DR. DIMITRI PALLAS AND THE FOUNDATION FOR MODERN GREEK STUDIES
In all our interviews with Greek Americans, elders especially, one common denominator that has been stressed above all others has been hard work as the root of first-generation success and education in the second.
Among those employing both is Dr. Dimitri Pallas, a founding member
of the American Hellenic Congress and Founder and President of the Foundation for Modern Greek Studies. A native of the Peloponnese, Dr. Pallas studied at the University of Athens and did graduate work in the United States. He was Senior Staff Cardiologist at the Division of Cardiology in the Henry Ford Health System at Fairlane.
The Foundation for Modern Greek Studies was incorporated at the University of Michigan in 1997 with a mission is to promote the study of modern Greek language and culture by supporting educational institutions as well as other efforts serving these fields. Seven years ago, U of M received a major gift from FMGS that made possible the establishment of the endowed C.P. Cavafy Chair in Modern Greek Language and Literature.
In his comfortable Northville home, surrounded by classical busts and a mural depicting Homer with his lyre, Dr. Pallas shared with the Visionalist crew his outlook his personal wish to promote a greater awareness of modern Greek history and its artistic, scientific, philosophical, ethical, and political contributions to civilization.
“Drawing on both ancient and Byzantine traditions, Greek culture has continued to explore and disseminate the values of logos, cosmos, polis, episteme, techne, philia, phronesis, metron, and above all anthropos,” he says, pointing out a revival of Greek pride in his generation. “Our parents, for the most part, were concerned with assimilating themselves into American culture. It’s up to us to show how American culture has been influenced by Greece, perhaps without even knowing it.”
Born in Corinthia, Dr. Pallas displayed a bent for education early, mastering English enough to write fluently to a pair of uncles that had immigrated to the States some years before. Duly impressed, one of them was convinced to sponsor him on a voyage here, and shortly afterward, the young Dr. Pallas began a pursuit of his American Dream, in his case, the study of medicine. Having enjoyed a long and successful career as a cardiologist, Dr. Pallas opted to give back to the community by way of The Foundation for Modern Greek Studies, in which the values of philantropy and human rights—ideals in many ways invented by the ancient Greeks—could trump what he sees as “too much concern for the ‘bottom line’”.
“The fact that more than seventy percent of the students in the Greek Studies courses are non-Greeks,” he points out with pride, punctuating his sentence with his rolling, trademark laugh, “is indication to me that such values are universally appealing.”