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Interview with Prof. Aristotle Michopoulos about Hellenic College/Holy Cross

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Source: The National Herald

Aristotle Michopoulos

BOSTON – Dr. Aristotle Michopoulos, Professor of Greek at Hellenic College and Holy Cross School of Theology in Boston for the last 31 years, having arrived there from the University of Florida where he taught previously, knows Hellenic College and Holy Cross better than anybody else.

In addition to his teaching, he also served as Dean of Hellenic College from 1995 to 2002. Michopoulos has also supported the School financially in a substantial way with his own money.

During an interview with The National Herald he noted that he served as Dean of Hellenic College under three Archbishops: Iakovos, Spyridon, and Demetrios.

He was the head of the Greek Studies Department before going on sabbatical last year, with his duties being transferred to Professor Dova. He noted there is a total of four professors teaching Greek at the School, himself, Dr. Dova, Dr. Holmberg, and Dr. Vasileiou.

When we asked him about the current situation at HC/HC, just about a month or so before the end of the academic year, he replied: “it depends on how one looks at it. Your question brings me to what happened in Florida during the recent Leadership 100 Conference, where one of the participants had the ‘bright’ idea of proposing a reduction in the programs offered by the College and I took an opposite stand. In my reply I mentioned that the Jewish community has five schools of theology and another ten regular, i.e. secular ones. Of those fifteen colleges, the best one in theology is Yeshiva University in New York City with more than three thousand students and over five hundred million dollars in its endowment.

The flagship of the other Jewish universities is Brandeis University, which was created during the same time as HC/HC. It has over six thousand students in all its graduate and undergraduate departments and over one billion dollars in its endowment. We, on the other hand, have less than $30 million in our endowment and are discussing how to cut some programs.”

He said further: “I told them we have only one College and we are not by any means poor. The Jewish Americans are the most affluent immigrant community and we are second, while we are first in education and they come second, according to B. Rosen’s study. While they are able to maintain fifteen universities and especially some first-class ones, we have only one and want to chop it up and at the same time we pride ourselves that we have the only Greek Orthodox College in America! But if we make those cuts then we will not have even that, and we will simply have a school of theology. And the Russians have one of their own. Is that the right solution?”

He continued, saying that, “Hellenic College produces teachers, business executives, and many other specialties needed by our Church. And in the final analysis, if you go to a Church and there is no congregation there, what will the priest do? We can graduate students who can become priests, but if there are no faithful at the Church, then we have failed. That’s why we need everybody, i.e. priests, presbyteres, children, and the faithful. I have funded a Professorship in Greek History at Hellenic College and this moment I am funding a Scholarship Fund with $25,000. I told the audience at Leadership 100 that I’m offering at this moment $100 thousand dollars, if you give $1 million to take care of all the programs at HC/HC. I received applause, but nobody got up to make, let’s say, a pledge of fifty thousand or somebody else to make another pledge, and there ended the whole story.”

TNH asked Michopoulos to comment on reports that he has given serious amounts of his own money to the School. He replied that, “the Professorship in Greek history received $167,000 a couple of years ago and every year I give thousands of dollars for other needs of the school. During the past thirty years this sum must be above $100,000 and this is money that goes for all kinds of needs. At this moment I am funding an Endowed Scholarship Fund for the students of the College and have pledged $25,000 and hope not to stop at that amount.”

When we asked him why he was doing this, he answered, “For many reasons. One of them is that I was born poor and I believe in education. The second reason is that if there were no scholarships I might not have studied myself. The Greek Government paid for my studies – I got my BA from the University of Athens – through an I.K.Y. Scholarship, and the U.S. Government paid for my Ph.D. studies.”

He continued, saying, “It would be ingratitude and ungratefulness if I would forget all this and put my money in my pocket and were interested only in enjoying my life. To buy, like many others, a Mercedes or a Lexus, and go around showing-off my wealth. I had a Toyota for twenty years and some colleagues laughed when they saw it, but I changed it only when it could not run anymore. Then I replaced it with another Toyota.”

He then said with emotion, “I believe in Education and Hellenism and I have a sense that we are not doing our job well and that bothers me.”

Asked what he meant by “we are not doing our job well, and to whom he was referring, he replied, “All of us, both rich and poor. Each one of us finds a nice excuse and that brings to my mind the gospel parable: ‘I bought a farm, I got married,’ etc. while in essence we are self-destructive.”

Regarding what was to blame for this state of affairs, he said, “our culture. I thought a lot about it and concluded that we must change our culture.”

Asked who will change it and how,” he said, “I don’t know. All of us together, I guess. When I was a graduate student in Florida, we had invited Vassilis Vassilikos to speak to us and as I was taking him to the airport, we were talking in the car, and I will never forget what he said to me. ‘Aristoteli, the Modern Greek is interested only in two things: his belly and his reproductive organ! Nothing else is of interest to him. And that discussion took place in the 1980s!” Professor Michopoulos emphasized again, “we must change our mentality.”

He was then asked if it is also a matter of leadership.

“It is also a matter of leadership, he said. “I’ve thought a lot about it. But who elects the leaders? The people!”

Finally, we asked about the specific current situation at Hellenic College and Holy Cross and how things reached this point, inquiring also whether only the president, Fr. Christopher Metropulos, is to blame.

