Marked by elections, natural disasters and mass killings, 2012 was another tough year for the U.S. and the world. During this difficult time, some people managed to shine in their respective fields and realize their dreams while helping the world become a better place. Here, we present 12 people of Greek origin that left their mark in 2012.
Yvonne Cech, Educator – Saved 18 Kids during the Newtown Massacre
When 24 year-old shooter Adam Lanza entered the elementary school in Newtown, Conn., Yvonne Cech realized something bad was about to happen and started thinking of ways to protect her students. When Cech, a Greek-American librarian, heard the first gunshots, she locked herself, an assistant, and 18 fourth-graders in a closet behind file cabinets in the library. All 18 children made it out safe and they were reunited with their parents.
Andrew Liveris – The Hellenic Initiative
Dow Chemical CEO, President and Chairman Andrew Liveris played an instrumental role for “The Hellenic Initiative.” A global non-profit, non-governmental initiative, it aims to provide critical funding to sustain organizations that can help inspire entrepreneurship, business development and investment that will ensure the Nation’s long-term prosperity. Liveris used his personal connections and resources to move people, and have them join the non-profit organization that aims to infuse $100 million to the crisis-hit Greek economy.
George Logothetis – Donated €5 million to Greece
CEO of Libra Group, George Logothetis makes our list for the second consecutive year. He has proved to be a great philanthropist and an inspirational force for young entrepreneurs that accompanies his words with actions. This year, Libra funded “The Hellenic Entrepreneurship Award” on behalf of the Hellenic Initiative. The Libra Group committed €5 million in business start-up funding for winners as well as comprehensive business support services and mentoring from experienced business leaders.
Sophia Amoruso – The Nasty Gal Boom
Greek-American Sophia Amoruso, 28, a San Francisco native, has been described as a phenomenon by international media because she managed to earn millions per year by turning her hobby into a business. Founder of the Nasty Gal company, Amoruso re-sells trendy clothing online that she dresses up with her own designs and is branching out into designing under her own label, Weird Science. Nasty Gal had sales amounting to $128 million this year, with little advertising and nearly no discounting. Amoruso has built a brand on the backs of Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook, and translated “likes” into sales.
Van Vlahakis – Another Prototype Green Factory
CEO & Owner of Earth Friendly Products Van Vlahakis is a well known figure in the environmentally friendly circles. Last November, EFP opened its 6th environmentally friendly facility in Opa locka Florida. The new plant is reputed to be among the most eco-friendly manufacturing plants in the U.S.A and it surely raises the bar for the industry’s standards in sustainable and green production. Designed by a LEED-certified architect, it features solar panels that deliver clean, renewable power; solar tubes; daylight harvesting; water and energy efficient appliances, and occupancy sensors among many others that help make it an environmental hallmark for Florida.
Chrysovalantis Stamelos – Hello Anatolia
Filmmaker Chrysovalantis Stamelos moved from his hometown of Astoria, NY to Izmir, Turkey to find love and uncover his family’s roots in the Mediterranean city. He made a dream come true by completing a documentary about his experience that brings Turkey and Greece together. He met many obstacles, including people from both countries that do not like each other and though the flm was a bad idea. He managed to overcome all the obstacles and the film will be released in 2013.
Andreas Dracopoulos – Stavros Niarchos foundation
Andreas Dracopoulos is the co-president of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. In 2012, the Foundation, concerned with the continuing socio-economic crisis in Greece, announced a grant initiative of $130 million (€100 million) over the next three years to help ease the adverse effects of the deepening crisis. Since January 2012 and as part of the initiative, the SNF has committed grants totaling $58 million (€45 million) in support of numerous not-for-profit organizations around the country.
Kristina Tremontis – Edosafakelaki.org
Kristina Tremontis created the website edosafakelaki.org, a non-profit, digital democratic platform created to tackle corruption in Greece by harnessing the collective energy of its citizens. The website’s visitors can report bribes or even acknowledge that they received a bribe in an attempt to stop this Greek phenomenon. Tremontis is a Greek-American Yale graduate who learned about Greece’s infamous fakelakia the hard way when a public hospital doctor demanded payment to treat her grandfather who was suffering from terminal cancer.
Charlie Crist – Helping Obama; Switching to Democrat
Gov. Charlie Crist, who served the state of Florida as a Republican and later ran for Senate as an independent, joined the Democratic Party in 2012. The former Florida Governor campaigned for Obama in the 2012 Presidential Election and spoke at the Democratic National Convention. He is one of the few individuals who played a key role in the re-election of President Obama in 2012. His family name is adapted from the original Greek name “Christodoulou.”
Yiannis Pappas – Mr Panos Becomes a National Hero
He may not be a national hero yet, but the Greek famous character created by Yiannis Pappas gained phenomenal popularity in 2012. Pappas came up with the funny Greek character a few years ago. ‘Mr. Panos’ is a fictional 60-year-old Queens restaurant-owner who blogs to the world his opinions and Greek values through his son’s camera capabilities. The character was featured in many Greek, American and international media and has been praised for his meaningful humor.
Betty White – Hot at 90
Betty White, at the age of 90, is one of the hottest names in Hollywood. The “Golden Girls” star made a big comeback and 2012 was definitely a great year for the Greek-American comedian. This year she become immortalized in wax at Madame Tussauds. Visitors of the famed museum in Hollywood can get an up close view with a life-sized replica of the 90 year-old actress. She also starred in the comedy series “Hot in Cleveland,” in addition to also producing “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers,” a hidden camera-style program where elderly people play jokes on the younger generation.
Chris Diamantopoulos – ‘The Three Stooges’
The Greek-Canadian actor is no stranger to Hollywood but this year he pushed his name higher in the actors list. 2012 included a major role for Diamantopoulos in the comedy “The Three Stooges.” He also wrapped up shooting the upcoming film, “Empire State,” based on the real-life story of a Greek-American.