|NIAF 2006 East Coast Gala Review|
|New York City|
Almost 1200 guests gathered April 18 at NIAF's annual East Coast Gala to honor prominent Italian Americans and benefit the Foundation's scholarship and education programs.
The gala, which was held at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square, featured a reception and silent auction with many of our tried and true supporters. During the event, legendary race car driver and wine maker Mario Andretti received a NIAF Lifetime Achievement Award in Sports; actor Alan Alda was inducted into the NIAF Italian American Hall of Fame by Jack Valenti, former president of the Motion Picture Association of America; and Joseph M. Boitano, senior vice president and general merchandise manager at Saks Fifth Avenue Enterprises, received a NIAF Special Achievement Award in Business. LTG Raymond Odierno of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is best known for commanding the division that captured Saddam Hussein, received the NIAF Special Achievement Award for Military Service.
Rocco B. Commisso, chairman and CEO of Mediacom Communications Corporation received the NIAF Lifetime Achievement Award. During the dinner, Commisso announced The Maria Rosa and Giuseppe Commisso Scholarship, which is named after his parents. Isabella Rossellini, who was introduced by NIAF President Salvatore J. Zizza, presented a scholarship to Ethan Angelica of Minneapolis, Minn., a senior at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.
During his speech, Alda also offered to donate a matching $10,000 toward a scholarship - an offer accepted by Alan Gerry, chairman of Granite Associates and presenter of the NIAF Lifetime Achievement Award to his good friend, Commisso. NIAF Vice Chairs Jerry Colangelo and Vincent Viola also spoke at the event.
Actor Danny Aiello, sports great Yogi Berra, and fashion designer Renato Balestra also attended the event, at which actor Tony LoBianco served as the master of ceremonies. Representatives of Italy's Province of Como, including Commissioners of Tourism the Honorable Giorgio Bin and the Honorable Edgardo Arosio, provided wine, food, and sponsorship for the evening. Italy's newest singing sensation, tenor Vittorio Grigolo, thrilled the crowd with a brief performance.