by Leah Jackson
An immigrant family, for whom education was crucial to achieving the American dream, are giving back by establishing a Northwestern State University scholarship that honors their parents and acknowledges their family’s story of courage and perseverance.
Katina Manitzas Booras of Shreveport and Helen Manitzas Malachias of New Orleans created the Harry and Anastasia Manitzas Scholarship that will be awarded to a student seeking a degree in education, awarded from freshman year through graduation. The recipient must maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or better and exemplify a strong work ethic. Booras, Malachias and their late sister Mary Manitzas Georgiafandis, all earned degrees at NSU, where they were involved students.
“Daddy instilled in us that education was the of utmost importance,” said Booras, the oldest daughter. She said her parents had only a third grade education but they were avid readers and raised their daughters to be hardworking, self-sufficient and resourceful.
The story begins when Haralampos “Harry” Manitazs left his homeland and traveled to New York at age 12, became a U.S. citizen and eventually ran a restaurant in North Carolina. At age 30, he went back to Greece, was engaged to marry Anastasia and contracted polio, which left him partially disabled, requiring the use of crutches for the rest of his life. He and Anastasia married in 1932 and built a home in Greece. Katina was born in 1934, Helen in 1936 and Mary in 1940, their childhoods marked by the chaos of war.
Harry dreamed of returning to the United States to educate his daughters, who were naturalized American citizens, but acquiring a visa for Anastasia was problematic. When World War II ended, the family made the difficult decision that Harry and the two older girls, who would be helpers to their father and companions for each other, would travel to the U.S., leaving Anastasia and Mary in Greece, surrounded by family.
Harry, Katina, 12, and Helen, 10, left Greece in December 1946 on a 12-day journey across the Atlantic, landing in New York City. They stayed with friends in Philadelphia and then traveled to Richmond, California, where they had relatives, and the girls enrolled in school. At the end of that school year, they relocated to DeRidder where a cousin lived. It would be two years before Anastasia and Mary’s immigration papers were finalized, a time that provided many lessons in patience and determination. Anastasia and Mary joined the family in DeRidder in 1948.
When Katina graduated from DeRidder High School, the coach at DeRidder helped her obtain a work scholarship to attend Northwestern where she worked in the cafeteria and was later junior house director in a residence hall. She was involved with the Purple Jackets, choir, Potpourri, Future Teachers of America and Associated Women’s Students. She was named to the Potpourri Court, the Senior Class Hall of Fame and was Cenla Fair Queen. She graduated in 1957 with a degree in education and began a 36-year teaching career in Caddo Parish, also earning a master’s degree at LSUS. She met her husband Sammy Booras, a 1954 Northwestern graduate, in Shreveport. Booras, now 92, was a baseball and basketball standout and was inducted into NSU’s Athletic N-Club Hall of Fame in 1991.
Helen graduated from DeRidder as salutatorian of her class and received a T.H. Harris Scholarship to attend NSU. She was involved with Purple Jackets, Associated Women Students, the State Fair Court, Student National Educational Association and Pi Omega Pi honor society for business. She graduated with a degree in business in 1959 and went to work for Standard Oil in Shreveport. She later married Charles Malachias of New Orleans, owner of Café Maspero, and though primarily a homemaker, kept books and helped with her husband’s business. Mr. Malachias passed away in 2019.
With Katina and Helen in Shreveport, Harry, Anastasia and Mary relocated there in 1957, drawn to that city’s Greek community and churches.
Mary graduated from Fair Park High School and attended Northwestern where she was involved in Potpourri and Student Louisiana Education Association and was a dormitory assistant. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1962 and a master’s in education administration in 1964 and had a long career as a teacher and principal in Caddo Parish, where she was involved with many professional and philanthropic organizations and was devoted to her church and many aspects of service there. In 1990, she married John Georgiafandis. Mary Manitzas Georgiafandis passed away July 18, 2021, in Shreveport.
“We are pleased to accept a gift of $45,000 to establish a scholarship for a deserving student majoring in education,” said Jill Bankston, NSU’s director of Development. “The gift is offered by the Manitzas sisters, Katina, Helen and Mary, who attended Northwestern between 1954 and 1964. The gift honors their parents whose dearest wish was to offer their daughters an opportunity to be educated and achieve the American dream. While Katina and Helen mourn the passing of their sister Mary, it is their wish to add Mary’s name to the honorarium.”
Katina said her family are proud to be American, proud of their Greek American heritage, having come from a country that contributed so much to Western civilization — art, architecture, philosophy, science — and are grateful for the opportunity to achieve the American dream.
A memorial for Mary Manitzas Georgiafandis will take place in July, the first anniversary of her passing.
For information on the Manitzas scholarship or to make a contribution, visit https://northwesternstatealumni.com/manitzas-scholarship/.