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Endowed Support

Endowments provide a stream of income in perpetuity and are the most important source of outside support for Modern Greek because they guarantee the future of the Program. They are invested in the University's long-term portfolio and provide quarterly distributions. Faculty positions, student scholarships, and annual events are a few examples of important objectives that benefit greatly from the guaranteed income. Endowments may be named to honor a donor, a donor's family, a major figure or anyone whom the donor wishes to recognize.

C. P. Cavafy Professorship

The C. P. Cavafy Professorship in Modern Greek was endowed by the Foundation of Modern Greek Studies through a gift agreement it signed with the University of Michigan in 1999.

The Foundation for Modern Greek Studies was incorporated in 1997 under the Michigan Non-Profit Corporation Act as a non-stock directorship corporation.  Its mission is to promote the study of modern Greek language and culture by supporting educational institutions as well as other efforts serving these fields.

Following the gift agreement signed in 1999, the Foundation donated $750,000 in three annual installments to the Modern Greek Studies Endowed Professorship Fund in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. This gift supplemented the considerable resources that Michigan had already put in place toward such a position. The Foundation completed its mission through grass-roots efforts reaching hundreds of donors.  The endowed chair was officially inaugurated in Fall 2001 and given the name of C. P. Cavafy, the greatest Greek poet since antiquity. 

With the first campaign completed on schedule, in Summer 2002 the Foundation signed a second landmark agreement with the University, establishing the Modern Greek Program Support Fund.  Annual gifts to the Fund are used for two important purposes:  to provide undergraduate and graduate scholarships to students pursuing Modern Greek, and to provide funding for a wide variety of Modern Greek cultural events.  The Foundation has worked closely with faculty Vassilis LambropoulosArtemis Leontis, and Despina Margomenou and the University to develop a unique program of academic and cultural events (all of them free and open to the public) that lasts almost nine months each year. 

To those who seek a rich Greek presence within American campuses, the story of the fruitful collaboration between the Foundation, the Greek American communities of southeastern Michigan, and the University of Michigan is a model of success.

The Calliope Papala Politou Student Prize

This prize is awarded annually to a Modern Greek senior concentrator.

Angeliki (Angela) Evangelinos, Professor Emerita of Economics and Business at Monroe Community College, has endowed the Calliope Papala Politou Student Prize in memory of her mother for the benefit of U-M undergraduate concentrators in Modern Greek.  

The late Calliope Papala Politou (1912-1980) was never far from Professor Evangelinos’s thoughts when she began auditing Modern Greek language classes at U-M after her retirement.  Her mother had taught her to read and write Greek.  She set aside her desire to continue that learning during her 40-year academic career.  Now in the U-M classroom, Professor Evangelinos observed the efforts of students with little to no background in Greek working to master it as a field of study.  She witnessed how the Program, in her words, “brings the Greek language, art, music, history, and culture to life.”  She found herself  “wishing that my mother could have lived to witness the teaching of Modern Greek studies at this great American university.”  

The life of Calliope Politou was full of sharp turns.  She was born into a prosperous family in Chios.  Her grandfather Captain Miltiades Papalas was a ship owner whose nine vessels ferried goods throughout the Mediterranean.  Her father had holdings in Constantinople and Piraeus.  She attended a private girls’ school.  She visited Paris for exposure to French culture.  After the sudden death of her father, however, her mother yielded control of the family’s assets to a male relative.  He arranged for Calliope to marry a Greek-American entrepreneur, unaware that the future groom’s boasting of financial success was a well-staged act.  In 1929, at the age of 17, Calliope passed through Ellis Island carrying just ten of her favorite books, a gold ring that was her father’s, and an icon of St. Nicholas.  When she arrived in Clarksburg, West Virginia, she found not the promised riches but a three-room bungalow in the shadow of the Phillips Sheet and Tin Plate Company.  

As if the strain of her suddenly changed circumstances was not enough, six months later her husband died.  Her one cousin in the U.S. would not loan her money to return to her mother.  So the local Greek Orthodox priest found her a new husband, Mihalis Evangelinos, aged 39, a founder of the local church, whose labor in the steel mills had provided dowries for six sisters.  Two months after her first husband’s funeral and nine months after their marriage, Calliope Politou Vanezi, became Calliope Evangelinos.  

Mihalis Evangelinos made plans with Calliope to return to Greece to tend a citrus orchard on their native Chios. But several medical emergencies put the couple’s dreams on hold, and soon they found themselves raising a family in America.  They traded in their dream of a citrus orchard for a farm near Steubenville, Ohio.  Living now in a big old farmhouse with no running water near a wooded lot that needed clearing, they entered the small American farmer’s life of hard work and short-term borrowing.  Their six children helped plant, water, hoe and harvest tomatoes, their cash crop.

