On Saturday April 25, 2015 the American Hellenic Council of Southern California (AHC), a non-partisan political advocacy organization, will host its 40th Annual Honors Dinner Dance at the Millenium Biltmore Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles.
Since its inception, the American Hellenic Council has been the focal point of political activities of Greek-Americans in California. In its 40 years, the AHC has become an effective and respected political action group whose purpose is to lobby the U.S. Congress for the protection and promotion of Greek-American interests. The American Hellenic Council has supported numerous issues on behalf of the Hellenic American community, participated and sponsored fundraising events, and raised significant contributions for members of Congress who support Hellenic issues.
Each year, AHC celebrates the achievements of dedicated political and community leaders who have made major contributions to Hellenic causes. This year, with Demetrios Boutris, as the event’s MC, the Council will recognize the accomplishments of four honorees – John P. Calamos, Ambassador Eleni Kounalakis, Gene Rossides and Peter Economides.
John P. Calamos – The Aristeion Award
John P. Calamos, Sr., 74, is founder, chairman, CEO and global co-chief investment officer of Calamos Investments, a global asset management firm. The company traces its roots to the 1970s when Calamos used convertible securities, which were little known at the time, to help his clients grow and preserve their wealth. He took his company public in 2004 under the Nasdaq ticker CLMS.
Under his leadership, the firm today serves clients worldwide, including major corporations, pension funds, endowments, foundations, and individuals. The firm also provides wealth management services to high net worth individuals and families. The company offers its investment capabilities through separately managed portfolios, mutual funds, closed-end funds, private funds and UCITS funds. Headquartered in Naperville, Ill., Calamos Investments also has offices in London and New York. A recognized expert in risk-managed investing, Calamos has written two books and contributes to industry publications. He is interviewed regularly by CNBC, Bloomberg TV and Fox Business Channel.
Among the factors to which Calamos attributes his success, he cites his Greek heritage, including a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit. The son of Greek immigrants, he grew up above his family’s grocery store on Chicago’s west side and attended Chicago public schools. He developed his passion for the stock market as a teenager and began his investment career when his parents entrusted him with the family’s $5,000 nest egg.
Calamos also credits his military service as a key factor in his success, as it solidified his view of the importance of discipline, risk assessment, and teamwork. He served five years in active duty in the U.S. Air Force, flying the B-52 bomber and in Vietnam as a forward air controller. He later spent 12 years in the USAF Reserves flying the A-37 jet fighter and earned the rank of Major. He keeps his aviation skills sharp by flying his Marchetti SF260 Warbird.
His entrepreneurial activities extend beyond the financial services sector, with a private real estate arm, Calamos Real Estate LLC that includes Hotel Arista, CityGate Centre and other entities surrounding the investment company’s headquarters in Naperville.
Calamos and his wife, Mae, are active philanthropists. Since 2012, he has served as chairman of the board of directors of Chicago’s National Hellenic Museum, of which he is a major benefactor. He says of the museum: “We have built a national institution to honor our parents and grandparents, to honor our rich Hellenic history.” In addition, he and his wife were recognized as 2014 Distinguished Citizens by the Three Fires Council, Boy Scouts of America last October.
Calamos earned both his bachelor’s degree in economics and his MBA in finance from the Illinois Institute of Technology. The first member in his family to graduate from college, his philanthropic efforts reflect his commitment to promoting education. In 2011, Calamos donated $10 million to his alma mater, the Illinois Institute of Technology, to establish two endowed chairs, or faculty positions.
Eleni Kounalakis – The Pericles Award
Ambassador Eleni Kounalakis is a Northern California businesswoman and philanthropist. From 2010 until 2013, she served as the United States Ambassador to Hungary, appointed by President Barack Obama. During her service, Ambassador Kounalakis received two Meritorious Honor awards, and was nominated by her staff for a the Susan M. Cobb award for distinguished diplomatic service.
Currently, Ambassador Kounalakis is a Senior Advisor at Albright Stonebridge Group, and serves as chair of the California Advisory Council for International Trade and Investment. She also serves as a member of the board of the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, where she received her MBA in 1992, and holds an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the American College of Greece. Ambassador Kounalakis is a member of the Global Advisory Council of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, serves on the board of The Hellenic Initiative and is a member of the Association of American Ambassadors.
Previously, Ambassador Kounalakis served as a member of the California State World Trade Commission, The California First Five Commission and the San Francisco War Memorial. An active advocate of interfaith cooperation, she served for ten years as a Trustee of the World Council of Religions for Peace, and in recognition for her service was awarded the Medal of St. Paul, the highest lay honor of the Greek Orthodox Church in America. Committed to the advancement of Hellenic ideals, she and her husband, veteran journalist Markos Kounalakis, endowed university Chairs at Georgetown and Stanford dedicated to the study of Athenian Democracy. Ambassador Kounalakis lives with her husband and two children in San Francisco.
