Eminent figure of the Greek – American community and first President of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE), Andrew Athens, passed away today at the age of 91, in his city, Chicago.
Andrew Athens was identified with the effort to organize and coordinate worldwide Hellenism, bearing the title of Honorary SAE President. During his multiple year action in Greek Community events, he took part in the activities of several bodies, becoming particularly known for his activity in the “Greek Lobby” in Washington, along with Andy Manatos, Philip Christopher and other members of the Greek community.
In recent years, he worked with SAE USA Coordinator, Theodore Spyropoulos and his dream was that Hellenism would remain united for the support and recovery of Greece, as he often pointed out. All these years, he engaged in activities for the promotion of Greek affairs, and primarily the Cyprus problem, the FYROM name issue and Turkish threats in the Aegean, as well as the religious rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
He was honored by the Greek and Cypriot State, the Patriarchate and the U.S. Government and Congress, in addition to several U.S. organizations.
Below you can find his official CV:
Andrew A. Athens (Andreas Athanasoulas) was born in 1922 in Chicago, USA to immigrant parents. The name of his father was Aristides. His remarkable service to the Greek Community and the Orthodox Church placed him among the leading figures of the Greek Diaspora.
He served as President of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) since its founding in 1995, and until December 2006 when the 6th World Assembly of SAE had unanimously proclaimed him president emeritus.
Andrew Athens was a prime example of a man of vision, commitment and self-sacrifice, who knew how to inspire and take the lead in struggles to defend the rights of the Greeks. He had approached each endeavor in his life with utter commitment and hard work, always tireless and vigorous, characterized by his unwavering faith to his ideals and goals.
He was distinguished in WWII battlefronts, as well as in the post-war effort for the reconstruction of Europe. As a US Army Captain he fought alongside the allied forces in Europe and the Middle East. After the war he was honored with the Bronze Star Medal and the US Army Commendation Medal, while he was commended by the Hungarian government for his contribution to the country’s rebuilding.
His successful business career was launched in 1950 with the founding of the Metron Steel Corporation, an exceptionally successful industry in the American Midwest that even today is one of the largest steelworks in the USA.
Athens became involved in Greek community affairs at an early age. He left his mark on all major initiatives in support of Hellenism and Orthodoxy in the United States and elsewhere. He led the efforts and successes of Greeks abroad, both under his capacity as a founding member, or as a president of Greek community organizations and institutes.
He played a leading role in every struggle launched for the rights of the Greeks, for justice and peace in Greece and Cyprus, for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other Orthodox Patriarchates and for the Greeks in dire need, like those living in former Soviet Union countries, Albania and elsewhere. He occupied leadership offices in roughly 50 Greek community organizations and chambers of commerce in the US, Greece, Belgium and other countries.
Immediately after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, he played a key role in establishing a Greek Lobby in Washington, and founded the United Hellenic American Congress (UHAC) – an organization with notable accomplishments and presence. In this effort he was assisted by the Washington-based National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes (CEH), that he had co-founded.
He was the “Leadership 100” Endowment Fund president emeritus. Andrew Athens established the organization and served as first president of the board (1986-1996). He had co-founded and chaired the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). For two decades (1974-1995) he served as the president of the Council of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America. He was the co-founder of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce and served as president from 1991 to 1997.
For his community service, Andrew Athens had achieved international recognition. Foreign governments, Orthodox Church Patriarchates, charitable organizations and production sector representatives around the world honored Athens with over 42 awards, medals and distinctions.
He received the Greek State’s Gold Cross of the Order of the Phoenix (1977), the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award (1977), the Cypriot Republic Grand Cross of the Order of Merit (1997), the US Congressional Medal of Honor (1993), the Georgia Republic Supreme Medal (2001), the Ukraine Parliament Medal (2003) and many more. In 1979, he was declared Knight of the Order of the Crown in Belgium.
He was the “Archon” of the Great Church of Christ, an honorary title of the Ecumenical Patriarchate conferred upon individuals honouring them for their service and dedication to the Church. He was also honored by other Orthodox Patriarchates and Churches for his tireless efforts in defence of religious freedom and human rights. Among other honors, he had received the Medal of the Supreme Taxiarch of the Holy Sepulchre, the “Athenagoras” Human Rights Award and the Gold Cross of the Holy Cross Seminary bestowed by Archbishop Iakovos.
In May 1979, he received the Church of Cyprus St Barnabas Gold Medal in recognition of his service to the people of Cyprus.
Since 1995 when the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) was established, Andrew Athens travelled to all continents, covering a distance of millions of miles in an effort to unite and strengthen Greek communities abroad.
In 1997, he founded Hellenicare, a Primary Health Care Initiative and humanitarian assistance project that constitutes a lifeline of hope and example of selfless service to the fellow human. A total of seven medical care centres, established in former Soviet countries (Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia) and Albania, offer free medical services to people of Greek and non Greek descent.
Andrew Athens was an outstanding family man; he had met his spouse Louise during WWII, with whom they had two children, a son and a daughter, and four grandchildren.