Greek was the home language, at Calliope’s insistence.  She became teacher to her children, as there were no Greek schools in the area.  Indeed she was passionate about giving her children every educational opportunity.  For Greek she created learning structures from meager resources.  A Greek primer with “Taki” and “Eleni” led her immigrant children through the Greek alphabet.  Her ten books from Greece held more advanced lessons on patriotic subjects. A fire burning the family home in 1992 destroyed them, but Professor Evangelinos recalls “Το λάβαρο του ́ ’21” (The banner of 1821), a historical novel on the Greek War of Independence and Victor Hugo’s L’enfant, a Phihellenic poem.

Remembering the challenges Calliope faced, recognizing her passion for Greek, and observing how the Modern Greek Program and C. P. Cavafy Professorship contribute to Greek learning, Professor Evangelinos has endowed the Calliope Papala Politou Prize for the best student concentrators in Modern Greek as a living tribute to her mother.   Student support is her philanthropic priority, as she received scholarship support as a student.

It is her sincere wish that worthy recipients will actively keep Greek learning alive for generations to come.

The Kalliopi Kontou-Filis and Kenneth P. Mathews Fund

Supports student study opportunities in Greece and Cyprus.

During the run on Greek banks on Friday, June 15 – the eve of national elections, when depositors acted in a panic over fears that Sunday’s results would lead to Greece’s exit from the Eurozone – U-M Medical School alumna, Kalliopi Kontou-Filis ’69, battled frantic crowds in her effort to send funds to U-M. Neither grudging bank personnel nor the bank’s closing at 3pm could deter her.

Kontou-Filis was determined to send euros that very day to establish an endowment in honor of her mentor, U-M Professor of Internal Medicine Kenneth P. Mathews.  But she did not intend her gift for the Medical School.  She wanted to send the money to the Modern Greek Program.

The story began a few weeks earlier, when Kontou-Filis, M.D., Ph.D., eminent allergy specialist and the president of the Hellenic Society of Allergology and Clinical Immunology, looked around at the worn faces of her fellow citizens and decided she had to do something for Hellenism.  For years she had been attending to immunological systems gone awry.  She was accustomed to offering Greek patients her expertise to treat complex physical reactions. Now she wanted to do something to benefit their crushed spirits.

Kontou-Filis felt indebted to U-M for her education in medicine.  In particular, her training as Fellow in Allergy Studies under Dr. Mathews, Professor of Internal Medicine and Division Chief of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, had prepared her for a successful career.  Could she find a way to support her country at a critical time of need and to give back to the University that trained her?  

Through an internet search, Kontou-Filis discovered the U-M Modern Greek Program.  That was when she sent an inquiry to Professor Vassilis Lambropoulos, asking if she might make a one-time gift. Imagine his surprise when he received this unexpected message: “The University of Michigan gave me my education in Medicine, and I want to give something back, to U-M’s Modern Greek Program”! Imagine her surprise when she received his immediate response, “With the amount of money you wish to donate, you can endow a gift to benefit U-M
students – and Greek studies – in perpetuity”!

And so the scene unfolded as Dr. Kontou-Filis felt the uncertainty of Greece’s economic future pressing upon her.  Once an agreement was reached and papers outlining the terms of agreement for her new endowment fund were drawn up, she ran to the bank.  That was at noon on Friday, June 15.  She waited patiently in the long lines of anxious depositors wishing to withdraw money.  At the end of a crazy day, tellers puzzled over her intentions, running back and forth to consult one another.  “I told them, ‘Once you conclude my transaction, THEN I’ll start worrying about the Greek economy.’”  Finally they informed her they had completed the transaction. “After three hours and 45 minutes … all was completed while we are still in the Euro Zone,” she wrote in an email after she returned home.

On Monday, June 18, U-M recorded the establishment of the new Kalliopi Kontou-Filis and Kenneth P. Mathews Endowment Fund, honoring the memory of Kenneth P. Mathews, Professor of Medicine, U-M,  and the donor’s mentor, to support student opportunities for study in Greece and Cyprus.  The Endowment will inspire more students to enhance their studies with trips to these two countries, enabling them to take more time for Greek language acquisition in an immersion setting, broaden their experiential learning, and to be more adventurous in their efforts to conduct research.  It will greatly enrich the culture of learning in the Modern Greek Program.

Vakalo Family Fund in Modern Greek Studies

“The Vakalo name is known throughout Greece for the wide range of contributions by George and Eleni Vakalo to poetry, the visual arts, criticism, education and cultural activism. Their son, Dr. George- Emmanuel Vakalo, brought this legacy to the University of Michigan as a doctoral candidate in the School of Architecture and Urban Planning, and is remembered as an inspiring educator.”

Thus begins the “Inspiration Statement” of Kathleen L. Vakalo, wife of the late George Emmanuel Vakalo, in her gift agreement with UM signed in the fall of 2018. The gift establishes the Vakalo Family Fund for Visiting Scholars and Artists to support visiting residencies by emerging scholars and artists, including poets, writers, translators, musicians, and visual and performance artists.

For information please contact Artemis Leontis.