ELLIS ISLAND, NY -- Today in the historic Great Hall at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, six highly esteemed individuals were honored by The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation for their contributions to the American Experience. Five of the honorees trace their immigrant roots through the Golden Door of Ellis Island. The recipients of the 2004 Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards are:
MEDICINE & SCIENCE: Dr. Harold Varmus, President and Chief Executive Officer of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, NYC; co-recipient 1989 Nobel Prize for the discovery of the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes, and former Director of the National Institutes of Health. His grandparents arrived in America through Ellis Island.
SPORTS: Paul Tagliabue -- Fourth Commissioner of the National Football League, under whose leadership the NFL continues to grow in popularity and success, from expansion innovations to enhancing the value of the NFL franchise. Mr. Tagliabue's grandparents came through Ellis Island. Also honored in the field of SPORTS is Ellis Island immigrant Knute Rockne, Notre Dame's beloved football coach. Knute arrived on Ellis Island with his mother and four sisters, and later as coach compiled the greatest all-time winning-percentage in college football history.
BUSINESS: Robert Rubin, Former U.S. Treasury Secretary, former Co-Chairman of Goldman Sachs and currently Director and Chairman of the Executive Committee of Citigroup. He is the grandson of Ellis Island immigrants
This year's event marked the inception of the PEOPLING OF AMERICA AWARD, which honors an immigrant to the U.S. who does not trace roots to Ellis Island, but rather arrived at another time and/or through another port of entry. The first recipient of the "Peopling of America" award is I.M. Pei, whose achievements include over sixty projects both in this country and abroad which have been highly honored for their excellence. Some of his more prominent commissions include the East Building of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Le Grand Louvre in Paris, France; the Bank of China in Hong Kong and the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Boston.
The honorees were celebrated with a tribute video and presented with a framed copy of the original ship's passenger manifest documenting the arrival of their family in America, obtained from the database of the American Family Immigration History Center(TM) at Ellis Island and online at www.ellisisland.org.
The Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards were instituted in 2001 to mark the first annual Ellis Island Family History Day and to celebrate Ellis Island as the Golden Door to America for the 17 million immigrants who first set foot on American soil there. Annually a select number of Ellis Island immigrants or their descendants are chosen to be honored. Honorees are selected through a process that is guided by an Awards Committee of the Foundation's Board of Directors.
In his closing remarks Lee Iacocca stated, "Ellis Island is a landmark that is half physical building, and half an emotional marker -- a doorway to our past." In congratulating the honorees he added, "How wonderful to come from this immigrant stock, rooted in dreams, and boldness, and endurance. It is a pedigree to be proud of."
About The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.
The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit organization founded in 1982 to raise funds for and oversee the historic restorations of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, working in partnership with the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. In addition to restoring the monuments, the Foundation created a museum in the Statue's base and the world-class Ellis Island Immigration Museum, The American Immigrant Wall of Honor(R) and the American Family Immigration History Center(TM) and saved and restored a total of five buildings on Ellis Island. The Foundation promised to its donors in the 1980s and established in 1993 an endowment under the auspices of its board of directors that would annually help maintain the work the Foundation had done on the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and enhance the visitor experience for years to come. Since the endowment's inception, proceeds from its principal have funded over 200 projects at the islands for a total of $12.3 million. Currently the Foundation is spearheading a campaign to fund critical safety improvements at the Statue of Liberty so that she may again reopen her doors to the public, closed since September 11, 2001.
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