Greek-American businessman & philanthropist George Behrakis will receive the Heritage Award at the Hellenic American Academy Gala on February 17. We caught up with him for a quick Q&A. Read on!
Meet George Behrakis
George Behrakis is a distinguished Greek-American businessman and philanthropist. He began his work in the
pharmaceutical industry as a researcher and marketer of asthma and allergy products. He went on to found two successful pharmaceutical companies — Dooner Laboratories and Muro Pharmaceutical, Inc.
A faithful Greek Orthodox Christian, Mr. Behrakis serves his church in several capacities. He is an Archon of the Order of St. Andrew, and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of America. He is the chairman of Leadership 100, and the former vice chairman for the Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology in Boston. Additionally, Mr. Behrakis was a driving force in the establishment of the St. Methodios Faith & Heritage Center, the Metropolis of Boston camp and retreat center, located in Boston, MA.
He’s supported many organizations over the years. Mr. Behrakis has been honored by many organizations for his tireless work as a champion of Hellenism and Orthodoxy. The Hellenic American Academy will honor him with the Heritage Award at their upcoming gala on February 17. Ahead of the event, we caught up with Mr. Behrakis to speak to him about Greek education in America, and why we all need to support it. Read on!
Q&A with George D. Behrakis
Maria A. Karamitsos: Where were you born & raised?
George D. Behrakis: I was born in Lowell, MA. I attended the Hellenic American School from K-5 in Lowell, run by Holy Trinity Hellenic Orthodox Church of Lowell.
MAK: Where do you trace your Greek roots?
GDB: My family came to America from Mani, Laconia, Greece. My father was from Triandaphilia, and my mother, from Itylo.
MAK: How does your Greek heritage inspire your work?
GDB: Greek Heritage has always inspired me, especially the time of Hellenism.
MAK: You’re a successful businessman and a philanthropist. Why is it important to give back?
GDB: Giving back is important. I learned this from my parents. As immigrants, they always taught us to give back — to church, school, and education. I have been fortunate in my career, and I want to make sure others follow in my footsteps and support the Greek community. We are small in numbers but strong in education and business.
MAK: Briefly, tell us why it’s important to keep the Greek heritage, culture, and language alive in the U.S.
GDB: We must keep the Greek Flame alive! We have what others wish they had — classical heritage. Our culture goes back to the Myceneans, and continues to Classical Greece, to the Byzantine Empire. In America, over the past 30 years, changes in our communities have taken place, Things like “mixed” marriages, and a different lifestyle has evolved which changes peoples thinking.
MAK: Why is it important to support Greek-American schools?
GDB: My brothers, sisters, and I, as well as my four children, all attended Greek-American School in Lowell, MA. One of the most important things in life is to know where you came from on earth. The Greek-American Schools will educate the children by teaching Orthodoxy, the Greek language, Hellenism, culture, and our heritage. Where else would the young people learn, other than from their Greek-born grandmothers? Today, the Greek language isn’t spoken as it was in the past. Where else are the young going to learn about their Greek heritage? Also the children attending Greek school will create life long bonds with their classmates.
MAK: If you could give young Greeks one piece of advice, what would it be?
GDB: Work hard, study hard, and plan your future as best you can. Go for the gold! Also, you must read and understand that Greece produced the world’s greatest minds. From Miletus; to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle; to Pythagoras of Samos; to Hippocrates of Kos; Galen. Also the greatest military minds. We can’t let the young people forget our past.