2016 Honorees


Vice President Joe Biden and Beau Biden (posthumously)

For their courage, in the spirit of Oxi Day, to promote freedom and preserve humanity

Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., was born November 20, 1942, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the first of four siblings. Biden graduated from the University of Delaware and Syracuse Law School. Then, at age 29, he became one of the youngest people ever elected to the US Senate. Just weeks after the election, tragedy struck the Biden family when Biden’s wife, Neilia, and their one-year-old daughter, Naomi, were killed and their two young sons, Beau and Hunter, critically injured in an auto accident. Biden was sworn in to the US Senate at his sons’ hospital bedside and began commuting to Washington every day by train, a practice he maintained throughout his career in the Senate.

In 1977, Biden married Jill Jacobs. Jill Biden, who holds a Ph.D. in Education, is a life-long educator. As a Senator from Delaware for 36 years, Biden established himself as a leader in facing some of our nation’s most important domestic and international challenges. As Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee for 17 years, Biden was widely recognized for his work on criminal justice issues, including the landmark 1994 Crime Law and the Violence Against Women Act. As Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for 12 years, Biden played a pivotal role in shaping US foreign policy.

Now, as the 47th Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden has continued his leadership on important issues facing the nation. The Vice President has continued to draw upon his years in the United States Senate to work with Congress on key issues including the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

The Vice President has been a leading architect of the US strategic vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace. He has developed deep relationships with the world’s leaders, demonstrating US commitment to high-level, face-to-face diplomacy.

In his final State of the Union address, the President tasked Biden with heading up a new national effort to end cancer as we know it. The White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force’s mission is to double the rate of progress in cancer research and treatment, striving to accelerate what could be achieved in ten years in just five.

The Vice President’s son Beau was Delaware’s Attorney General and a Major in the 261st Signal Brigade of the Delaware National Guard and his son Hunter is an attorney in Washington, DC. The Bidens’ daughter Ashley is the Executive Director of the Delaware Center for Justice. Biden has five grandchildren: Naomi, Finnegan, Roberta Mabel “Maisy”, Natalie, and Robert Hunter.

Joseph Robinette “Beau” Biden III was born on February 3, 1969, in Wilmington, Delaware. A lawyer by training, Biden joined the Delaware National Guard in 2003, serving as a major in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Biden’s unit was deployed to Iraq in 2008, while his father was running for Vice President. Biden was honored with the Bronze Star. Army Chief of Staff Raymond Odierno presented Biden with the Legion of Merit for his service in the Delaware National Guard, stating, “Beau Biden possessed the traits I have witnessed in only the greatest leaders.” Biden was also posthumously presented with The Delaware Conspicuous Service Cross, which is awarded for heroism, meritorious service and outstanding achievement.

Many in Delaware expected Biden to run for his father’s Senate seat after the 2008 election, but the younger Biden, who was elected Attorney General in 2006, declined, saying “I have a duty to fulfill as Attorney General, and the immediate need to focus on a case of great consequence. And that is what I must do.” He ran for re-election in 2010, serving a second term before deciding to seek higher office.

Biden lost his courageous battle with brain cancer on May 30, 2015. He is survived by his wife Hallie, and their children, Natalie and Hunter; his parents, the Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden; his brother, Hunter; and his sister, Ashley Biden.

The Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children was created to honor the life of Biden, and to continue his life’s work: ensuring that all children are free from the threat of abuse.


Nadia Murad

For her courage, in the spirit of the women in the Battle of Crete, to promote freedom and preserve humanity

Fighters for the Islamic State abducted a young Yazidi woman, her siblings and their mother from their village in northern Iraq more than two years ago. Barely in her 20s, Nadia Murad was separated from her family and survived brutal beatings and sexual torture as she was held captive by ISIS.

Eighteen members of her family have either died or disappeared at the hands of ISIS. The Yazidi people, whose ancestral homeland on Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq was overrun by the Islamic State in August 2014, have not been able to return to their villages.

Addressing the UN in September, Ms. Murad described her role, speaking repeatedly about her abuse, as a burden, but one she was determined to bear. “I was not raised to give speeches,” she said. “Neither was I born to meet world leaders, nor to represent a cause so heavy, so difficult,” she said. But she will continue “so that one day we can look our abusers in the eye in a court in The Hague and tell the world what they have done to us,” she said. “So my community can heal. So I can be the last girl to come before you.”

Ms. Murad’s story has captured widespread attention. Among the people who have come forward to champion her cause are Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations and Amal Clooney, the British human rights lawyer who now represents her and nominated her for the Battle of Crete Award.

Earlier this year, Ms. Murad was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, appointed a UN Goodwill Ambassador on behalf of the victims of human trafficking, named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People and awarded the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize.


Makis Matsas

For his lifelong commitment to combating anti-Semitism, discrimination and intolerance and for his efforts to forge strong bonds between the Jewish and Greek Peoples

Samuel “Makis” Matsas was born in Athens, Greece to an old Sephardic Jewish family from Ioannina. He grew up during the harsh era of Nazi occupation. At the tender age of 3, he walked with his family to the mountains of central Greece to escape arrest, seeking shelter from the Germans with other partisans. Matsas experienced a hard two-year adventure away from his loved ones in the rugged mountains and ultimately returned to Athens in 1944 after the liberation.

