Capital Link, a financial services company based in New York City, organized a webinar on Tuesday highlighting the importance of Greek culture and education amongst the Greek-American diaspora.
The streamed webinar commemorated the occasion of the establishment of the Miltiadis Marinakis Endowed Professorship for Modern Greek Language and Culture at the Ohio State University.
The event also marked the appointment of the Endowment’s first Professor, Yiorgos Anagnostou.
Effort to preserve and spread the Greek language and culture in perpetuity
Speakers for the event included His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America; the Ambassador of Greece to the United States, Alexandra Papadopoulou, and Capital Link President Nicolas Bornozis, the chairman of the Capital Maritime & Trading Corporation.
The program included panelists such as John P. Calamos, Sr., the founder, chairman and global CIO of Calamos Investments and the Chairman of the National Hellenic Museum.
As host Nicholas Bornozis, the CEO of Capital Link, stated at the outset, the support given to such education by the Marinakis family “ensures the viability and continuity and perpetuity for this academic chair and it enhances significantly the effort to preserve and spread the Greek language and culture for the benefit of Greek-American society and American society at large.”
“The need to preserve our cultural heritage has become even more important and at the same time it presents significant and new challenges. It is very important to share the richness and wisdom of the Greek culture and with the broader American society and with the world.”
Taking course in philosophy opened up new world to founder of Calamos Investments
John Calamos, the CEO of Chicago-based Calamos Investments, recalled his own education as he went to college to study architecture and finance when he “ended up taking a course in Philosophy — and that really inspired me.
“In fact, I ended up taking many, many courses in philosophy,” he recalled, “and that introduced me more to Greek philosophy and that really encouraged me.”
In fact, Calamos came to graduate with a degree in that discipline and came back to endow a chair at Illinois Tech in Philosophy.
“It was that important,” he recalls. “And what I tell the students there is that, in Greek philosophy what is important is not learning what to think, but how to think. That’s what we need to teach.
As part of his role as the Chairman of the National Hellenic Museum, Calamos says “I am inspired (to explore) how do we teach the next generation about this? This is what’s so important.
“I wanted to be able to do that for the next generation going forward. That’s why I am involved with the National Hellenic Museum and in many other organizations.
National Hellenic Museum promotes education, culture to a new generation
“The mission is to help perpetuate Hellenism and Orthodoxy by promoting education and culture that emphasizes the great immigrant experience” as well, Calamos states.
“One of the things that we try to do in the Museum is to show how the Greek Americans have lived the American dream. What motivated them to live the American dream? One of the things that we have done to perpetuate this is institute the oral history program.”
Every year, he added, the Museum holds recreations of great Trials which once took place in Ancient Greece — with Plato and other historical figures defending themselves before a panel of experts in the fields of law.
At such events, Calamos says, there are as many as 500 people in the audience — and many of them are not Greek but students of philosophy and law, bringing Greek culture to American society at large.
One of the other missions of the Museum, he added, is “bringing the next generation in” to be motivated to study and appreciate Greek history and culture. “We teach Greek school, pursue the oral history project, we have lectures and artifacts that we show,” he noted.
As Calamos explained, “It’s not just teaching them Greek. It’s motivating them for their future; this what happened to me and I think that is very important, and what we have to do going forward.”
“We have been the western world’s teachers for millennia”
Archbishop of the Americas Elpidophoros, the head of all Greek Orthodox in the Americas, addressed the audience by saying “Cultural and educational advancement are quintessential characteristics of both Greeks and Greek-Americans.
“We have been the Western world’s teachers for millennia. Whether Socrates or Aeschylus, Euripedes, Hippocrates or Sophocles, every aspect of human endeavor has been pioneered by the Greeks.
“Therefore, we should proudly celebrate the ongoing commitment of Greeks, both in the motherland and in the diaspora, to the promotion and advancement of our values — cultural, linguistic, ethical — and indeed, spiritual.
“These spiritual values of Greece are the bridge between the exceptional aspirations of the Greek philosophical mind and the preaching of the gospel of our Lord — which first were recorded in the Greek language. We cannot separate Greek culture from the Greek language.
“Our grateful celebration of the Miltiadis Marinakis chair is more than a local cause for joy in the Ohio State University community. It is a cause for rejoicing across the diaspora, as it bears witness to the commitment of our “λαοσ” — our people — to the never-ending pursuit of truth, which is the very nature of the Greek soul.”
Marinakis chair endowed on March 25, 2021 – Greek bicentennial day
Capital Link officials noted that academic departments in the humanities have been dwindling in the past decades worldwide, as part of a wider shift of interest from the arts and humanities to the sciences.
This shift, they say, is more practically oriented, but can endanger knowledge of cultural diversity, language, and tradition both for individuals and societies.
The Ohio Hellenic Paideia (OHP), in Columbus, Ohio, with Evangelos Marinakis in the lead, initiated and completed a new round of fundraising between 2015-2020, in order to safeguard the continuing operation of the Modern Greek Studies Program at the Ohio State University in Columbus.
The chair of the program has been named after Marinakis’ late father, Miltiadis Marinakis, a well-respected philanthropist, who instilled in him a sense of duty toward his fellow man and pride in his Greek heritage.
The Miltiadis Marinakis Endowed Professorship for Modern Greek Language and Culture was established by the Board of Trustees of the Ohio State University (OSU) on March 25, 2020 — the bicentennial of the beginning of the Greek War of Independence.