A Profile of the Princeton Club of Greece

Sep 20, 2018

 A cornerstone of Princeton's Hellenic Studies community in Greece continues to grow and define new roles.

In 1987, the Princeton Club of Greece was founded by a small but dedicated group of alumni. Its founders included Edmund (Mike) Keeley ’49, Charles Barnwell Straut Class of 1923 Professor of English, emeritus; Robert Keeley ’51 *71, a former ambassador to Greece, Zimbabwe and Mauritius; and current Director of the Seeger Center, Dimitri Gondicas ’78. 

Now, over 30 years later, the club remains active, and has renewed its efforts to encourage promising international students of all backgrounds to apply to Princeton. 

“We're trying to break down the notion that you have to be a part of the Greek elite or a very wealthy person to be able to come to Princeton,” said the club’s current president and founding member, Alexis Phylactopoulos *72. “We're spreading the word that if you're a stellar student — no matter what your background is — you could have a place at Princeton.”

The club’s recruitment efforts are led by the co-chairs of its undergraduate admissions committee: Theagenis Iliadis ’87 and Stratis Mouyer ’95.  

“We try to communicate the message that Princeton is not an impossible dream, especially if you view yourself as someone willing to stay and work in the U.S.,” said Iliadis.

During each admissions cycle, volunteers from the Princeton Club of Greece interview about 50 applicants from Greece, 20 from Armenia and 15 from Albania. 

“For a long time, the club was focused on promoting Princeton’s visibility in Greece and its surrounding countries,” said Mouyer. “But the onset of Greece’s financial crisis has spurred students to look abroad for their education, resulting in a steadily rising number of international applicants to Princeton.”  

Of course, this surge in applications is not exclusive to Greek students; applicants to Princeton have more than doubled over the past 15 years, with the University receiving a record number of 35,370 applicants for the Class of 2022. 

So what do many of the students who are admitted to Princeton have in common? According to Iliadis, “You do not forget their names, and when you interview them, you cannot stop talking to them.” 

Mouyer echoed this observation: “The kids who make it into Princeton are the ones who stick in your mind long after the interview.” 

In addition to recruitment efforts, members of the Princeton Club of Greece meet several times throughout the year to enjoy each other’s company. In the past, these meetings were open to the public and often featured guest speakers; however, the opening of the Princeton Athens Center in 2016 slightly altered the club’s role.   

“[The Princeton Athens Center] has taken the wind from our sails a bit in terms of organizing public events, but it has had another benefit; it has pushed us to have more events that are cozier and familial,” said Phylactopoulos.

members of the Princeton Club of Greece convene in a fireside gathering in one a member's home.
The Princeton Club of Greece convenes a fireside gathering at a member's home.

Some of these meetings are fondly known as “fireside gatherings,” where the group gets together at a member’s home for food, drink and conversation. “We sit there like an ancient Greek symposium and discuss the evening’s topic,” Phylactopoulos joked.

The Princeton Athens Center provides yet another venue for Greek alumni to gather. “We're all proud of the new Center here and of the role it's playing in Athenian intellectual society; the Center has had a plethora of very interesting public gatherings and lectures,” said Phylactopoulos.

Iliadis added, “[Greek alumni] also get to meet current Princeton students, which we weren’t able to do as frequently before. It helps us follow the evolution of the Princeton experience, which is very exciting.”

All three alumni emphasized the key role the Center plays in fostering connections between Princeton students, faculty, alumni and the broader Greek community. And with the Princeton Club of Greece’s proactive recruiting efforts, this lively community will continue to expand. 

“I am proud of the accomplishments of our alumni in Greece,” said Gondicas. “I am grateful for their support of our mission, especially the undergraduate admissions committee — Peter Baiter, Theagenis Illadis and Stratis Mouyer — who have a stellar record in the recruitment of exceptional Greek students for undergraduate studies at Princeton.”

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