The Elytis Chair Fund at Rutgers University, which was established in 1989 to promote and support the Modern Greek Studies program at the university, got an infusion of support this spring from Nicos Mouyiaris, a successful Cypriot-born cosmetic manufacturer and committed leader to the Greek American Community.At a fundraiser and dinner in his honor on April 20th organized by the Hellenic Cultural Association of the university, Mouyiaris explained why he believed the fund deserved support, especially during this period when Greece and Cyprus are in need of help and our community here faces, as he put it, “existential threats.”
“We need to plan for the future and help you become leaders. We need to help create institutions in our community that people believe in. It cannot be done any other way. If we do not, we disappear as a Hellenic community,” he said. “We need you as much as you need us.”
The full text of his speech follows:
I am honored and humbled by this recognition and thank the University, President, Deans, the Hellenic American Cultural Association’s students and alumni and especially Professor Thomas Papathomas, Professor Panos Georgopoulos, Tasos Zambas and Sophia Cotzia for making this evening possible.
Yes I’m a proud graduate of this great school and like you, the students of Rutgers, I remember the wonderful times, the dreams, as well as the challenges and anxieties that we all have to face at this stage of our lives.
Although many times life is not easy, the choice we make to attend a university makes life easier in the long-term and gives us many opportunities that we would not have otherwise.
The opportunities available to us in this great country, the United States of America are immense. With focus on what we have passion for, with hard work, with our brains and with a little luck, we can achieve anything we set our minds on.
We live in a land of opportunity. Amongst us we have great examples of success through focus and hard work:
- Senator Robert Menendez; the son of an immigrant laborer from Cuba, who with hard work, diligence and passion to serve for the common good, achieved the pinnacle of power and success to become a United States Senator, one out of 100, amongst 300 million. Thank you Senator!
- Philip Christopher; the son of a restaurant worker from Cyprus, he became the CEO of a 2.5 billion telecommunications company and a leader in the Greek-American community sacrificing his time and money not only for our Hellenic issues, but also for the American passion for protecting human rights. Thank you Philip.
- Dr. Thomas Papathomas and Dr. Georgia Papathomas; who came here from Greece as a scholarship recipient and who with hard work and smarts, earned their Ph.D., worked as a researcher at Bell Labs and Thomas is now a Rutgers professor serving academia and the world with his research. Georgia is a successful businesswoman. He has reached the pinnacle of success by helping the common good with his hard work and sharing his knowledge with hundreds if not thousands of students. Thank you Thomas, thank you Georgia.
But I know that no matter how smart we are, how hard we work, or how lucky we are, we could not reach our goals without the help of others, without stepping on the shoulders of others.
Yes my friends, it is by getting a helping hand from our parents, our friends, our teachers, our schools, our culture, our country that we are able to succeed.
Personally, I owe my success to many people. My father Philip and mother Theodoula who brought me into this world, and showed me love and compassion. My aunt Eleni and uncle George, who raised me with love and taught me how to be independent and how to be an entrepreneur.
I am thankful to my village of Athienou on the island of Cyprus; I spent my childhood living the village life and had the most care-free times of my life. My schools: elementary in Athienou, The Pancyprian Gymnasium in Nicosia, St. John’s University and of course, Rutgers.
I thank my uncle George and my aunt Kyriaki (Sunday) who made it possible for me to come to this country. They took care of me for the first four months by letting me stay in their house and showing me all the love and care in the world. Thank you Aunt Sunday.
I am also thankful to my friend Kyriakos Papademetriou who gave me his unwavering friendship and love during our college years in New York and here at Rutgers.
I cannot forget all the people that gave me jobs while a student, and individuals such as Tom Tsakanikas, Alan Steiner, Rena Black, and many others, who in their own way helped me out when I was just starting out. And of course, my brother Apostolos, who loaned me $6,000 and gave me a lot of encouragement and support to start the business in 1975.
I thank all the past and present employees at Mana, whose loyalty and hard work brought us to where we are today. And last, but not least, my wife Carol, who has been a true partner through all the highs and lows life brought us.
Dear Students, your future is bright and is ahead of you. You can certainly succeed with smarts, hard work and a little luck. You will definitely succeed if you follow your passion and not what will make most money for you. And you can be absolutely sure of success if you lean on the side of inventiveness and disruptive ideas instead of rote knowledge.
But no matter how successful you become, how rich or powerful in your chosen field, you should never forget where you came from. Never forget your debt and responsibility to society, your country, your heritage, people close to you and far. Keep true to the fact that there is much more pleasure in giving than in receiving and that, will help you make the right choice.
Be generous with your time and money for the causes you believe in. Never expect anything in return but only the inner satisfaction that you were able to help.
Do your best to be a good, aware and active citizen; this is what our country deserves. But never forget your Hellenic heritage. Never forget that this Elytis Chair will always need your help to survive, to continue to thrive and to educate other students; to spread our amazing culture to the world.
Never forget Greece and Cyprus at this time of great need. Join and work with organizations whose mission is to help. These two nations where you, or your parents or grandparents were born, are on their knees financially. The people are suffering. They are in this dire condition because of bad leadership over the last 30 years.
Greece and Cyprus are facing existential threats. Our community here is also facing existential threats. It is our duty to safeguard Greece, Cyprus and the Greek diaspora.
During these dangerous times we need to unite and work together so we can become a stronger and more resourceful community. We need to plan for the future and help you become leaders. We need to help create institutions in our community that people will believe in. It cannot be done any other way. If we do not, we disappear as a Hellenic community.
Get involved and help us see the light with your innocence, enthusiasm, idealism and boundless energy. We need you as much as you need us.
Together, united, we can thrive as an ethnic community in this amazing country.
Together, united, we can help Greece and Cyprus and the world.
Together, united, we can.
Photo by National Herald