Dear Members of the HPST, fellow recipients, ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to thank the committee for selecting me to receive this scholarship; I feel honored to be here today.
“There are few earthly things more beautiful than a university,” wrote John Masefield in his tribute to English universities. He did not refer to spires and towers, to campus greens and ivied walls. He admired the splendid beauty of the university, he said, because it was “a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see.”
And I believe that these words capture the atmosphere at American Universities. The opportunities offered along with the unparalleled level of innovation and excellence drew me to those institutions and, as Dr. Beyko said, I dreamed to be part of their magic. But obviously dreaming is not enough. One has to dream but also plan, hope but also take the risks. And I wouldn’t be here today if I did not have the support of my parents and my brother. A family that takes the risks and makes the sacrifices because they value the education of their children as much as anything.
This is not a coincidence; my grandparents’ love for knowledge, truth and understanding influenced my parents early in their life. All four of my grandparents grew up in poverty during the years before the WWII, but they were determined to educate themselves as they sought to achieve a better life and because they believed in the value of education. After all, during the 19th century, my hometown was regarded as the city of “Education and the Arts” with some of the best and brightest minds of Greece hailing from there. Many emigrated to northern European cities, made money, and donated it to their hometown and their country.
This is the background that inspired me to pursue truth and excellence in my studies. And it is my personality and inclinations that helped me achieve it. One of the most memorable awards I used to receive every year in high school, is the Award of Excellence from the Greek Ministry of Education. It is a simple award, a piece of paper really, given to students who have excelled academically the previous year. However, on that piece of paper there was written, year in, year out the same phrase: “Αιέν Αριστεύειν”. And, the first time I received it (early in 8th grade) it was my grandma that explained to me the meaning of that phrase: “ever excel”. Since then I began to appreciate this award for what it symbolized. This is why I am honored to receive the scholarship award today. Not only for the monetary value, but also for what is symbolizes: a commitment to excellence and progress.
Finally, Greece has to deal with many different and difficult problems these days. But one problem that it is NOT facing is the absence of excellence. The problem is that excellence is not recognized as much as it should be and, more importantly, it is not promoted. So, it is inspiring and encouraging that HPST is committed to such cause.
(Before I close) I know that already there have been many things said about this great scientist and professor, Dr. Christodoulos Floudas. He has been a role-model for me and inspired me to come and study in the US. I would just like to say that I hope that his brilliant mind and his beautiful smile will remain in our memory and will be an inspiration for us and the generations to come.