Gene Rossides – The Saloutos Award
Gene Rossides is a retired senior partner of the international law firm of Rogers and Wells now Clifford Chance. He served as Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury Department from 1969 to 1973, where he supervised the U.S. Customs Service, Secret Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tabaco and Firearms and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center among others. He served as a U.S. Representative to INTERPOL from 1969 to 1973. In 1982-1984, he served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Grace Commission, the President’s Private Sector Survey on Cost Control in the Federal Government.
Mr. Rossides received his B.A. degree from Columbia College in 1949. As an undergraduate he received All-American football honors. He earned his J.D. degree from Columbia Law School in 1952. In 1972, he was awarded the Columbia University Medal for Excellence and the Young Lawyer’s Award from the Columbia Law School Alumni Association. In 1994, he received the Columbia College John Jay Award.
In 1974, following Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus, he founded the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) and in 1975 the AHI Foundation (AHIF). He is the author of Kissinger & Cyprus – A Study in Lawlessness (2014), and the editor of The Truman Doctrine of Aid to Greece: A Fifty Year Retrospective (1998) jointly published by the Academy of Political Science and the AHIF; Greece’s Pivotal Role in World War II and Its Importance to the U.S. Today (2001); The United States & Cyprus: Double Standards & the Rule of Law (2002); American Hellenic Who’s Who (5th ed. 1995) and co-editor of Doing Business in Greece (1999).
From 1958 to 1961, he was Assistant to the Treasury Under Secretary in the Eisenhower Administration. In 1956-1958, he was an Assistant Attorney General, New York, in the Bureau of Securities. In 1952, he was in the Rackets Bureau on the staff of New York County District Attorney Frank S. Hogan. He is a founding director of the Eisenhower Institute.
Mr. Rossides is a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Fund and the Order of the AHEPA. In 2002, he was invested Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; in 2004 he was presented with the Commander of the Order of the Phoenix by the President of Greece; in 2005 he was the recipient of the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the American College of Greece; and in 2006 he was elected a Visiting Member of the Academy of Athens. In 2000 he received the AHEPA Archbishop Iakovos Award and on July 24, 2014 he was the first recipient of the AHEPA-Stamos Family Lifetime Achievement Award.
On October 8, 2014 he received the highest honor bestowed upon an individual by the House of Representatives of Cyprus. President of the House, Yiannakis Omirou, presented a medal to Mr. Rossides as a token of their gratitude for a lifetime of dedication to Cyprus and its cause.
Mr. Rossides is a former legal officer for the Air Materiel Command, U.S. Air Force (1952-1953). He resides in Washington, D.C., with his wife Aphrodite. He has four children and six grandchildren.
Peter Economides – The Aristeion Award
Peter Economides is a brand strategist, owner and founder of Felix BNI, a global consultancy based in Athens. His work is focused on change – on the strategic responses to shifting culture, consumer habits, and behaviors. His view is that brand strategy needs to be spherical and all encompassing, touching every aspect of the business organization and process. As he says, “everything communicates” and “strategy is nothing without a universally compelling, and individually enchanting big idea that engages and aligns people inside and outside the corporation.”
A sensitive multicultural global executive, Economides began his career in his native South Africa. Over the years, he has lived and worked in Hong Kong, Athens, Mexico City, and New York. His long career includes top brands such as Absolut, Apple, Audi, Beiersdorf, Campari, Coca-Cola, Citibank, General Motors, Gillette, Henkel, Levi’s,L’Oréal, Mattel, Nestlé, Nike, Seagram, Unilever among others.
He rose to the top ranks of McCann-Erickson Worldwide as Executive Vice President and Worldwide Director of Client Services with specific responsibility for the $1.8 Billion Coca-Cola global advertising account. In 1996 he joined Bill Tragos, founder of global advertising agency TBWA\Worldwide as Head of Global Clients. He was on the team behind the highly acclaimed re-launch of Apple, ‘Think Different,’ following the return of Steve Jobs in 1997.
Economides founded Felix BNI in Athens in 2003. Felix BNI has been engaged by leading clients worldwide including Heineken, Euromedic, Google, Oceanco, Coca-Cola, Pernod Ricard, Seychelles Tourism and the International Olympic Committee.
Peter is well known for his work on Rebranding Greece. His talks on the subject have reached millions worldwide and his approach to branding is taught as course material at a number of leading MBA programs. He is an inspiration to young Greek entrepreneurs and a significant contributor to the Orange Grove, the innovative startup incubator housed in the Dutch Embassy in Athens.
Peter is Chairman of the Board of Directors of leading global charity, Make-A-Wish International. He is a volunteer strategic consultant to the Benaki Museum and a Trustee of SAHETI, the highly regarded South African Greek-language educational institution. He has a degree in Business, Economics and the Social Sciences from the University of Cape Town.