Kokonis, 72, who authored books including Arcadia, My Arcadia and Out of Arcadia: The American Odyssey of Angelo Vlahos spoke of his tales growing up in Arcadia to arriving in Chicago under a forged bank certificate.
“I came in as an orphan here and this country adopted me.” Kokonis said. “It’s been good to me and many immigrants.”
The book which chronicles his experiences growing up in his way of reflecting on his past.
“Through literature I was able to identify struggles and the pain, all my life I’ve been through that.” Kokonis said.
Through his story from the book Out of Arcadia, he hopes it will motivate students to have ambition no matter who you are.
“Don’t set goals to high but high enough to serve as motivation. Do it with dignity, have values as long as you don’t set out to hurt no one.”
Student Roberto Hernandez, 23, said that to listen to the words of Kokonis gave him insight to his goals.
“He mentioned that taking rejection as a challenge not as failure. The guy who gave him $150 instead of the $115 he needed and said to do unto others stuck to me.” Hernandez said.
Kokonis began as a psychology instructor at Triton College in the 1980’s and work at the institution for 25 years before retiring in 2011. Since then, his book Arcadia, My Arcadia has been awarded a special honorary prize by the prestigious Academy of Athens
“I retired two years ago, and honestly I regret it. One thing as a teacher is you can never tell where the inspiration stops.” Kokonis said.