Penny Panayiota Deligiannis (AB, '87; AM, '92, speech communication) this year's LAS Young Alumni Award winner, prefers action to talk, despite graduating cum laude in speech communication.
While completing her masters, Deligiannis got involved in overseas missionary work for her hometown church of Aurora, Ill., joining a Greek Orthodox Mission Teaching Team erecting a church building in Magoma, Uganda. Between 1990 and 1994, she repeatedly returned to the Ugandan, as well as Kenyan and Tanzanian, missions to pursue her newfound professional passion. Heeding her calling as a coordinator/fundraiser for Greek Orthodox Church missions in overwhelmingly Muslim Albania, first she put her communications studies in the College of LAS to use as coordinator for the Orthodox Church's Office of Publications in the Albanian capital of Tirana. Soon named director of Diaconia Agapes ("Service of Love") for the city and advisor to all Albania's Archbishop, His Beatitude Anastasios, Deligiannis raised nearly $3 million, mainly from U.S. donors.
Starting in 1995, she directed Diaconia Agapes as well as Action by Churches Together (ACT), an ecumenical network affiliated with the World Council of Churches. At present, she oversees 87 people and a budget of $9 million. Her responsibilities involve assistance to refugees from NATO's air war in the Balkans, ethnic Albanian Kosovars fleeing into Albania, as well as Albania's own citizens beset by violent internal civil strife caused by corruption.
In admiration of "P.D.," as she is known to her colleagues in the field, retired Colonel Klaus Steiner, the Albanian Response Manager for International Orthodox Christian Charities, says, "She represented herself as a strong personality with two outstanding characteristics: courage and a sense of responsibility. Always willing to take on difficult and even risky tasks, her leadership style was firm and effective while, at the same time, appearing effortless. Without any doubt, P.D. has the potential for greater future responsibilities."