New Greek TV's featured Greek of the Week is AHEPA Supreme President Phillip T. Frangos.
The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) is one of the nation's leading organizations, dedicated to American citizens of Greek heritage and Philhellenes.
Upon his uncontested victory, Frangos stated, "It is an honor and privilege to be elected AHEPA Supreme President...It is with humility that I undertake the responsibilities of this office. I thank those who have mentored me, supported me, inspired me, and tutored me over the many years that I have been a member of an organization which carries the torch of Hellenism."
In our interview below, Frangos discusses AHEPA's activities under his reign, advocacy efforts, future goals, his own Greek-American background, and more.
Maria Athens: How long have you served as AHEPA's Supreme President?
Phillip T. Frangos: I was elected Supreme President at the New Orleans Supreme Convention on July 26, 2014.
Maria Athens: What are your responsibilities and presidential goals?
Phillip T. Frangos: The Supreme President serves as Chief Executive Officer of the Order of AHEPA. In this capacity he is responsible for the implementation of directives enacted by the Supreme Convention, represents AHEPA at all major functions and events, and serves as the principal spokesperson for the fraternity.
My goals for this year include the strengthening of AHEPA as the principal voice of Hellenism in the United States, promotion of enhanced activity by chapters at the local level, an increase in membership, the establishment of closer relationships and networking with such organizations such as Leadership 100 and the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, other Hellenic American organizations, as well as organizations outside of the American Hellenic community that share common goals and objectives; the fulfillment of AHEPA's financial commitment for the rebuilding of St. Nicholas at Ground Zero, and expansion of AHEPA's junior order, the Sons of Pericles.
Maria Athens: What inspired you to act as a leading advocate for the promotion of Hellenism, education, philanthropy, civic responsibility, and family and individual excellence?
Phillip T. Frangos: AHEPA's mission statement which advocates the promotion of Hellenism, education, philanthropy, civic responsibility, and family and individual excellence, is noble and inspiring. The organization affords an individual the opportunity to promote those Hellenic values which originated over 2,000 years ago and which were adopted by the founding fathers of this great nation in its establishment.
It gives a member a means by which to give back to his community and society through philanthropic works, and to make available to the next generation educational and cultural opportunities. The collective presentation of these diverse activities hopefully encourages and achieves family and individual excellence.
Maria Athens: Can you offer us an overview of your vast career?
Phillip T. Frangos: I hold B.A. and J.D. degrees from Northwestern University. Although a lawyer, my professional career was mainly as an administrator in government. I was Chief Deputy Secretary of State and Chief Executive Officer of the Michigan Department of State, an agency with 2,500 employees, 200 offices, and 10 museums.
The agency was the regulatory agency for drivers and vehicles, administered the state's election and campaign finance laws, provided consumer protection through the licensing and regulation of automobile dealers and auto repair facilities, administered the state's business laws, and operated the state's historical activities including state museums, archives, archaeology, historical preservation and publication of the Michigan Historical Magazine.
I am active in the church, having served at the parish, diocesan and archdiocesan levels. I was invested as an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 2013.
Maria Athens: How has AHEPA evolved over the years?
Phillip T. Frangos: AHEPA was founded in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1922, in response to the harassment and persecution of Greek immigrants by the Ku Klux Klan. It fostered the assimilation of Greek immigrants into American society.
It rapidly evolved as a patriotic and philanthropic organization. It sold over $250,000,000 of war bonds in World War II, making it an official Issuing Agent by the U.S. Department of Treasury; built hospitals in Greece and was a major supporter of the Greek War Relief. It promotes education by giving worthy students almost $1,000,000 in scholarships every year.
AHEPA operates a housing for the elderly program under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development with 92 housing complexes having nearly 5,000 apartment units in 22 states. It has contributed greatly to charities in Greece and in the United States.
During the current economic crisis in Greece, AHEPA has sent more than $500,000 to feed the hungry and sent more than $8,000,000 in medical supplies to various hospitals in Greece. AHEPA has provided relief following such natural disasters as hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, tornadoes in Illinois, Oklahoma, and Alabama, and fires and earthquakes in Greece.
