Eugene Rossides, a former college football star, devoted Greek American community leader and lifetime servant in law and politics who worked for two presidents, died on Saturday at age 92.
The announcement came via the American Hellenic Institute, a non-profit public policy center which Rossides founded in 1974 to advocate for American interests in U.S.-Greece-Cyprus relations.
“It is with profound sadness the American Hellenic Institute announces the passing of its founder and former president, Eugene (Gene) T. Rossides,” the announcement read. “The global Hellenic community mourns a tremendous loss. On behalf of AHI’s Board of Directors, President Nick Larigakis, staff, and members, we convey our deepest sympathies to his wife, Aphrodite; his children, Michael, Gale, Eleni, and Alexander; and the entire Rossides family.”
The organization’s announcement describes Rossides as a “proud American who never lost sight of his ancestry” and says that he inspired a generation to advocate for the rule of law, Hellenism and justice for Cyprus.
“I am forever indebted and grateful to Mr. Rossides for his leadership, guidance and mentorship over the decades,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said. “I am most appreciative of his entrusting me with the opportunity to lead the AHI, of which its mission he valued so deeply.”
Rossides provided a lifetime of service and dedication to America, Greece, Cyprus and Greek ideals. The Greek diaspora community worldwide is in a “far better place” because of Rossides’ work, the announcement said.
About Eugene Rossides
As quarterback at Columbia University, Rossides led one of college football’s greatest upsets when his team defeated Army 21-20 on October 25, 1947. The victory broke Army’s 32-game winning streak.
Rossides showed promise as an athlete and was drafted by the New York Giants in the 10th round of the 1949 NFL draft. But instead he accepted a scholarship to Columbia Law School and graduated in 1952.
He entered private law practice, involved himself in Republican politics and worked for two and a half years as an assistant to the undersecretary of the Treasury in the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Rossides was the first Greek American to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate to an Executive Branch office.
The Brooklyn, NY native later held important roles in the election campaigns of New York Republican Senators Jacob K. Javits and Kenneth B. Keating.
Rossides also served as an assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Nixon administration from 1969 to 1973. He oversaw the Customs Service, the Secret Service and other agencies and enforcing rules on trade and tariffs.
Involvement in the Greek American community
After the Turkish invasion of the Republic of Cyprus in 1974, Rossides founded the American Hellenic Institute to advocate for American interests in U.S.-Greece-Cyprus relations.
He led the most substantial policy victory for the rule of law in Cyprus which passed with bipartisan support — the American embargo on transfers of U.S. arms to Turkey. The measure took effect on February 5, 1975 and remained in effect until 1978.
“Without that office and staff, we would not have succeeded in passing the historic rule of law arms embargo against Turkey,” Rossides told The National Herald in a 2010 interview.
In 1975 Rossides founded the American Hellenic Institute Foundation, the first “think tank” devoted to the study of policy issues involving the Greek American community and Hellenism. He was serving as a director on the foundation’s board of directors at the time of his death.
During his lifetime, Eugene Rossides received numerous honors, awards and accolades from governments, the Orthodox Church and Greek diaspora organizations.
Commander of the Order of the Phoenix by President Konstantinos Stephanopoulos of the Hellenic Republic (2004)
The Republic of Cyprus Presidential Exceptional Service Medal – a rare honor requiring approval of Cyprus’s Council of Ministers (2016)
The House of Representatives of Cyprus Medal as a token of gratitude for a lifetime of dedication to Cyprus and its cause – the highest honor bestowed by the House of Representatives upon an individual (2014)
Investiture in The Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle – Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America
Induction into the Columbia Athletics Hall of Fame and named to Columbia Football’s Team of the 20th Century
Honorary degree of Doctor of Laws of the Academy of Athens (2005)
AHEPA-Archbishop Iakovos Humanitarian Award (2000)
Induction into the AHEPA Hellenic Athletic Hall of Fame
AHEPA-Stamos Family Lifetime Achievement Award (2014)
In 2013, the Washington D.C.-based non-profit The Next Generation Initiative interviewed Rossides. The conversation covers his journey from the streets of Brooklyn, to football stardom, to Columbia Law School and a decades-long career in law, politics and public service.
Rossides reveals inside stories behind the headlines — and the influences on his own life, from the sacrifices made by his widowed mother struggling trying to hold her family and household together, to the mentors who shaped his career — as he describes how a college football player hailed as the “Golden Greek” went on to lead the fight in Congress to uphold the rule of law as a guiding principle of American foreign policy.
About the American Hellenic Institute
The American Hellenic Institute is an independent non-profit public policy and advocacy center that works to strengthen relations between the U.S., Greece and Cyprus and within the Greek American community.
In 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied Cyprus, AHI advocated for a simple response—enforce U.S. law. At the time, the Executive Branch refused to enforce federal laws that prohibited Turkey’s use of U.S.-supplied arms and equipment.
“The institute remains committed to the ideals of Gene Rossides and pledges to continue promoting his ideals and foreign policy values,” it said in the announcement.
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