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CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF AND INDUSTRY TITANS HONORED AT NIAF GALA IN NATION’S CAPITAL

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:   Elissa Ruffino (NIAF) 202/939-3106 or elissa@niaf.org


(Washington, DC – October 24, 2005) General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who received the National Italian American Foundation’s (NIAF) Special Achievement Award for Military Service, headed this year’s list of honorees at NIAF’s 30th Anniversary Gala, held October 15 at the Hilton Washington & Towers. General Pace was joined by business executives Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel Corporation; Michelle Peluso, president and CEO of Travelocity; and Ambassador Peter Secchia, chairman of the board at Universal Forest Products Inc., and managing partner of SIBSCO LLC.

General Raymond T. Odierno, who commanded the division that captured Saddam Hussein, presented the NIAF award to General Pace before more than 3,000 people. Jerry Colangelo, chairman and CEO of the Phoenix Suns and NIAF vice chairman, presented the NIAF Special Achievement Award in International Affairs to Ambassador Secchia. Ambassador Secchia is best known at the Foundation as the father of the Gift of Discovery Program, NIAF’s most popular and successful student exchange program. Both Mr. Otellini and Ms. Peluso received NIAF Special Achievement Awards in Business. Joseph R. Cerrell, NIAF vice chairman, presented the award to Mr. Otellini and Salvatore Zizza, NIAF president, presented the award to Ms. Peluso.

Celebrities at the gala included: actors Danny Aiello and Dennis Farina; singers Jay Black, Natalie Merchant, and Connie Stevens; baseball legends Yogi Berra and Tommy Lasorda; and CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo and Ron Insana. Popular entertainer Tony Danza was the master of ceremonies. Willis Group Holdings Chairman and CEO Joseph J. Plumeri served as the gala dinner chairman.

NIAF Chairman Dr. A. Kenneth Ciongoli introduced one of Italy’s highest ranking politicians, Hon. Mario Landolfi, minister of communications. Hon. Landolfi spoke of the spirit of cooperation between the U.S. and Italy and their partnership on the war on terrorism.

U.S. Ambassador to Italy Ronald P. Spogli and Italy’s Ambassador to the U.S., H.E. Giovanni Castellaneta, were joined by John DeGioia, president, Georgetown University; Janet Napolitano, governor of Arizona; Ambassador Jim Nicholson, secretary of Veterans’ Affairs; John Sweeny, president, AFL/CIO; Jack Valenti, former president and CEO of the Motion Picture Association; and General Anthony C. Zinni, Marine Corp Four-Star U.S. Marine General.

This year NIAF awarded more than $1.3 million in scholarships and grants to students across the U.S. and Italy. At the gala, NIAF Andrea Bocelli Scholarship recipient Lauren Jelencovich sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” NIAF Sergio Franchi Music Scholarship recipient Roberto Iarussi sang the Italian national anthem, “Inno Nazionale.”

Recognizing the younger generation, NIAF organized its ninth-annual youth gala, which attracted 300 young Americans of Italian descent from 25 states. Afterwards, the young adults, along with many gala attendees, enjoyed a post-gala dessert reception. Bindi Dessert Service Inc. provided a specialty cake for NIAF’s 30th Anniversary Awards Gala which displayed NIAF’s logo and was cut for 1,500 portions.

The NIAF 2005 Gala capped off the Foundation’s two-day annual convention (October 14-15), the largest formal annual gathering of Italian Americans in the country. On Friday, October 14, NIAF hosted its 6th Annual Salute to the Martini with music by Jay Black and the Americans. Maryclaire Curmaci-Singer, a teacher of Italian language and culture at Everglades High School in Miramar, Fla., received the third annual NIAF Teacher of the Year Award at the NIAF education luncheon. Also during the luncheon, Anthony J. Principi, deputy secretary of Veterans’ Affairs, received the NIAF Special Achievement Award for Public Service.

Italy’s Region of Piedmont, this year’s sponsoring region from Italy, hosted a wine tasting event and provided products that were typical of the region. Piedmont was represented by Giuliana Manica, assessore (council member). The NIAF gala weekend also included the traditional celebrity auction and luncheon. NIAF weekend conferences included: Cities of Art and Agricultural Tourism; Winning the Cold War: Italy’s Forgotten Role, a book presentation by Ambassador Richard N. Gardner; Italian Americans in Sports; a film screening of Uncle Nino starring Joe Mantegna, NIAF celebrity spokesperson, and Sophia Loren’s film Francesca e Nunziata.

During the weekend, NIAF also co-sponsored the Washington, Italia Film Festival, which is organized by Capri in the World Institute in collaboration with Italian film companies, Cinecittà Holding and RAI Trade. Washington, Italia Film Festival brought together Carlo Fuscagni, president of Cinecittà; directors Roberto Faenza, Lamberto Lambertini, and Maurizio Nichetti; actors Gaia Bermani Amaral, Eleonora Brigliadori; Anna Falchi and Franco Nero, who attended this year’s gala.

Proceeds from the weekend events will benefit NIAF’s scholarship and education programs.

NIAF is a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC and dedicated to preserving the heritage of Italian Americans. Visit our site: www.niaf.org

CNBC Anchor Maria Bartiromo, Ambassador Peter F. Secchia, and General Peter Pace enjoy cocktails at the National Italian American Foundation’s 30th Anniversary Award Gala on Saturday, October 15, 2005 at the Hilton Washington & Towers. Ambassador Secchia, chairman of the board at Universal Forest Products Inc., and managing partner of SIBSCO LLC, received the NIAF Special Achievement Award for International Affairs. General Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, received the NIAF Special Achievement Award for Military Service.
 
Michelle Peluso, president and CEO of Travelocity, received the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) Special Achievement Award in Business at the Foundation’s 30th Anniversary Awards Gala, Saturday evening, October 15 at the Hilton Washington & Towers, Washington, D.C.
 
Joseph R. Cerrell, NIAF vice chair; popular entertainer Tony Danza; NIAF 2005 gala Honoree Paul S. Otellini, president and CEO of Intel Corporation; and NIAF Chairman Dr. A. Kenneth Ciongoli. Mr. Otellini received the NIAF Special Achievement Award in Business.
 
Popular entertainer and emcee at NIAF’s 30th Anniversary Award Gala, Tony Danza, stops by NIAF’s 9th Annual Youth Gala on Saturday, October 15, 2005 at the Hilton Washington & Towers.
 
Popular entertainer and emcee at NIAF’s 30th Anniversary Award Gala, Tony Danza and NIAF Chairman Dr. A. Kenneth Ciongoli congratulate General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, upon receiving the NIAF Special Achievement Award for Military Service on Saturday, October 15, 2005, at the Hilton Washington & Towers.





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