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Founded in 1957, the Hellenic American Union is a non-profit, public-service institution that provides accessible and innovative educational programs, testing services, and cultural events for a diverse and growing public.

Since its establishment, the Hellenic American Union has sought to foster a multicultural audience for its activities, welcoming students and visitors from all over the world. To date, more than 2,700,000 persons from 75 countries have enjoyed its services.

2,7m
People
75
Countries

In pursuing its mission, the Hellenic American Union: 

  • designs and presents an annual program of exhibitions, concerts, theatrical and dance performances, film screenings, readings, and lectures, which are free and open to the public. 
  • provides market-relevant, results-oriented training programs in areas such as business and management, digital marketing, information technology and arts management. 
  • offers lifelong learning programs in foreign languages, personal development and the arts. 
  • organizes conferences and workshops that bring together policymakers, technical experts, journalists, and other professionals from Greece and abroad to address pressing social, economic, and technological issues of current concern. 
  • develops, publishes, and disseminates learning resources, including educational textbooks and digital learning material.  
  • serves as a responsible institutional citizen in Greek society, both locally and nationally, offering, for example, free training seminars for language teachers and art workshops for children, by supporting the work of promising young artists. 

The Hellenic American Union is committed to providing equal opportunities for all members of its public and prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, national origin, physical disability, or veteran status in its student admissions, recruitment, employment, evaluation, and advancement policies. 


Following its founding in 1957 and after several years in rented space near Syntagma Square, the Hellenic American Union made its permanent home in the downtown Athens neighborhood of Neapoli, a short uphill walk from the trilogy of neo-Classical buildings that house the National Library, the Academy of Athens, and the University of Athens.

The HAU’s central building, a landmark of Functionalist architecture designed by the prominent architectural firm of Doxiadis Associates, has two entrances. The main entrance to the building, now graced by an arched sculpture in neon by the celebrated Greek-American artist, Steven Antonakos, is on Massalias Street. There is a side entrance on Didotou Street leads through the café to the auditorium in the main building.

The two streets are emblematic of the neighborhood’s identity and its role as an important cultural and intellectual center for over a century. Massalias—that is, Marseilles—Street leads up past the HAU to the French School of Athens and the French Institute. It was given its name in 1884 in reciprocation for the French municipality’s decision to create a Boulevard d’Athènes in Marseilles. The French Institute is just one of the many cultural and educational organizations in the neighborhood. Within several blocks of the Hellenic American Union and the French Institute are the Athens Technological Institute (also known as the Doxiadis School), the Roumeliotes Cultural Center, the University of Athens Law School, and the Cultural Center of the Municipality of Athens.

Didotou Street was named after Ambroise Firmin-Didot, a member of the renowned printing and publishing family, who played an important role in the establishment of the first private printing house in Greece. The same tree-lined street is still home—along with the HAU’s Center for Examinations and Certifications at Didotou 15—to some of the many bookbinders and publishing houses that once dotted the neighborhood, a reminder of the times when writers, artists and journalists gathered in Neapoli’s coffee houses and tavernas. The area is still home to a vibrant gamut of unpretentious cafés, bars, and restaurants, many frequented by a younger clientele, including university students attracted to the neighborhood by its modest rents.

With the exception of an impressive array of neo-Classical residences—many of which, alas, were razed —most of the houses originally constructed in Neapoli in the late 19th century were modest structures for working families, built by plasterers and marble-workers who came to Athens from the islands in search of work. Most of these so-called laika spitia were later demolished to make room for the typical Athenian apartment buildings of the 1960s and 1970s.

“A perpetual and living example of an inspiring American-Greek endeavor to consolidate the friendship between the two peoples”

—Karolos Arliotis, Chairman of the HAU Board of Directors, 1963.

For the first six years of its life, the Hellenic American Union operated out of rented space, first on Irodou Attikou Street and then on Stadiou Street near Syntagma Square. But with the rapid growth in the number of students eager to study in its language classes and an increasingly ambitious program of cultural events the young organization heightened the urgency of acquiring its own premises.

Doxiadis Associates and the New Building

A 620 m2 plot of land on Massalias 22, formerly the site of the Dragoumis residence, was bought in 1961. The same year, the Hellenic American Union’s Board of Directors entrusted the design of its new building to Doxiadis Associates, a firm of consulting engineers, architects and planners founded and led by Constantinos Doxiadis, an eminent architect and visionary city planner. The plans themselves were drawn up by Arthur Skepers, a close associate of Doxiadis’s. The cornerstone was laid on July 12th, 1962, and the building was completed in November 1963.

There is no written record of the reason for the Board’s choice. At the time, the firm already had an impressive record of major international projects, including the design of the Master Plan of Islamabad and the Teacher-Student Center of the University of Dhaka. It is also almost certain that some of the HAU’s founders and its Board were personally acquainted with Doxiadis; HAU founding member Xenophon Zolotas, for example, was Governor of the Bank of Greece, when Doxiades served as Deputy Minister and then Minister of Housing and Reconstruction after World War II.

However, it is more likely the firm’s own premises several blocks east, which were completed in 1958 and housed its central offices and the Athens Technological Institute Doxiadis had founded, that had impressed the HAU’s Board. The Functionalist-inspired structure, built around a spacious, light-filled atrium, was a place of work and learning, and a meeting place where people would interact and socialize.

This was precisely what the HAU’s Board of Directors and founding members envisioned for the young institution: a welcoming place where people from all walks could come to gain knowledge and feel they were a part of a community. In his report later to the institution’s Voting Members, Board Chairman Karolos Arliotis would say of the new building:

“It is not an impersonal edifice with amenities, but a Center with a genuine warmth of atmosphere… where visitors can feel at home and where particularly students find an environment in which their meetings will be fruitful and their discussions interesting, instructive and enlightening.”

