Administrator for Archbishop Iakovos from 1984 to 1996, continuing to serve him in his retirement.

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