The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), the premier national organization for Italian Americans, celebrated the rich culture and heritage of Italian Americans during the Foundation’s 37th Anniversary. Dinner Chairman, John Scarpa welcomed thousands of guests from across the United States and Italy to the annual black-tie dinner at the Washington Hilton on October 13, 2012.
As the evening’s emcee, Mike Piazza, 12-time MLB All-Star, opened the gala awards ceremony in Italian “Buona Serata” and introduced NIAF President Joseph V. Del Raso, Esq., and the Foundation’s Chief Operating Officer John M. Viola. Together at the podium, they reinforced NIAF’s mission to serve the community.
Afterwards, NIAF Secretary John F. Calvelli introduced the video showcasing the splendors of Calabria, NIAF’s 2012 Region of Honor. He gave a warm welcome to Giuseppe Galati, President of Calabresi nel Mondo Foundation.
Piazza quieted the enthusiastic guests to kick off the awards ceremony. This year’s honorees from Italy further strengthened the bridge between our two countries.
President of Friends of San Patrignano, Letizia Moratti, was awarded the NIAF Special Achievement Award in Philanthropy. Under Moratti’s leadership, San Patrignano, the largest rehabilitation center for drug abuse in Italy, has changed the lives of more than 18,000 people by offering them a home, healthcare, legal assistance, jobs and an opportunity to further their education.
Lamberto Maffei, president of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, the oldest science academy in the world, accepted the NIAF Special Recognition for Academic Contributions, on behalf of the Accademia. Mark Del Rosso, chief operating officer and executive vice president of Audi of America, received the NIAF Special Achievement Award in Business.
NIAF awarded the Special Achievement Award in International Business to Giovanni Ferrero, CEO of the Ferrero Group, one of the largest confectionary groups in the world and manufacturer of the much-beloved hazelnut spread, Nutella. Ambassador Francesco Paolo Fulci accepted the award on his behalf.
Geno Auriemma, Head Coach of the Women’s Basketball at the University of Connecticut, received the NIAF Special Achievement Award in Sports. During the London 2012 Summer Olympics, he led USA Basketball Women’s National Team to a gold medal. “Communication was number one that helped our team bring home the Olympic Gold,” added Auriemma in his acceptance speech.
NIAF Special Achievement Award in Science and Technology was presented to Ralph Izzo, chairman, president, and CEO of Public Service Enterprise Group Incorporated (PSEG). “We need to build that next generation of family ties,” said Izzo.
Patricia de Stacy Harrison, a NIAF vice chair and president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, presented Marco Simeon, director of government and international relations at RAI, with NIAF Special Recognition for International Media Relations. She described NIAF as an important partner with Italy in strengthening the ties between our two great nations.
Dignitaries from Italy included the Minister of Foreign Affairs Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata; Ambassador to the United States Claudio Bisogniero; and Princess Beatrice of Borbone of the Two Sicilies. They were joined by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. and Louis Freeh, former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and a NIAF vice chairman.
Guests rose to their feet when singer and songwriter Giada Valenti sang “Inno di Mameli,” Italy’s national anthem. Actress and singer Christina Carlucci, a graduate of New York University Tisch School of Arts, sang the U.S. national anthem. Among the special guests were ESPN’s Tony Reali, Olympic Gold Medalist Hope Solo and Olympic Platform Diver Brittany A. Viola.
Piazza was on hand throughout the weekend to welcome dignitaries as well as encourage guests to bid on one-of-a-kind auction items during the Foundation’s Celebrity Luncheon with live and silent auctions. The excitement heightened during the live auction of the sporty 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth and VIP package to the XLVII Super Bowl in New Orleans this January!
The Victoria J. Mastrobuono Education Luncheon, “Science and the Economy- Academic and Corporate World Partnerships in the 21st Century,” was moderated by Mel Schiavelli, Ph.D., executive vice president at Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC), with panelists Lamberto Maffei, Ph.D., president of Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Emilio Bizzi, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology Institute professor and Iris Palmer, an education policy expert at HCM strategists.
Headlining for NIAF’s Friday Night Entertainment was Grammy Award-winning vocalist Steve Tyrell during “A Little Moonlight.” The international ballroom was packed with guests dancing to popular classics and enjoying pasta with specialty sauces by La Famiglia DelGrosso.
Popular weekend events included a Calabria: Cuisine and Culture Presentation followed by wine education and tasting featuring wines and delicacies from Calabria. Sommelier Luigi Diotaiuti, owner and chef of Al Tiramisu in Washington, D.C. Amy Riolo, award-winning author, and “My Calabria” author Rosetta Costantino gave an overview of the region’s food, wines and cuisine. A screening of director John Turturro’s “Passione,” looked at the musical roots and traditions of Naples, Italy.
Also during the gala weekend, NIAF hosted its inaugural philanthropic roundtable “Italian Americans and Philanthropy in Italy- A Three Case Study of Italian American Giving in Modern Italy.” The topics centered on reactive aid and disaster relief, restoration and cultural patrimony and health and human services. Panelists spoke about how NIAF and affiliate organizations, under the auspices of ItalianAmericanRelief.org, supported Cooperativa Sociale Nazareno located in Modena, Italy. Other projects discussed included Arte Nostra, a company dedicated to promoting Southern Italy through events, travels and meetings; and San Patrignano, one of the Europe’s largest and most highly regarded drug rehabilitation centers.
The weekend also featured, “Bridging Research and Clinical Medicine,” a panel discussion on breast cancer with Antonio Giordano, M.D., Ph.D., president and founder of Sbarro Health Research Organization Inc. and a NIAF Board Member, and notable speakers from leading cancer centers. They discussed the latest preventative strategies for breast cancer.
NIAF’s John M. Viola hosted “NIAF — Ieri, Oggi, Domani,” a panel discussion focusing on a brief history of the Foundation, its plans for 2013 and how the NIAF is evolving to meet the needs of Italians and Italian Americans. Viola was joined by Anita Bevacqua McBride, John F. Calvelli, Patricia De Stacy Harrison and NIAF Historian Emeritus Dominic Massaro. NIAF also hosted a Conference on Immigration, in conjunction with the National Italian American Bar Association (NIABA), to discuss recent developments in immigration law and its relationship to the Italian immigrant experience.
NIAF Central, a gathering spot at the hotel, included: Mike’s Deli, the original Arthur Avenue Italian Deli, with David Greco serving sandwiches and Italian delicacies; Perillo Tours showcasing NIAF’s 2013 Heritage Travel Program; genealogists Roots in the Boots and Peroni Nastro Azzurro served samples of Italy’s finest beer. Guests also relaxed and explored many facets of “Made in Italy” excellence in an Italian Lifestyle Lounge, sponsored by the Italian Trade Commission.
To conclude the gala, Piazza thanked the guests and welcomed NIAF Chairman Jerry Colangelo for the final time during his tenure to officially close the evening. “Four years I have served in this role, I am proud of my heritage, this community, and NIAF as it plays a major role in providing a vehicle through which we can all give something back,” said Colangelo. He invited everyone to attend the Chairman’s After Hours Event featuring performances by Tony Spavone, concert artist, immediately following the gala.
Proceeds from NIAF’s Anniversary Weekend events will benefit NIAF’s educational programs. Mark your calendars for October 25-26, 2013 when we celebrate NIAF’s 38thAnniversary Weekend in Washington, D.C.
NIAF is a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., and dedicated to preserving the heritage of Italian Americans. Visit www.niaf.org.