Celebrating its 38th anniversary this year, the Boston, Mass.-based Alpha Omega Council continues to avidly serve the interests of the Greek-American community. Alpha Omega Council was founded in 1976 by the late Peter Agris, whose memory the council celebrates with several journalism scholarships.
In an effort to better unite Hellenes and fill a gap in his community, Mr. Agris launched The Hellenic Chronicle, an English-language weekly newspaper, at the young age of 24 in 1950. Through the Chronicle, Greek-American news and stories of Hellenic achievements, politics, events, and causes were noted and celebrated. Gathering a national following, the paper became the largest Greek-American national weekly in the United States. “It was not a money making venture. It was a venture from the heart,” says his daughter Nancy Agris-Savage, who now serves as executive director of the council’s scholarship programs.
Clearly reflected by his involvement with Greek happenings and journalism, Mr. Agris was an active member of the Greek-American and Greek-Orthodox communities. “I call him the ‘nouno of networking,’” says Agris-Savage. “He used to talk about ways to keep Greeks in touch. Way before anyone used the word networking, he was doing it.” After the death of her father in 1989, Agris-Savage ran the Chronicle for ten more years. Facing the increasingly tough print market, and having to spend more time with her family, she decided to put The Hellenic Chronicle to rest on its 50th anniversary in September of 2000. “The newspaper business is a 52 week a year business,” she says. “There are no summer vacations, or Christmas vacations. I published a newspaper when my father died and I published one the week I got married.”
The Hellenic Voice weekly succeeded the Chronicle, though sadly, the Voice too was taken out of circulation in 2012. “I see Greek-American publications plummeting,” says Agris-Savage. “I find that Greek-Americans don’t support those kinds of things like they should.” While facing a firestorm for discontinuing the paper, Agris-Savage took it upon herself to help young Greek-Americans to stay in the field of journalism, something very dear to her.
Support and motivation are key factors in the success of young adults, and to honor the council’s founder, the Peter Agris Memorial Scholarship fund was established in 1993. These scholarships are a vehicle for Greek-American students to network with each other. Recipients are not only awarded with $5,000, but are flown to Boston to meet their peers and mingle with celebrated Greek-American leaders at the Lifetime Achievement Awards dinner. Aside from journalism scholarships, the Alpha Omega Council also runs a mentoring program, helping students determine a career path direction through advice and networking.
Very important to the scholarship committee’s consideration of some 150 annual applicants is their active role in Hellenism and Orthodoxy. And, as a sign of the times, these two aspects of “being Greek” are naturally beginning to fade. “Twenty years ago the majority of applicants had both Greek parents, Greek last names, and they were baptized in the Greek Orthodox church,” notes Agris-Savage. “That’s not the case anymore.” Naturally losing one’s ties to Greece and the true Hellenic heritage is a matter of time for those living outside of the motherland, but it is the ongoing efforts of those who cherish our culture that keeps us together as Greeks. “It’s going to be more and more of a struggle each generation to keep our Greek heritage as being something important and vital to us Greek-Americans. I think that’s where we have a crisis,” Agris-Savage says. But the Greek flame is difficult to put out she notes, and the future seems bright as long as we stick together and support each other.
“This scholarship introduced me to a network of successful Greek journalists that had the same vision or goals as I do. It’s easy to meet and talk to another reporter, but it’s not easy to meet one who has strong journalistic values and shares common spiritual or religious values. That’s why I found a strong connection to those involved with the Alpha Omega Scholarship. It afforded me a chance to recognize that following my television dreams is possible, because of the countless success stories of Greek-Americans before me. Meeting John Metaxas and other revered names in the industry gave me someone to look up to and model myself after. I thank the organization for that, because otherwise that would not have happened.” – Angelica Spanos (‘08) Television reporter, FOX Connecticut News.
The Lifetime Achievement Award
The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes a prominent individual of Hellenic ancestry for the achievement of excellence in a chosen career or profession, or a Hellenic organization for contributions to the community. Past recipients of the award include Emmy Award-winning actor Telly Savalas, former Governor of Massachusetts and Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis, author and investigative journalist Nicholas Gage, internet pioneer and businessman Ted Leonsis, and the Alexander Onassis Foundation.
Born and raised in Massachusetts, Peter Agris served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II and later attended Suffolk University and Boston University’s School of Public Communication. At just 24 years old in 1950, he founded The Hellenic Chronicle, an English-language weekly newspaper targeting the Greek-American community. The newspaper soon gathered a national following, making it the largest Greek-American newspaper in the United States. It was filled with stories about achievements within the community, charitable causes, religious issues, social news, as well as current events in Greek politics and in U.S. policy toward the Mediterranean. It also followed the news of the organizations that Peter Agris took pride in, like the American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA) and the Alpha Omega Council, which he founded in 1976. Agris, who died in 1989, had high standards as an individual and as a journalist. The Alpha Omega Council celebrates and honors his memory by awarding the Peter Agris Memorial Scholarships annually since 1993.
The Peter Agris Memorial Scholarship
The Peter Agris Memorial Scholarship recognizes and celebrates the achievements of graduate and undergraduate college level students of Hellenic descent pursuing a career in journalism and communications. The scholarships are awarded annually in honor and memory of Alpha Omega Council’s late founder, and publisher of The Hellenic Chronicle, Peter Agris. The $5,000 award is presented at the Alpha Omega Council’s Annual Lifetime Achievement Award Dinner held in June of every year. To date, the council has awarded a little over $400,000 to 81 deserving students since the scholarship’s inception in 1993.
The Alpha Omega Council
The Alpha Omega Council, established in 1976, is comprised of 21 leading businesspersons of Hellenic ancestry, honoring its late founder Peter Agris, awarding the annual scholarships to Greek-Americans pursuing careers in journalism and communications. Thanasi C. Liakos, a long-time member of the board of trustees, currently serves as president of the council. The Alpha Omega Council hosts an annual Christmas party and a student mentoring program to help college graduates network in their field of interest. Including the journalism scholarships, the council has raised and donated over $1.6 million to core charities including the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, the Hellenic Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, and Philoxenia House.
For more information on the work of the Alpha Omega Council and the Peter Agris Memorial Scholarships, please visit alphaomegacouncil.com.