This interview is taken from the December 2010 issue of The Orthodox Observer. In it, Father Nicholas Triantafilou reflects on his ten years of service as President of Hellenic College and Holy Cross.
By Jim Golding, Editor in Chief of The Orthodox Observer
BROOKLINE, Mass. – For Fr. Nicholas Triantafilou, his service to the Church has been a kind of Odyssey, but not one that has taken him throughout the Mediterranean, just over much of the continental U.S.
A native of Woburn, Mass., Fr. Triantafilou, who has just completed his 10th year at the helm of Hellenic College-Holy Cross School of Theology, attended Holy Cross School of Theology after a stint in the Marine Corps, and graduated in 1963.
He then began three years of service as assistant priest at St. Vasillios Church in Peabody, Mass. under Fr. Stanley Harakas.
From there he went on to Annunciation Cathedral in Houston as assistant under Fr. George Kalpaxis for six months before becoming the proistamenos in 1966 and later cathedral dean.
In 1970 Fr. Nick and Presbytera Diane established the Annunciation Orthodox School, which went on to become one of the top-ranked private elementary schools in the city of Houston.
Archbishop Iakovos tapped him as Archdiocesan Vicar General in 1987 and was called upon to serve in many locations. While still at Annunciation, Fr. Nick restarted St. Nicholas Church in El Paso and established Transfiguration Church in Austin.
He was called to Archdiocese headquarters in 1992 where he served as executive director of the Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Endowment Fund.
He served for three years at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Charlotte, N.C. from 1996 to 1999 and, for the past 28 years, has served as the Archdiocese liaison with Annunciation Church in Nassau, Bahamas.
Following his service as Vicar General, he was named director of the Boston Metropolis Camp and Retreat Center at Contoocook, N.H. by Metropolitan Methodios of Boston in 1999.
Fr. Nick came full circle in 2000, returning to Boston upon being named president of HC-HC by Archbishop Demetrios on Aug. 1.
To mark his 10-year milestone, the Observer asked Fr. Triantafilou to reflect on the progress of the institution with a look to the future. The following interview was conducted via e-mail.
Orthodox Observer: Fr, Triantafilou, how would you assess your first 10 years as president?
Fr. Triantafilou: I consider this a most privileged election/assignment. The entire HC/HC family, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, the members of the Eparchial Synod, the auxiliary bishops, trustees, deans, faculties, staff and students, as well as the alumni board have been most cooperative and supportive. It is a privilege, also, to represent our beloved School across the parishes of our Archdiocese at the meetings and conferences of our accrediting agencies, the Boston Theological Institute (BTI) and other venues, conferences and educational institutions in the United States and Greece. By God’s grace, all the aforementioned people have joined in a common effort for the wellbeing and progress of our School. We can identify definitive steps that have advanced the life and mission of our School.
O.O - What goals did you set forth? Have they been attained?
Fr. T: Amongst the goals which really fall under the category of the Calling to Stewardship of our beloved School were an increase of students, both in Hellenic College and Holy Cross – which has been attained. We have doubled the number of undergraduates which now is a bit shorter than 100 and the graduate school has approximately 136 students. A second goal was to procure more financial support for our academic programs. Again, by the benevolence of God, this goal has been realized to a respectful degree. For example:
Another goal was to address immediately infrastructure needs of replacement and improvement. Over $3,000,000 have been procured and expended to address these issues. Our campus has been almost totally renewed, and we welcome any and all visitors of our Church membership to visit their school.
O.O: - What is the current enrollment of Holy Cross and Hellenic College?
Fr. T: Holy Cross – 134; Hellenic College – 81
O.O. - What is a realistic projection of enrollment over the next five years?
Fr. T: An 8-10 percent enrollment increase each year.
O.O:- What is the approach to recruiting new students? What challenges do you face in attracting students to the school?
Fr. T: We have increased our staff size by one full-time person and one half-time person in order to cover more territory, make more presentations, and respond more efficiently to increase for potential students across all Orthodox bodies in the United States. We are in the discussion process of how we may be able to address the greater international market.
One of the central challenges continues to be that we are looked at and thought to be a seminary only. We must become more successful in evangelizing the reality of our undergraduate college as a liberal college in itself and our graduate school as, yes, preparing young men for the priesthood, yet also a theological school preparing young women and men for service to our Church at large and for the general academic world.
