As a freshman at Johns Hopkins University, I had entered the Mattin Center looking to find the meeting for the Hellenic Student Association. I noticed a couple people speaking in Greek, so I realized that I was in the right place. I did not really know what to expect from a cultural organization. Maybe a Greek night here and there, with an occasional “Frappe” get together in a cafe; so little did I know.
The Hellenic Student Association’s President George Petrocheilos has revitalized the cultural club at Hopkins with the help of benefactor, scientist, and innovator Aris Melissaratos. The bond between these two men has helped the association become the strongest Hellenic club at any university in the United States.
Melissaratos has been labeled by many as kind, intellectual, brilliant, innovative, and generous. The former Secretary of Business and Economic Development in Maryland, who helped lower unemployment from 11% to almost 4%, and the current Senior Adviser to the Johns Hopkins President, he’s a success story and I was amazed by how intellectual and humble he was.
Petrocheilos is a senior majoring in Economics, but has the ability to create a new major at Hopkins; Networking Operations because he’s on a first-name basis with some of the most successful people in Maryland. The Hellenic club held its Fall Reception and Fundraiser at Melissarato’s estate, attended by some 250 guests, including politicians, CEOs, restaurant owners, bankers and many other successful people. They included former U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Congressmen Chris Van Hollen, Eli Cummings, Paul’s son John Sarbanes, Andy Harris and many others.
Petrocheilos brought together people of different backgrounds to share his pride in the Hellenic culture. As Melissaratos commented, “Each ethnicity has had its turn in this melting pot that is America.” As a freshman entering Hopkins, I was amazed at the event that was put together, and the people I had the opportunity to interact with.
George is now planning an event in February which will aim to combine both Greek and African-American pride. “It is amazing what I’ve seen George accomplish in his time here, and will always be there to support him,” Neil Vranis a member of HSA said during the event. Petrocheilos and Melissaratos are quite the dynamic duo, and as a proud Greek-American I was happy to see these two men working together for a common goal; to raise funds for an organization wants to preserve my Hellenic culture.
I really didn’t know what to expect by joining the HSA. I was assuming I’d meet some people who I shared my heritage with, and a way to make some friends, but I found something larger. As a proud Greek-American, I have been inspired by Petrocheilos and Melissaratos, and their efforts to share Hellenism with the world.
- Niko Kotoulas