Commencement 2016 Address

ADDRESS GIVEN BY PRESIDENT SPIRO POLLALIS

AT COMMENCEMENT 2016

 

Honorable members of the Church and State.

Ladies and Gentlemen, parents, alumni, students of the class of 2016

The graduation ceremony for the class of 2016, the 87th Commencement Exercises of the College which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, is a celebration for the students in our senior class; the preeminent celebration for the College, for its students, its teachers and its parents.

Students of the graduating class,

Today, on the day of your celebration, I will begin with an open discussion with all of you about the College, about the resources and skills you have acquired for now and for the future. An open discussion that will continue for many years to come.

The joy we all feel today is indescribable.  It is reflected in your faces and in those of your parents and teachers. You are beginning a new stage in your life, filled with confidence based on your preparation at the College, having already set the course for your next level of studies.  Your fine performances on the PanHellenic and IB exams make us proud.  Congratulations. Your acceptances to internationally acclaimed universities abroad and the predictions for your admission to Greek universities are impressive.

At the same time, this new stage in your life comes with uncertainties in a world that presents daily changes, with new and different challenges. We have tried to prepare you for this uncertain and ever-changing future.  You have learned how to learn and need not rely solely on the knowledge that your books have to-date provided you.  You have learned to think like citizens of the world, with compassion and sensitivity for the peculiarities of other cultures, other peoples, other religions.  Undoubtedly, the cognitive tools, the way of thinking and the methodical preparation provided by the College will be decisive over the next few years and will help you to immerse yourself in your chosen field of study.

Cognitive competence is but a part of your College education. The development of your character, embedded with principles and values, is the factor that gives the greatest dimension to your cognitive competence.  The College motto, «άνδρας τρέφον», loosely translated as “nurturing man,” presents in two words our School’s ongoing effort to impart to you principles befitting responsible citizens, the key component of a favorable and well-governed country.  The admission of female students has in no way changed this aspect of the College.  Simply, the two words have changed to «πολίτας τρέφον» - that is, “nurturing citizen” - thus maintaining the same notion since 1925.

While your knowledge will be recognized and rewarded at once, the quality of your character will have long-lasting results.  The College has instilled in you self-respect, respect for others and respect for the environment.  Although this is the most difficult part of educating, we look forward to spectacular payoffs when you enter into positions of responsibility, when the fortunes of many will depend on you.  And only then, 20 to 30 years from now, we will be able to claim that the education that we provided to you was sufficient and that we achieved our goal.

The College sets high goals.  We are a school, an institution, whose cornerstones are transparency and meritocracy. We do not have owners who seek financial gain.  We do not belong to anyone.  The owner of the College is the College itself.  Our sole objective is to create an enabling academic environment that affords our students and teachers an opportunity to flourish, to lift off, to conquer the future.  We owe this – a debt to the speech given by Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos at the inauguration of Benaki Hall in 1929, when he said, “We expect these advancements to be carried out by Athens College.” For its students and for education in Greece.

Your knowledge, your skills, the international nature of your education and your future social status will be factors that will allow you to become part of the ruling class in Greece and abroad.  Your values, however, will be the true test of your success.  Respect for institutions, transparency when carrying out procedures, meritocracy when making choices, together with a genuine love and concern for those around you will be the compass for all the decisions you will make during the rest of your life.  It is a promise I would like you to make to the College, the College that will always stand behind you.  This is the same promise the College makes to its graduating class today; that it will continue on its path with the same values that it asks you to uphold:  respect for institutions, transparency in proceedings and transactions, and meritocracy.  Trust me, this is the only way to avoid turbulent times ahead.

Students of the graduating class,

Good luck on your fascinating journey of knowledge, creativity, and of life itself.

 

The part of the Ceremony that follows is dedicated to honorary distinctions.  Before presenting the student awards, I will present the Academic Chairs and the President’s Award to persons who are exemplars for all of us – especially for you, members of the current graduating class; hence the reason for presenting them at your graduation ceremony.

 

Holders of the 4 honorary Academic Chairs for the two year period 2016-2018 are:

EMMANOUIL TROULLINOS CHAIR: Claire Christodoulou, Philologist, Athens College Junior High School.

