NEW YORK – The Orthodox Christian Studies Center Benefit Cocktail Party at Thalassa restaurant in Lower Manhattan was a celebration of what has been achieved in a short period of time after OCCS was officially founded by Dr. Aristotle Papanikolaou and Dr. George E. Demacopoulos in 2012.
According to its website “The Center serves as a locus of curricular, research, and outreach activities related to the interdisciplinary study of Orthodox Christian traditions,” and its first milestone was the establishment of the Archbishop Demetrios Chair in Orthodox Theology and Culture, a position held by Papanicolaou.
Valerie K. Longwood, OCSC’s Director of Development thrilled guests at Thalassa when she announced the second.
After welcoming the guests she said, “I invite you back on Monday October 5th when Dr. George Demacopoulos will be awarded Father John Meyendorff and Patterson Family Chair of Orthodox Christian Studies.”
That brings “Two, fully-funded, permanently endowed chairs of Orthodox Christian studies. As long as Fordham exists, we will have two senior scholars whose teaching and writing is dedicated to Orthodox Christian studies,” Longwood said to loud applause.
The gift came from Solon and Marianna Patterson, longtime supporters of Demacopoulos’ work, who like Papanicolaou, has an infectious zeal for the Center’s mission. Longwood spoke of “the vision they share, that if they created a robust, well-funded center for Orthodox Christian studies, people will want to support us – and here you are!”
She thanked everyone for their presence that evening and at other events, including lecture, conferences and panel discussion on topics such as Russian president Vladimir Putin and Orthodoxy in Russia and special events like the visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
Papanicolaou expressed his gratitude for the support of the guests, who were enjoying fine food and fellowship. “It is a fine and fun night, being together to celebrate a wonderful initiative and vision.”
Rather than make his usual presentation about the origins and plans for the future the Center, which were known to most present, he chose to acknowledge some key people in his life.
“Thirty years ago Father Alex,” Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, “said to me ‘go to Fordham.’” Today his response sounds ironic: “I never heard of Fordham.”
A visit was arranged, and he was very impressed to have had a private visit with the president of Fordham, “but I was more impressed with the person who arranged that for me, a remarkable, remarkable woman name Stella Moundas,” he said.
She was technically the president’s secretary, but Papanicolaou said that after serving so many for decades “she was really the president” of the University.
He said she not only took care of the Greek Orthodox students who came to her – he called out a few who were present – “she reached out to the Greek students.”
“She was also a smart, strong woman and she brought the Fordham Jesuit community together with the Greek Orthodox community with Archbihsop Iakovos, Metropolitan Silas and Father Alex.”
Papanicolaou acknowledged her family and said “it is a privilege for us to honor her memory, and to honor it forever and ever, we created the Stella Moundas Award for Orthodox Christian Service.”
The first recipient was Michael Palamara who will continue his studies at Holy Cross in Brookline, MA. Papanicolaou said “He was committed heart, soul and body to everything that he did,” as a leader of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship, which at Fordham “he took to a completely new level.”
Demacopoulos invited Stephen Freedman, Fordham University’s Provost to offer remarks, who said “It is a pleasure and privilege to be at these events because there is no center at the university that is has the same impact as the OCSC.”
Demacopoulos spotlighted this year’s initiatives, including the new journal they will launch.
He emphasized the honor and the challenge constituted by the Center’s winning the prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities matching grant. “We have to raise $1.5 million and we are at $1.2 million – we are almost there.” That night, they got even closer.
After ticking off a list of more initiatives, Demacopoulos said “we have the absolute commitment of Fordham University, but they more resources because. “We need your continued support,” he said. Like a good steward, after thanking all the donors…he asked for more.
He concluded by saying “Everyone go and thank Jerry Makris,” the owner of Thalassa, for his hospitality.
Gregory Stamos, the Supreme Counsellor for AHEPA, and an Archon, was there to support the Center, with which he became enamored while his daughter was a Fordham student. He said “Spirituality is the linchpin of what we do, but scholarship is what enables us to grow and move forward.”
Ted Klingos, an Archon whose wife Linda is also an alumna, told TNH “I was honored that George and Telly [Papanicolaou] asked me to be a member of the advisory council. It’s a wonderful thing is to see the work the Center does.”
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