Fordham’s Orthodox Christian Studies Center has come two-thirds of the way toward a key fundraising goal, co-founders of the center announced at a benefit party in Manhattan on June 17.

Aristotle “Telly” Papanikolaou (left) and George
Demacopoulos at Thalassa

“Within 18 months, we’ve raised a million dollars,” Aristotle “Telly” Papanikolaou, Ph.D., FCRH ’88, told the cheering crowd of benefactors and friends at Tribeca’s Thalassarestaurant, owned by brothers Steve Makris, GSB ’89, and Jerry Makris, GSB ’87. “We thank you very much for your prayers and your support.”

Proceeds from the benefit support the center’s efforts to fulfill a prestigiousNational Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) challenge grant awarded in December 2012. The grant requires the center to raise $1.5 million over four and a half years, which will be matched by a $500,000 award from the NEH.

Papanikolaou, Fordham’s Archbishop Demetrios Chair in Orthodox Theology and Culture and a senior fellow and co-founder of the center, called the grant “the single greatest affirmation of what we’re doing.”

“The government is saying, ‘We want to help,’” said Papanikolaou. “We need to heed the call.”

George Demacopoulos, Ph.D., professor of historical theology, director, and co-founder of the center, said that for too long, Orthodox Christianity has been an “asterisk” in discussions about religion. The only way to change that, he said, “is by funding research in Orthodox Christian Studies in institutions of higher learning, and investing in education.”

The Orthodox Christian Studies Center works to support the continued study of Orthodox Christian theology and culture. The $2 million endowment resulting from the NEH grant will fund the center’s Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence program and Dissertation Completion Fellowship program. Fordham’s proposal to the NEH, Papanikolaou said, is now being used as a model by the agency.

About 180 supporters gathered for the benefit party, held for the second year in a row at Thalassa (Greek for “the sea”). The airy, upscale spot features many authentic touches from Greece, including a curved bar made of marble from the island of Thasos, flower-filled urns from Tripoli, and handmade wooden tables from Mykonos.

Guests went home with a copy of Dialogue of Love: Breaking the Silence of Centuries (Fordham University Press, 2014), a book that commemorates the historic 1964 visit to the Holy Land by Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. It was published this year in honor of the May meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who received an honorary degree from Fordham in 2009.

–Nicole  LaRosa

Nicole LaRosa is the senior director of University communications. She can be reached at [email protected] or 212-903-8810.