As a philologist, Ms. Christodoulou, works with great zeal.  She has excellent knowledge of her subject matter.  She is communicative and is able to inspire her students with sincere interest in the subjects she teachers.  She has the skills to bring out and enhance her students’ aptitudes, encouraging them and providing them with constant incentives for improvement.

 

PANAGIOTIS MAVROMATIS CHAIR:  Dimitra Alexaki, Biology Teacher, Athens College High School

She is a model educator, highly trained, with great pedagogical sensitivity, communicativeness and exceptional interest in her students. Her lessons stand out for the systematic and organized manner in which they are presented and, she, for her ability to easily connect the subject matter with her students’ experiences, effectively utilizing each student’s personal skills.  As a teacher, she has creative views and is particularly supportive to younger colleagues.

 

MARKOS KYNIGOS CHAIR:  Mary Polychronopoulou, Philologist, Psychico College High School and IB where she teaches Modern Greek Literature.
Ms. Polychronopoulou approaches students with a pedagogical spirit and respect for their personalities, thus gaining their love and acceptance.  She helps students develop a critical approach to literature by encouraging an independent and original way of thinking, along with freedom of expression.  She succeeds in infusing her students with respect for the literary wealth of our country and richness of the Greek language, thus creating a real motivation for life-long learning.  She is a teacher of high moral standing, with a vision for education and the teaching of Greek literature.

 

SOLON ZACHAROF CHAIR:  Marina Katsaouni, Teacher of French, Psychico College Junior High School.
Ms. Katsaouni teaches her courses experientially.  She links her teaching to the values of the College and aims at shaping cosmopolitan students.  Through their contact with French culture, students are able to develop skills and behaviors that force them to be pro-active and become citizens of the world.  She works consistently at adapting her teaching methodology to the learning level of each student.  By providing incentives, her students recognize their strengths and gain self-esteem.  Her overriding goal is to cultivate respect, philanthropy and a love for knowledge.

On behalf of the entire College community, I congratulate our 4 teachers.

 

Thirty-two years ago, the College established the President’s Award to honor members of the College community for their contribution and service to the College.

Today, I am particularly touched as I announce that the 2016 President’s Award is bestowed upon the former President of the Board of Directors, Giorgos Anastassopoulos.

Giorgos Anastassopoulos, class of 54, has been volunteering important and diverse services to the College for decades now.  Since 1975, he has been a member of the Somateio of the Hellenic-American Educational Foundation.  He served as member of the Board of Directors for two 5-year terms (1980-1985 and 2010-2015), and as President of the Board of Directors from 2003 to 2006. He has unceasingly been active in the life of the College.

His employment history and appointments in the public sector are impressive: Journalist at “Kathimerini,” “Acropolis,” and “Vradyni” newspapers, director of “Mesimvrini” newspaper and General Director of the Athens News Agency. He was elected member of the Administration of the International Federation of Journalists and is the only person to have ever been elected 4 times President of the Union of Journalists. He served as interim Deputy Minister of the Government (1977 and 1981), Member of the European Parliament under the New Democracy party for 15 years (1984-1999), four times elected Vice-President of the European Parliament (1989-1999), and Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Greece to UNESCO. As a writer his oeuvre is equally impressiveDespite his involvement with public affairs, Giorgos Anastassopoulos always found time to offer his services to the College, the School that he loved so much and continues to love.

Characteristic of Giorgos Anastassopoulos’ ethos, courage and selflessness – and a fine example for our graduates – is the article he penned in 1973 against the then dictatorship, which was published on December 1st in “Vradyni” newspaper, and which led to the newspaper’s closing.  As he confided to me, it was an article that he re-wrote four times in the week before it was published as he was aware of the consequences that would follow.

He once again proved his ethos, courage and selflessness when in 2003 he was asked, and he agreed, to take on the role of President of College’s Board of Directors in order to handle a particularly critical and difficult situation.

Giorgos Anastassopoulos, an alumnus with broad horizons, one who believed in dialogue and consensus, was always well accepted in the circles in which he moved.  With exceptional diplomatic skills, as demonstrated throughout his career, he collaborated in order to achieve the optimal solution under well-defined circumstances.

It is, therefore, with great pleasure that I invite Giorgos Anastassopoulos, class of 54, my partner for the last 6 years, to come and accept the President’s Award.