Athena also referred to as Pallas Athena is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, just warfare, mathematics, strength, strategy, arts, crafts and skills. Athena is the goddess of heroic endeavor, the virgin patroness of Athens. The Athenians founded the Parthenon on the Acropolis of her namesake city, Athens (Athena Parthenos), in her honor. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athena).
These are the qualities held by a unique person honored on May 19 at the Grand Prospect Hall, Brooklyn, New York. Erika Wilhelmine Knickmann Spyropoulos was commended for her unique work to Hellenism and American society by the Federation of Hellenic American Educators, Greek Teachers Association Prometheus, and the Hellenic American Women’s Council (H.A.W.C.) Tri-State Region.
“Congratulations to the Pallas Athena Award Luncheon 2013 Honoree Mrs. Erika Wilhelmine Knickmann Spyropoulos for her outstanding contributions to the Greek-American Community,” said Mariyana and Paul. A biography of Mrs. Spyropoulos was printed in ODYSSEY, The World of Greece bi-monthly magazine in the winter of 2012-2013 at http://www.odyssey.gr/People/articles~1780~erika~article,
ODYSSEY writes that “For Erika Wilhelmine Knickmann Spyropoulos art and philanthropy represent sharing oneself and are lifelong expressions of giving back to a world that provided her with a stage to reflect and share. Mrs. Spyropoulos’s art is a glimpse of a profound and meaningful world opposite the personal devastation surrounding her during the nascent stage of her life growing up in war-torn Germany. Just as the physical canvas draws on paint to form that expression, her art draws from a well spring of life experiences that date back to a time even before she was born. Her scenes convey a host of emotions and moods: romantic, playful, melancholic, panoramic to riveting in her portrayal of striking figures from an ancient past; mythical portraits of characters frozen in time, the sea and its beauty melded with myth, fantasy and color. There are also Greek themes which stem from her marriage to entrepreneur Theodore Spyropoulos. Both are striking figures worthy of capturing on the portraits she draws.
Erika was born in Stroebitz, south of Berlin, and grew up in Kaltenkirchen, a small town north of Hamburg. She is a descendant of the mid-nineteenth-century poet and writer Theodor Storm. By the end of the second world war her talents had blossomed–her appreciation of art, music drawing, embroidery, knitting and sewing would serve her throughout her life. She then went to Hamburg to study fashion, design, architecture, and painting at the prestigious Meisterschule fuer Mode in Hamburg. Family friends in Sweden invited her to visit and stay. She met her future husband Theodore G. Spyropoulos in Sweden.
Success provided time to spend on other interests, sports, gardening, reading and painting. Erika’s work can be found in private and corporate collections throughout the U.S., Australia, Europe, and, of course, Greece. She was awarded the prestigious Bicentennial Art Award for a mural depicting the “Spirit of 1776” and her work has been featured at the Beverly Art Center, Gold Coast Art Fair, and other venues. Exhibits showcasing her work include the Southwest Area Cultural Arts Council, Australian Exhibition Center, the Treasury in Chicago, and Kourd Gallery in Athens. Erika’s works dot the Midwest States, New York and Panama. Mrs. Spyropoulos is Executive Vice President of T.G.S. Petroleum, working with her husband in philanthropic causes.
The Program consisted of the following: Invocation by Father Meletios of Sacred Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monastery of St. Irene; Mistress of Ceremonies, Dorie Klissas; Welcoming Remarks, Mrs. Stella Kokolis: President of the Federation of Hellenic American Educators; Educator Vasiliki Filiotis, President of Prometheus; Alice Halkias, Regional Director, (H.A.W.C.) Tri-State Region; Piano Classical music by Dimitra Vrosgou; Proclamations & Citations, Congressman Michael G. Grimm, New York, Hon. U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, Hon. Carolyn. B. Maloney, US Congresswoman, Hon. Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York; Hon. Pat Quinn, Governor Illinois, Hon. Jesse White, Illinois Secretary of State, Hon. Michael Giannaris, New York State Senator, Hon. Martin J. Golden, New York State Senator, Hon. Leonidas Raptakis, Rhode Island State Senator, Hon. Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President, Hon. Vincent J. Gentile, New York City Council Member, Hon. Aravella Simotas, New York Assemblywoman and Hon. Nicole Malliotakis, New York Assemblywoman; Greetings by elected officials; Performance of students of Plato School, “Oi Nyfes”: A story of the journey of the 1920’s Greek mail-order brides at Fort Hamilton Army directed by Greek School of Plato Principal Eleftheria Ikouta; Presentation of “Pallas Athena” Award; Response by the 2013 Honoree Mrs. Erika Wilhelmine Knickmann Spyropoulos; Music & Entertainment by Konstantinos Stergioulis and Closing Remarks.