Matsas’ father, Minos Matsas, was considered one of the pioneers of music recording and production in Greece. In 1960, at the age of 23, Makis signed an important deal that founded “Minos Matsas and Son” and started an ambitious effort to restructure and reorganize the company. Matsas transformed the company. Over the course of his long and successful career, he discovered and supported numerous promising artists in their early steps who would later become top performers in Greece.

In 1990, the company joined forces with its main domestic competitor, the multinational EMI Group. Matsas was appointed the CEO and took the reins of the new “Minos-EMI.”

Since 1977, Matsas has been one of the members of the Greek Jewish community who envisioned the foundation of a Jewish Museum in Greece. In 1989, Matsas was elected President of the Association of the Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece. In 1998, the Jewish Museum of Greece was inaugurated at the very center of Athens and in 2006, Matsas assumed the duties of Chairman of the Board of Directors.

Matsas has dedicated his life and his strength to the development and the promotion of the Jewish Museum of Greece and combating anti-Semitism. He contributed to the enlargement of the Jewish Museum’s collaboration with the Greek Ministry of Education and was the Chairman who financed the first pilot group of Greek students and their teachers to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum.
Matsas is married to Zafeiria Nachman and has two children, Margarita and Minos.


Senator Ted Stevens

Honoring an American Veteran who served valiantly in World War II

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, Ted Stevens grew up amidst the turmoil of the Great Depression and World War II. On March 15, 1943, he joined the Army Air Corps and received his wings and commission as a Second Lieutenant in March 1944. Stevens served in the China-Burma-India Theater, also known as the “Hump,” with the 14th Air Force Transport Section, which became the 322nd Troop Carrier Squadron, flying C-46 and C-47 transport planes under the command of General Claire Chenault in support of the “Flying Tigers.”

Stevens was the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, Distinguished Unit Badge, Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Yuan Hai Medal awarded by the Republic of China, the World War II Victory Medal, and a Good Conduct Medal.

Following the war, Stevens received an undergraduate degree in political science from UCLA and a juris doctor from Harvard Law School. In December 1968, he was appointed to the U.S. Senate in the wake of Senator Bob Bartlett’s death. In 1970, Alaskans chose Stevens to finish Bartlett’s term in a special election, and he was subsequently re-elected six consecutive times.

From 1977 to 1985, Stevens served as the Assistant Republican Leader, or “Whip” and in 2002, he was elected President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

Senator Stevens is survived by his wife Catherine, six children, and thirteen grandchildren.


Colonel George Stavridis

Honoring a Greek-American Veteran who served valiantly in World War II

Born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, George Stavridis enlisted during World War II and fought in Korea and Vietnam. He served in combat as a Marine Platoon Leader, Company Commander, and Battalion Commander and held numerous citations, decorations and service medals, including the Bronze Star for valor and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm. Stavridis was a graduate of Cornell, Purdue and Arizona State. He commanded the First Marine Battalion at Da Nang in 1967 and went on to lead the USMC Command and Staff College from 1968-1971 before retiring in 1972. He is the father of Admiral James Stavridis, Former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO Global Operations.


Dimitrios Itsios

Honoring a Greek Veteran who served valiantly in World War II

Born in Macedonia, Ottoman Empire in 1906, Dimitrios Itsios was a Greek Vlach reserve non-commissioned officer (Sergeant) in the Greek Army during World War II. In April 1941, he was ordered, as head of five soldiers, to defend and maintain the P8 Pillbox in the Omorfoplagia area of Mount Beles near Ano Poroia Serres. Despite ordering all of his men to escape, two stayed with him and they fought until their ammunition was exhausted, causing great losses and killing approximately 230 enemy German soldiers. When the three Greek soldiers surrendered, Itsios, after saying that he had simply done his duty, was assassinated by the German Lieutenant General Sorner. According to the testimony of the two Greek soldiers who were released, Sorner was angry for the loss of so many of his men.


John Payiavlas

For his dedicated service during the Korean War and for his many contributions, in the spirit of Michael Jaharis, to our community, our country and to the world

In 1931, John A. Payiavlas was born to Greek immigrants, Anthony and Paraskevi, in Warren, Ohio. In 1951, Payiavlas was drafted into the United States Army and promptly left for basic training in Fort Riley, Kansas. In 1952, he was deployed to join the UN forces supporting South Korea as part of Fox Company, 7th Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division and later transferred to the Greek Expeditionary Force Battalion. He was one of four Greek-Americans to serve in this Battalion and was awarded the Commander’s Silver Cross of Valour, the highest military decoration of the Greek state. Payiavlas completed his service in 1953 and was honorably discharged as Sergeant First Class.

In 1956, he married Marisa Tsagaris and in 1960, he bought Automatic Vendors and worked diligently to grow the business while he and Marisa raised their two children, Patrice and Anthony. Renamed AVI Foodsystems in 1987, the company has grown to serve customers in more than 6,500 locations in 44 states.
Payiavlas is an active member and donor of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Warren. He is also a board trustee and Chairman Emeritus of Leadership 100. He has served as a council member of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Council Executive Committee and an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. John and Marisa have
6 grandchildren.