Greek Nationality Room marks 80th anniversary

The Greek Nationality Room will celebrate the 80th anniversary of its dedication this weekend with a series of online events.

The idea for the room started with a group of Greek-American Pitt students in 1928. They enlisted support from the small, but growing, Greek community in Western Pennsylvania. The group scrambled to get the Pentelic marble columns for the Greek Room shipped to the U.S. before war closed the Mediterranean to American shipping in 1940. And on Nov. 7, 1941, the room was officially dedicated with 1,500 people attending the ceremony. 

It was one of the original 19 Nationality Rooms dedicated to honor the immigrant groups that formed Western Pennsylvania. Today, there are 31 Nationality Rooms on the first and third floors of the Cathedral of Learning.

The events this weekend, sponsored by the Greek Room committee and the American Hellenic Foundation of Western Pennsylvania, include:

8 p.m. Nov. 5: Greetings from County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, with proclamations dedicating the weekend to the Greek-American community of Western Pennsylvania and the Greek Nationality Room, followed by a tribute to the major stewards of the Greek Nationality Room since its dedication.

8 p.m. Nov. 6: An assembly of local Greek-American organizations and associations to celebrate the founders of the Greek Nationality Room, through the recollections of their living descendants. There will be a special tribute to Nicholas G. Kalmer, who chaired the first executive committee for the Greek Room. Participating in the event will be Alexandra Papadopoulou, the Greek ambassador to the U.S.; Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher; Archbishop Eirinaios of the Church of Crete; Yannis A. Phillis, professor emeritus and former rector, Technical University of Crete;  Vasilis Lambrinos, mayor of Heraklion, Crete; and James Boutzoukas, president of the Pancretan Association of America.

8 p.m. Nov. 7: A Tribute to Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, 268th Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, from 1948 to 1972, who dedicated the Greek Nationality Room in 1941 when he was archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America. The event will include a special greeting by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, archbishop of Constantinople and head of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Archbishop Elpidophoros, of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, will give the keynote address: “The Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras as a Model and Inspiration of Ecumenical Religious and Intercultural Unity in the Face of Modern Humanity.”

Also scheduled to attend are Esther Bush, CEO, Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh; Jordan Golin and Ivonne Smith-Tapia, Jewish Family and Community Services; Zipora Gur and Ellen Resnek, Classrooms without Borders; and Rev. Paul Abernathy, Neighborhood Resilience Project.

Find more information and links to the online presentations at