O.O: - What do you look for in potential students?
Fr. T: Women and men who are pilgrims of faith, committed to bettering our society at large with academic potential and the ability to live in community within an undergraduate and graduate campus. We also look for people who have a definite or potential calling to service in our churches and to the holy priesthood.
O.O: - Which Metropolises provide the largest number of students?
Fr. T: These numbers appear in our annual report and fluctuate from year to year.
O.O: - Have the requirements for becoming a priest changed over the past 10 years?
Fr. T: In essence, no. We live in a society that is consistently becoming more and more multicultural with an interweaving of these cultures. Our future priests must be able to learn the process of maintaining and celebrating the pristine tenets and integrity of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
O.O: - Has the number of non-Greek ethnic background decreased over the years? What would you attribute this to?
Fr. T: Our School reflects the same multi-ethnicity that our parishes do across the country.
O.O: - Has the average age of seminarians risen over the past 10 years?
Fr. T: Yes. We belong to the Association of Theological Schools of the United States and Canada, which awards us accreditation. The average of the person attending these 264 schools is approximately 34 to 40. Our average in the graduate school is approximately 30 to 32.
O.O: - How many seminarians have worked in another career field before entering Holy Cross.
Fr. T: Each year differs. The average is somewhere between 35 and 50 percent.
O.O: - How much traveling do you do in the course of a year for the school? Is this mostly for fund-raising?
Fr. T: I travel approximately 30 to 40 percent during the school year. The reasons are, first, to project the vision and mission of both Hellenic College and Holy Cross and their place in the life of our Church and Orthodoxy in America. Secondly, for fund-raising. This fund-raising addresses the annual budget, sponsoring of Academic Chairs and the possible procurement of funds for new required buildings.
O.O:- What is the financial outlook for the school in the foreseeable future?
Fr. T: We are optimistic that our Board of Trustees, who have increased their annual giving substantially, our Hierarchs, clergy, national organizations, and, of course, our staff will increase their efforts to be stalwarts heralds of our School’s mission and that our faithful across the country will continue to respond faithfully and generously as they have in the past. We are most grateful that the 2010 Clergy-Laity Congress, the Archdiocesan allocation to our School has been increased. The Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Endowment and National Philoptochos have been enormously generous in their financial support each year to our School and students. They have set historic benchmarks of financial aid.
O.O: – What are the most difficult problems you face on a daily basis?
Fr. T: I prefer to consider issues as opportunities and challenges, rather than problems. St. Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 Our Lord told us “In the world, you will have affliction, but be of good courage, I have conquered the world.” St. John 16:33. With this assurance of our Lord Jesus and with the example of St. Paul, the challenges we face are patiently addressed: meeting the needs of our wonderful single students and marvelous married couples as they attempt to respond to the callings God has granted them is our blessed privilege. Our opportunities are abundant as we receive the support, the encouragement and the counsel of our many supporters who share the ministries of our School. We have opportunities to offer our stewardship to each and every student, faculty member and staff. Particular enumeration of these challenges and opportunities cannot be developed in a general article.
O.O: - Has the number of faculty members remained constant, or have they increased over the past 10 years.
Fr. T: Basically, the number of faculty members has remained steady. We have increased slightly in the number of full-time faculty as well as the number of adjunct faculty.
O.O: -Which programs have been most successful?
Fr. T: We are thankful to God for the grace He has bestowed upon our historic programs in the disciplines of Theology, while we are grateful for our renewed programs in Pastoral Theology, Patristics, Field Education, Management and Leadership, Social Ministry and Office of Vocation Ministry. Again, the confines of a general article such as this prohibits us from discussing responsibly other renewed and new programs. Another writing and article on our School could feature programs in general.
O.O: - What changes, if any, do you feel you need to make in the school's operation? In the curriculum? In other areas?
Fr. T: I would prefer these issues to remain part of our in-house discussions at this time.
Thank you Father,
I encourage our faithful across the Archdiocese to support our Archdiocesan Ministries, Metropolises, National Philoptochos, Leadership 100, Faith Endowment, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, St. Basil’s Academy and our beloved Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology.
Below is a list of upcoming events at Hellenic College Holy Cross. For a complete list, please refer to our Campus Calendar.