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The PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation's 2016 Awards Ceremony & Gala

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On Saturday, June 18, 2016 the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation honored its Founder, the late Chris P. Tomaras, at its annual Awards Ceremony and Gala at the Ritz-Carlton, Chicago. Over 500 guests attended the SOLD-OUT gala, and were a testament to Mr. Tomaras' great legacy. The Foundation was able to raise $500,000 due to the generosity of its faithful supporters.

The moving event also celebrated the 2016 Scholarship Award Recipients. This year's forty-four scholars were among the most exceptional Greek-American undergraduates in the nation, selected from hundreds of scholarship applications. They received an impressive $267,500 in scholarship awards to use toward their college education. The gala was hosted by the energetic and dynamic Mistress of Ceremonies, Kiki Vale, who spoke about her life and career in broadcasting, and how her Hellenic background has shaped her identity.

The theme of the evening was "Preserving the Legacy," in memory of Mr. Tomaras and his commitment to helping deserving students earn an education through the Foundation. Trustee and Secretary Athan Tom Sotos introduced a memorial film about the Founder and his remarkable life. He emphasized that Mr. Tomaras' legacy will live on through all of the students who have been granted scholarships, both on that evening and in previous years.

The Foundation's Executive Director, Yanni Valsamas, gave an emotional speech about Mr. Tomaras. He stated that the PanHellenic has started a new chapter, and assured all that "the Foundation is alive and well, and we will continue the success our Founder achieved, and excel in our mission to promote education and Hellenism in America." Following Valsamas' remarks, Dr. Constantine Georgakis, Chairman of the Academic Committee, spoke briefly before presenting the scholarship awards to this year's recipients, along with Chairman of the Board of Directors, Robert A. Buhler. The Foundation could not have been more proud to honor this exceptional group of students for their many significant accomplishments.

Trustee and Treasurer John Manos presented the 2016 Paradigm Award to this year's honoree, John S. Koudounis, Chief Executive Officer of Calamos Investments. Koudounis delivered a moving speech about his life, education, and career. In honor of Father's Day, Koudounis talked about how his own father was an inspiration to him, and made it possible for Koudounis to attend his dream school, Brown University. Koudounis also addressed Mr. Tomaras' legacy, and urged this year's scholarship recipients to carry on the remarkable legacy of their hard-working and resilient Greek ancestors.

After the Paradigm Award presentation, Chairman Robert A. Buhler delivered a powerful and optimistic speech about the Foundation's future, and briefly outlined how the organization plans to grow and thrive. He spoke about how the Trustees and the Board of Directors plan to not only preserve Mr. Tomaras' legacy, but to expand the reach of the Foundation through its alumni, co-branding partnerships, and regional representatives in order to build upon what Mr. Tomaras started.

The Chris Sarlas Orchestra, joined by guest performer, John Panopoulos, provided the entertainment after the evening's presentation, and attendees were also treated to a special performance by one of the 2016 Georgia S. Mitchell Music & Arts Scholarship Recipients, Thomas Dean Bravos. Three lucky guests also won $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 cash prizes in the exciting raffle drawing. Congratulations to Ernest Stavropoulos who won $1,000 prize; Soterios Frentzas, winner of $5,000; and Georgia Litsos, who won the Grand Raffle prize of $10,000!

Among the attendees were Church and Community leaders, including His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago and His Grace Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos; Polixeni Petropoulos, Consul General of Greece; Maria Pappas, Treasurer of Cook County; Mariyana T. Spyropoulos, President of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Chicago; Honorable Judge of the 19th Judicial Circuit Court, James Booras; Executive Director & General Counsel of the Property Tax Appeal Board, Louis Apostol; Peter Karahalios, Honorable Judge and President of the Greek American Rehabilitation & Nursing Centre; Mark Curran, Lake County Sheriff; and Dr. Richard Saller, Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University.

Other distinguished guests were John Galanis, Supreme President of AHEPA; Phillip Frangos, former Supreme President of AHEPA; Dimitri Soudas, former Director of Communications and Chief Spokesman to the Prime Minister of Canada; Gus Pablecas, Regional Commander of the Archons of the Patriarchate; John Calamos, Founder, Chairman and Global Chief Investment Officer of Calamos Investments; Dean Metropoulos, Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, C. Dean Metropoulos & Co.; Elias Matsakis, Partner at Holland & Knight, and Of Counsel for the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation; Georgia Man, Chief Compliance Officer and Associate General Counsel for the Office of Governor Bruce Rauner; Dr. Irene Fountas, Professor and Director of Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative at Lesley University; Demetrios Kozonis, Chairman of the Chicago Sister City - Athens Committee; Demetrios Logothetis, Hellenic American Academy Chairman, Board of Trustees; Vasilios Mataragas, President of the Hellenic American National Council and Federation "ENOSIS;" Dr. Dame Evangeline Gouletas, Chief Executive Officer of Skyline Equities, and Southeast Region Director of the Hellenic American Women's Council; Theodora S. Hancock, Co-Founder and President the Hellenic American Women's Council; Anna Davlantes from WGN Radio; and Michael Galanakis, Board Member of the American Hellenic Council of California.

The PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our generous donors for their support. Your generosity makes it possible for the Foundation to continue its mission. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

The 2016 Awards Ceremony & Gala was a truly splendid night. The Foundation is grateful to have had the opportunity to celebrate and honor 2016 Scholarship Award recipients, an extraordinary group of Greek-American undergraduates. We are looking forward to carrying on Mr. Tomaras' great legacy and embracing the Foundation's bright future.