“I do not believe that only one person is responsible for everything,” he said, adding, “to some extent there is a distribution of power in everything. When the faculty elected me as its representative to the Board of Trustees and saw certain things there, I realized that we had let things veer off course.”

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10 Comments

  1. People should be aware that Holy Cross is in danger of losing its accreditation. This is a very serious situation. It needs to be asked, “WHY?” In any school, everything starts at its head. Over the years, this school has seemed to have had its share of scandals, financial issues and revolving door of leadership. Someone needs to get control of this before the school dies. It doesn’t seem as though the Board of Trustees is able to correct any of this!

  2. The Bishop of Istanbul would like nothing better than to re-open Halki and have ALL American-Greek clergy study there using ALL GREEK. Wake up, people! Will the American-Greeks control their own church or not?

  3. Few if any candidates for the priesthood would go to Halki. Most Greek Americans can’t speak Greek. Who will teach the students? Finally, there are real safety issues in Turkey. A move to Turkey would only hasten the demise of a church that is already in terminal decline.

  4. Greatly Saddened on

    If you haven’t realized it yet, this Archdiocese is not out for its stewards, but rather for themselves. This seemingly includes the hierarchs and the laity which have been appointed by none other than by the hierarchy.

    Since the forced resignation of blessed memory, His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos, the Archdiocese has been spiraling out of control and after 23 years it just continues to get even worse. Hard to believe, right? Not really!

    How sad that this once glorious Church institution has become an embarrassment. Not only to Greek-Anericans, but to all Americans in general. This Archdiocese can’t even get out of its own way.

    And the ever so sad part is, none of them
    seem to care. What a shame. The day will come when each and everyone of them will have to answer to a much higher authority for their actions or inactions!

    Until then … God help us all!

  5. GS, the terminal decline of the GOA is obvious and incontrovertible–statically verifiable. However, those who look back to the Iakovian era as halcyonic are misled. Among conservatives Iakovos was a Masonic, modernist, ecumenist who lead the church into heresy. He was a strong charismatic leader who did many good things but in my option lacked a Godly vision for the church. He was a political ethnarch who primarily promoted Hellenism above the Gospel of Jesus. “You cannot serve 2 masters, because you will love one and hate the other” stated the Lord. On many occasions,I heard Iakovos speak of the glory of Hellenism and give little to no mention of Christ.

    • Jk,
      There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Archbishop Iakovos was a freemason. Instead of a modernist, I would rather consider him a bridge builder. His march with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma cemented his legacy as a great man.
      As far as freemasonry, I marvel at the Orthodox Church’s insecurity and obscurantism. If you have children in scouting, they are being inculcated with masonic teachings. The Boy Scouts in America were founded by Daniel Beard, a noted freemason. Many Eagle Scouts become freemasons. Freemasonry is the most benevolent, philanthropic, charitable fraternity in world history. Many great men have been proud freemasons such as George Washington, Ben Franklin, Senator Sam Nunn, Marquis De Lafayette, and many other noteworthy, noble men. It’s long past time to pick another bogeyman.

  6. It a touching note to hear from this gentle speaking man and professor Aristotle Michopoulos. Change the culture! Yes, we must fall down before Christ and worship Him only and believe He is the Resurrection and Life of all.

  7. The other day, a New York City executive was remarking about St. Nicholas Church & Shrine at the World Trade Center. He couldn’t understand how millions & millions of dollars raised for the project just disappeared. Then this today:

    The reconstruction of St. Nicholas Church Greek Orthodox Church at the World Trade Center, which has been stalled for two years, might restart with renewed support from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has assembled a team of seven donors to get it across the finish line, according to the New York Post.

    Construction on the St. Nicholas National Shrine—which will replace the original St. Nicholas Church, located on Cedar Street, which was destroyed on 9/11—has been stalled since December 2017, when the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese run out of funds to continue the $80 million project. The building is designed by Santiago Calatrava.

    According to the Post, Cuomo has asked seven high-profile individuals to donate and help continue the project, including Gristedes owner and billionaire developer John Catsimatidis.

    “He wants the church finished,” Catsimatidis told the Post. He also said that individuals were willing to donate but under new project leadership. “If the Archdiocese is in charge, they’re not giving the money.”

    In December 2017, construction firm Skanska terminated its contract with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, allegedly because of missed payments. Reports at the time also revealed that church leaders “misappropriated segregated or restricted funds.” But Archbishop Demetrios, head of the Greek Orthodox church in the U.S., said back then that the “project is on the right course and that construction will resume in the not too distant future.”

    A year ago, the Port Authority, which owns the land where the Church is being built, offered assistance to complete the project. According to the Post, the Archdiocese would need $40 million to finish the Church.

    The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese couldn’t be reached for comment.

  8. This is such a disgrace for our Church. We are the laughing-stock of everybody in Manhattan and most of the US. I am glad they are recognizing that the GOA can not manage this anymore and have their donations on hold until new project leadership is found. We should do the same with our donations, too, until full transparency is provided. I still have not seen a report of where the money went. Fr. Alex, can you provide any detail on this, please, as you were are one of the project leaders and the plans for the project to proceed?

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