Built with the support of the US government, the new six-story building—it, too, with an atrium—featured 14 dozen classrooms, an auditorium, office space, lobby and meeting spaces, two galleries, two libraries, a language laboratory (donated by the American army) and a large cafeteria—in the words of Arliotis—”to serve students meals at a moderate price.”

Over the ensuing decades, this multi-functional building supported an increasingly diverse range of activities, from theater and dance performances and film screenings to life-learning and management training programs and conferences in business, the arts and education.

By the 1990s, however, the building was beginning to show signs of age, compromising its ability to accommodate technological advances—especially the growing use of the internet—, changes in exhibition and performances practices, and the increase in the HAU’s audiences and complexity of operations.

Among the priorities of the new Managing Director Leonidas Phoebus Koskos, who assumed his position in 1995, was the radical renovation of the HAU building at Massalias 22. One year later the HAU General Assembly of Voting Members authorized the Board of Directors to secure a bank loan that would supplement the institution’s own resources to fund renovations.

The architectural firm Karantavanis & Partners developed the plans for the redesigned building and Elliniki Technodomiki was responsible for construction. Work began on the building in August 1998 and was completed by summer the following year.                                     .

Among the facilities created through the renovations are two additional large seminar rooms, flexible classroom space with removable walls, a café (the old cafeteria having been converted to office space in the 1980s) and a roof garden, a wheelchair-accessible elevator, and additional restrooms accommodating persons with physical disabilities. The galleries were outfitted with new lighting systems, while the auditorium acquired a Dolby surround system, new projection facilities and videoconferencing equipment. Structured cabling created a fully networked building, which allowed for wired smart classrooms (now supplemented with wireless broadband internet throughout the building.

The first article of Hellenic American Union’s (HAU) Charter, originally published in 1957, envisioned the new entity as “a cultural organization of public benefit and – in a broader sense – an educational institution.” This notion of public benefit—of being useful to the community—continues to drive the institution to provide people with exceptional, proven opportunities for personal and professional development, whatever their stage of life and background.

Language-Learning Scholarships, Grants, and Exam Fee Waivers 

The same article of the Charter also lists the activities through which the organization pursues its mission of promoting ties of friendship between the peoples of Greece and the United States. Along with activities for which the HAU would become broadly known over the ensuing decades—the program of free cultural events, English and Greek language courses, and publications such as textbooks and works on art—was one that has largely escaped public notice: the provision of scholarships to young students.

Scholarships have formed part of the HAU’s commitment to providing service to the broader community since its early years. The first references to HAU’s award of student scholarships appear in the Annual Report to the Voting Members for the year 1970, though it is possible the practice began earlier.

At first, scholarships were awarded on the basis of academic merit to college-aged students in the HAU’s language-learning programs. In recent years, however, the scope of support has broadened, and now includes not only scholarships for EFL classes but also the waiver of examination fees for English-language certification exams and donations of free EFL textbooks. The focus, too, has shifted to providing learning and certification opportunities for disadvantaged youth.

For 2021, the HAU provided grants and other support to the following organizations or scholarships and fee waivers to the individuals they serve:

Ark of the World — Voluntary Non-Profit Organization of Mother and Child Protection
Grant of €4,500 (portion of income earned from the sale of HAU publications)

ARSIS – Association for the Social Support of Youth 
Free participation in English-language certification exams

Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (ASMIF) of the European Union 
Unaccompanied Migrant Children Shelter – Ilion, International Organization for Migration
English-language instruction and free participation in English-language certification exams

European Expression,, Shelter for Unaccompanied Minors
Free participation in English-language certification exams

Faros — Shelter for refugee youth
English-language textbooks

Lighthouse for the Blind Greece
Provision of rights to print HAU’s exam preparation textbooks in Braille

Ministry of Immigration and Asylum, Secretariat for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors
Scholarships for English-language study

SOS Children’s Villages
Free participation in English-language certification exams

The Smile of the Child — Child protection and welfare
Free participation in English-language certification exams

Scholarships for University Studies

The HAU also awards need-based and merit scholarships for university studies. For 2021, the HAU granted full tuition scholarships for undergraduate and graduate studies at Hellenic American University to:

  • 3 students from low-income families in Preveza.
  • 3 students from the city of Giannena who are already pursuing studies at a public university.
  • 14 students throughout Greece who had excelled in English-language certification exams.
  • 1 student from the French Institute for study in the Hellenic American University’s M.A. in Conference Interpreting program.

Awards & Distinctions:

The Academy of Athens has honored the Hellenic American Union for its long years of service. The institution received the award in 2012 for its educational and cultural work in Greece and for the preservation of the Greek language abroad. 

The Hellenic American Union Center for Examinations and Certifications has been awarded the certificate ISO 9001:2015 by TÜV HELLAS - member of TÜV NORD Group for "Planning, organization, and administration of examinations and Provision of services to candidates, foreign-language schools, and teachers. The Center is the first exam administration entity in Greece to earn ISO certification in examination services.

The Center for Applied Linguistics and Language Studies has also been awarded the ISO 9001:2015 certificate. The standard sets out the requirements for a quality management system. In an educational setting this helps schools be more efficient and improve student satisfaction. The certification covers the English and Modern Greek Language Programs.

The Center for Applied Linguistics and Language Studies, Hellenic American Union, is accredited by the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA) for the period August 2015 through August 2024 and agrees to uphold the CEA standards for English Language Programs and Institutions. 


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