Former U.S. Ambassador Peter F. Secchia Endows “NIAF Voyage of Discovery Program for the Second Time”

—$1.5 million gift by Michigan Philanthropist will double program in 2019—

Washington, D.C. (October 31, 2018) – The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) announced today that U.S. Ambassador Peter F. Secchia, who formerly served in Italy, has committed $1.5 million to endow the Ambassador Peter F. Secchia Voyage of Discovery Program, a first-time travel to Italy program for young Americans of Italian descent.

NIAF Board Chairperson Patricia de Stacy Harrison said, “Ambassador Secchia’s $1.5 million gift is an extraordinary contribution, and his second donation since he helped NIAF establish the program in the year 2000. It is also a reflection of the success of this program connecting young people to their Italian heritage and putting them on the path to a future of contribution to our civil society.”

Ambassador Secchia has had a longstanding relationship with NIAF. He served on the NIAF Board from 1994 to 2000 and wanted to serve longer, but the travel from Michigan to Washington, D.C., was difficult. In the mid-1990s, the ambassador was alarmed at the size of the NIAF Headquarters’ mortgage, so he paid it off. The NIAF Headquarters building is now named the Ambassador Peter F. Secchia Building in his honor.

In addition to his public service, the ambassador, a longtime resident of East Grand Rapids, Mich., is known for his philanthropic and charitable activities.

Ambassador Peter F. Secchia said, “For each of the past 18 years, I’ve read a selection of ‘thank you’ notes from program alumni that would make all Italian Americans tear up and evoke an emotional response from remembering their first Republic of Italy experience.”

The purpose of the program is to strengthen the Italian American identity by bonding young Italian Americans to the country, the beautiful music, food and culture of Italy; to help them gain an understanding of their heritage and a pride in preserving that heritage.

In 1999, Ambassador Secchia proposed that NIAF create a program to send 40 Italian American students, between the ages of 18 and 23, on their first trip to Italy. They could explore their heritage and experience the land of their ancestors. In 2000, NIAF, with the financial support of Ambassador Secchia, launched the Ambassador Peter F. Secchia “Gift of Discovery” Program.

The program is one of NIAF’s most important initiatives, having sent over 800 students on their first trip to Italy since the program’s beginning.

“With the Ambassador’s second generous gift, NIAF will be able to double the number of students accepted into the program for 2019,” said NIAF Program Director Gabriella Mileti.

The Ambassador Peter F. Secchia Voyage of Discovery Program takes place in NIAF’s Region of Honor, which is chosen annually and sends these college students on an all-expenses paid trip.

Mileti added, “The Voyage of Discovery uniquely immerses young Italian Americans into the culture of their ancestors, provides a transformative experience that shapes the students’ sense of identity for years to come.”

NIAF is now accepting applications for the 2019 Ambassador Peter F. Secchia Voyage of Discovery program. The deadline for applications is February 1, 2019. For additional information about the program, how to apply, and donation opportunities, contact Gabriella Mileti at or visit

The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to preserving, promoting and protecting the Italian American heritage and culture. To learn more about the Foundation and become a member, please visit

Natalie Wulderk
National Italian American Foundation