Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis was confirmed on Christmas Eve by the United States Senate to be the US Ambassador to the Republic of Hungary. She and her husband, Markos Kounalakis, are members of Leadership 100, as are her parents, Angelo K. and Sophia Tsakopoulos and her brother, Kyriakos Tsakopoulos. Markos
Kounalakis publishes the journal of politics and policy, The Washington Monthly.
The couple has two young sons.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee had voted unanimously on December 9, 2009 to approve her nomination by President Barack Obama along with 11 other ambassadorial nominees on a voice vote. The committee had vetted the nominees privately in a public hearing in November.
At the committee hearing, Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis said she would focus on economic and energy issues in her new post. A graduate of New Hampshire's Dartmouth College, she said her experience in the private sector would help her in the job and that she would work to increase foreign investment in Hungary.
Businesswoman, civic leader and philanthropist, Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis is President of AKT Development Corporation in Sacramento, one of California's largest land development firms. She has served two terms as a California State World Trade Commissioner. She traveled extensively as part of her cross-cultural work with the World Council of Religions for Peace, for which she engaged in the diplomacy of global interfaith dialogue. An active member of the Greek American community, she was the Pan-Arcadian Federation of America's 2006 person of the year and recipient of the Medal of St. Paul, the Greek Orthodox Church of America's highest honor. She is a trustee of Robert Redford's Sundance Preserve and sits on Conservation Fund's National Forum on Children and Nature. Besides her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth, she earned an MBA from the University of California - Berkeley.
A major Democratic contributor, Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis and her father helped finance the unsuccessful 2006 gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Phil Angelides, and she raised money for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign as the head of Greek-Americans for Clinton. In 2008, she joined the rest of the Tsakopoulos family and threw her support behind Barack Obama.
She and her family have endowed several chairs in Hellenic studies at major American universities. In 2006, Georgetown University inaugurated the Eleni and Markos Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis Chair in Hellenic Studies, as part of an unprecedented family initiative to promote Hellenic Studies at major American universities. The Sacramento family has also endowed chairs at Columbia University
and Stanford University
. A family donation
to California State University, Sacramento also created a library of 70,000 written works reflecting ancient and modern Hellenic civilization.