Many prominent people paid their respects to Mrs. Spyropoulos with sincerity and admiration. For a complete list of all presenters, please contact Alice Halkias Regional Director of (H.A.W.C.) Tri-State Region at [email protected].
The following excerpts are from letters in the “Pallas Athena” Journal. “Today’s event will honor the many Greek women who have made contributions to New York in everything from business to education to government and also recognize their efforts to preserve Greek heritage and history within their communities,” wrote New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “We applaud the esteemed women of these three outstanding organizations for working to advance our city and look forward to all they will accomplish in the years to come. On behalf of all New Yorkers, congratulations to this year’s award recipient, Erika Wilhelmine Knickmann Spyropoulos.”
“The Greek community in Chicago has long been an essential part of the city’s vibrant cultural landscape,” said Governor of Illinois Pat Quinn. “This event will serve as an excellent opportunity to celebrate and recognize the strengths and achievements of women in the Greek American community…..Erika is a renowned Chicago artist and philanthropist whose commitment to serving others is admirable. She is very deserving of this recognition. I know her good works will continue in the future.”
Jesse White, Illinois Secretary of State affirms the previous statements by saying “Erika Wilhelmine Knickmann Spyropoulos is recognized for her contributions and efforts on behalf of the Greek American Community, Greek culture and her loyalty to the ideals of Hellenism. She is an excellent choice.”
New York State Senator Michael N. Gianaris commends all three organizations “in promoting the professional and education interests of its members. I applaud all that your organizations have done to bring together Greek-Americans in business and contributions to our community.”
Aravella Simotas, New York State Assembly member said “Today’s event is a fitting tribute to our honoree, Erika Wilhelmine Knickmann Spyropoulos, who has contributed her time and talents to the Hellenic American community and truly embodies the Hellenic spirit. Erika is a renowned artist whose work has been displayed throughout the world. She received the Bicentennial Art Award from the town of Melrose Park for her mural “Spirit of 1776”. Ms. Spyropoulos is a great source of pride for me as a Greek-American woman.”
Greece Parliament member and former Prime Minister Dora Bakogiannis, a supporter of the Federation of Hellenic American Educators and Prometheus Greek Teachers Association, said “we support your endeavor to keep Greek learning and the Greek schools of America alive. In these difficult times for your Mother country, Greece, please know your actions and accomplishments fill us with hope for our future. We are united and we will overcome our present difficulties as in the past.” In my opinion, Mrs. Erika Wilhelmine Knickmann Spyropoulos is a person our youth can relate to and admire. Hellenism will not die in the face of global assimilation, because of people who have Mrs. Spyropoulos’ mindset.
The OLYMPIC WREATH was presented by Mrs. Stella Kokolis, President and Adriana Filiotis of the Federation of Hellenic American Educators; Educator Vasiliki Filiotis, President of Prometheus Greek Teachers Association and their Board of Directors. Mrs. Eleni Karageorgiou, Education Counselor of the Greek Consulate, gave her warmest regards recognizing the honoree’s contributions and loyalty to the ideals of Hellenism as well as prominent members of Greek-American Society. Mrs. Alice Halkias was recognized for her distinguished service to the Greek-American community. The Hellenic American Women’s Council (H.A.W.C.) Tri-State Region is planning a reception and luncheon to “Family, Folklore and Fate” by Mrs. Eleni Gage, author on Tuesday evening, June 25th, 2013 at the Grand Prospect Hall. For more information, call Alice Halkias at (718) 788-0777.
http://www.odyssey.gr/People/articles~1780~erika~article – Biography of Erika Wilhelmine Knickmann Spyropoulos