Between 1986 and 1991, AHEPA donated more than $600,000 for the restoration of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, helping to make ethnic Greeks the largest ethnic donor group of the campaign and affording AHEPA special recognition by the U.S. Department of the Interior. AHEPA has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to find a cure for such diseases as Cooley's Anemia (Thalassemia) and cancer.
Not to be overlooked is AHEPA's work to strengthen our local communities. Numerous parishes owe their existence to the work of AHEPA chapters to bring the church to their communities. AHEPA built the dormitories at St. Basil's Academy and was the major benefactor of the St. Photios Shrine in St. Augustine, Florida, helping to pay off the Shrine's mortgage. It has committed to a major donation for the rebuilding of St. Nicholas at Ground Zero.
Maria Athens: What have been the trends in AHEPA membership, since its creation in 1922? How do you attract new members?
Phillip T. Frangos: During the course of its existence AHEPA has initiated over 250,000 members. The number of active current members is over 16,000 with almost a like number of temporarily inactive members. Our current goal is to reactivate the latter and to initiate new members by encouraging the development of younger and more active leadership at the local level.
Although the national programs and activities are prominent and critical, AHEPA is most important and does the bulk of its work at the community level. Each chapter must become aware of the needs of its community and act to address those needs consistent with AHEPA's mission statement.
Maria Athens: How many and what nations is AHEPA in and how many AHEPA chapters exist?
Phillip T. Frangos: AHEPA currently has more than 400 active chapters in the United States. It has more than 50 chapters in Canada, England, France, Germany, Rumania, Bulgaria and Turkey. Growth has been exponential in Greece in recent years with the establishment of approximately 30 chapters having over 1,000 members.
Maria Athens: What are the current major concerns for AHEPA?
Phillip T. Frangos: AHEPA's principal concern is to enhance membership growth by evolving to attract younger and more active leadership. As indicated previously, AHEPA needs local chapters to better define their roles within their communities. By doing so, AHEPA will be enabled to better carry out the programs and activities consistent with AHEPA's mission statement.
With respect to its national concerns, AHEPA must continue to represent and speak on behalf of the various aspects of Hellenism and our Orthodoxy which are under great duress today. Mother Hellas is in a struggle for its very existence because of economic conditions. It is open to the incursions of its sea and air space by a fellow NATO "ally." Cyprus remains divided after nearly 41 years of illegal occupation by the same "ally." The Ecumenical Patriarchate is under siege and the Seminary at Halki remains closed after 44 years because of the same "ally."
Our fellow Orthodox Christians are being slaughtered in Iraq, Syria, Libya and other parts of the Middle East. AHEPA must continue to be the major voice for all those institutions, entities, and individuals in advocating for the rule of law, humanitarian and economic relief, and social and religious freedom.
Maria Athens: What would you recommend and suggest to recent Greeks that have immigrated to the United States and the new generation of Greek-Americans?
Phillip T. Frangos: If we hold the values and tenets of Hellenism as being important, if we aspire for a better society, if we want to leave things a bit better than how we found them, if we care about the very survival of our fellow human beings, we must come together and work for the improvement, alleviation and elimination of adverse conditions. Whether we are American born Hellenes or emigrants from Mother Hellas, we will be most effective in working together in the twin pillars of Hellenism and Orthodoxy—AHEPA and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Maria Athens: Can you tell us about your upbringing, education and Greek background?
Phillip T. Frangos: I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, where I attended public schools and received my degrees from Northwestern University. I belonged to St. Andrew's parish in Chicago. Following graduation from law school I went to Michigan on a Ford Fellowship. My initial experience in state government turned into a lifetime career.
I joined Holy Trinity of Lansing, Michigan, where I was a member of the parish council for over 20 years and its president for four years. I was initiated into the Wolverine Chapter 142 of Lansing in 1968. My parents were both from Mandra, a small town just north of Eleusis in Attica. The Athens sprawl has grown to envelop these communities.
Maria Athens: What strides would you like AHEPA to experience under your Presidential reign?
Phillip T. Frangos: I would like American Hellenes and Philhellenes to recognize the importance of the concerns and goals I have identified in responding to your second and eighth questions, their willingness to address those issues, and their seeing the AHEPA as the means to work for resolution of those concerns in a spirit of fraternalism and friendship.
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