Presvytera Lee was born on Paros, Greece, then came to the United States as a young girl. Her immigrant experience shaped her into a person who embraces new cultures and people and still maintains a close connection with her Greek roots and traditions. She held various administrative positions in the US Army and civic organizations. She was an active member in the communities where her husband served, offering her talents in the choir and chanting, in leadership positions in the Philoptochos Society, and creating and publishing popular Greek cookbooks.
Presvytera Lee says she has “vivid memories from the conversations I had with Kostas and Mary Maliotis, as we share[d] common desires such as the transmission of the Greek spirit in the Diaspora and, not having children of our own, saw the children of the Greek Diaspora as our own children.” This sense of familial kinship is certainly felt by the students and friends who now enjoy the Karahalios Library. They say the space “is very homey.”
Presvytera Lee has witnessed the remarkable transformation of the Maliotis Cultural Center, beginning with the library she sponsored: “I often visit this place now and I am moved that at its door I see the name of my husband, who passionately loved our Theological School and our Hellenic College. My heart is filled with optimism watching the children from the College and Theological School gather here to socialize and to talk about their dreams. When the Chapel bell rings, they go to services and tell me ‘We will light a candle on your behalf.’ I especially enjoy the conversations I have with them when they ask me to tell them stories from my life. I left my homeland in Greece to come to America at a young age, but if you ask me who I am, I will say that I am Greek.”
Presvytera Lee admires the MCC’s growth and attributes much of the success to the leadership of its new director, Presvytera Chrysoula Kourkounti: “It is my special pleasure to see Presvytera Chrysoula in her new professional role. With hard work and a lot of passion, she tries day and night to upgrade our Cultural Center to meet the needs of the whole Omogeneia [larger community], and also to embrace and actively participate in the life of the children of the Greek community as if they were her own.”
Presvytera Lee’s generosity and love for Hellenism and the Greek Diaspora have not only made the library possible, but have aided substantially in the complete renovation of the entire building, now home to a host of activities and events, including shared intercollegiate cultural events, academic events, business luncheons, HCHC classes, Greek dance practice, public lectures, conferences, museum exhibits, movie screenings, and musical performances.
Presvytera Lee emphasizes, “In this space that opens its doors hospitably to the whole Greek community, I feel that it is not just a community under our Archdiocese, but a family. I am blessed and happy being a member of this family.”