New Greek TV's Greek of the Week is Ameresco President and CEO George Sakellaris.
Sakellaris founded the leading North American energy efficiency and renewable energy company in 2000. The native Greek was born in Vassara Sparta Laconia, and grew up in the small mountain village in the Peloponnese. In 1965, at the age of 18, he left Greece to attend the University of Maine.
Regarding his upbringing, the successful energy chief describes, "The village I came from has a culture which values education—the ticket that allows you to do anything you want. The village also promotes a strong moral code of ethics, hard work, high integrity, common sense and a philanthropic spirit to help those in need. It had a profound impact on my life, as did my parents' strong influence".
Knowing very little English, Sakellaris attended college at the University of Maine and as he states, "Opened my world to endless possibilities. During my college years the people of Maine became my extended family. I believe the combination of my humble upbringing in Greece combined with my four years in Bangor, and at the University, provided me with the strong foundation and lifelong motivation to pursue my passion and dreams."
The energy premier holds a B.S.E.E. degree from the University of Maine-Orono, and both an M.B.A and M.S.E.E. degree from Northeastern University. In May 2012, the University of Maine granted Sakellaris with an Honorary Doctorate, in recognition of a lifetime of achievements, including his dedication and leadership in the field of energy efficiency and renewable energy.
When asked to describe himself, the Ameresco leader, who travels to the homeland a couple times per year, commented, "I have a strong foundation, mental fortitude, and lifelong motivation to pursue my passion and dreams. I am inspired by family, and proud of my family, friends, Hellenic heritage and community". In business, "I am an educator driven to encourage the best from others -- to think outside the box, innovate, excel, focus and do more with less".
Sakellaris' first job was at New England Electric, followed by his steady rise in the energy sector. After an incident that tested his professional and ethical integrity, the leading Greek businessman decided to go out on his own. His first solo entrepreneurial endeavor ultimately led to two of the most successful independent energy services companies in North America.
As he describes, "First, Noresco, followed by Ameresco, the company I founded and lead today which is now publically traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE:AMRC). Ameresco is a leading energy efficiency and renewable energy company to customers throughout North America and the United Kingdom".
The ambitious Greek attributes his success to his ethnicity as well, "Our great heritage is a great motivator instilling that we have to live up to greater expectations. We set our sights on the goal. I believe strongly in myself and my teams, and together, we are determined to be victorious rather than defeated".
Sakellaris, whose favorite place in Greece is Vassara, is an active member of the Greek-American community. He states, "My Greek heritage and faith is at the core of my identity and I strive to promote Greek culture, art, and Hellenism through many endeavors and initiatives. My education-based philanthropic work complements my support of faith-based Hellenic organizations. I was a founding member of the Faith Endowment, an Archon of the Order of St. Andrew, and I am a major benefactor at my local church".
"A few of the higher education institutions I support include: Northeastern University, the Holy Cross Hellenic College, and the University of Maine. At UMass Lowell I established an endowment in memory of my mentor, the late Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas. I also support youth education and enrichment at Milton Academy, my children's school".
First and foremost, his children and his family are the highlights of his life. "I am very proud and inspired by family, my wife Cathy along with my daughter Christina and son Peter and most importantly my parents, Areti and Panos who modeled and helped me develop fortitude, strength of character and determination in my life and to reach very high".
From a business perspective spanning over 30 years, Sakellaris reveals, "Some personal highlights early in my career include my work and influence in promoting energy efficiency with the Electrical Power Research Institute (EPRI) where I championed the development of demand side management (DSM) programs that were widely implemented across the country. Additionally, in the early 1980s I was a founding member of the National Association of Energy Service Companies (NAESCO) where I served as the first president and advocated for the new industry".
Sakellaris adds, "In 2005, I was invited by former President Bill Clinton to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative Conference in New York City, and participated in a session on "Unlocking Innovation: Global Business and New Technologies"... A major highlight in my career was in 2010 when Ameresco became a public company traded on the New York Stock Exchange".
The Hellene energy commander reflects, "When I think of my humble beginnings on the family farm, I was deeply honored to receive the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2011 New England and runner-up to the National Energy, Cleantech & Natural Resources Award, and to be recognized by this prestigious organization".
Under Sakellaris' direction, Ameresco has massively expanded to what it is today. It has grown from 4 offices in 3 states in 2001, to more than 900 employees with 70 offices in 34 states, five Canadian provinces and the United Kingdom.
George Sakellaris is a stellar example of true leadership and the ultimate immigrant dream, when backed with hard work and determination. As he concludes, "What makes me very proud in business is that we have done well by doing well for all of our constituents. I have always believed you can have a successful business doing what is right for the customer, the community, the environment, and future generations".
Maria Athens obtained her B.A. degree in Political Science at Seton Hall University and M.A. degree in Diplomacy & International Relations with a Concentration in Media, at The John C. Whitehead School at Seton Hall University. During graduate school she interned at CNN at The United Nations Headquarters and The Greek Press & Information Office for The United Nations & Consulate General of Greece, during Greece’s term on the Security Council. After one year in D.C. at The Committee of Concerned Journalists at The National Press Building and four years working in Athens, Athens is back in New York.
In addition to working at New Greek TV she is an on-air correspondent for AlleyWire.