NIAF Mourns Passing of NIAF Chairman A. Kenneth Ciongoli


Contact:   Elissa Ruffino (NIAF) 202/939-3106 or



(Washington, DC – October 29, 2008) Dr. A. Kenneth Ciongoli, chairman of the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), passed away October 28, 2008, at his home in Burlington, Vt., after battling cancer for more than a year. He was 65 years old.

“NIAF has lost a great leader, the world has a lost a great man,” John A. DePasquale, a member of the NIAF Board of Directors said.

For the past 18 years, Ciongoli served on the NIAF Board of Directors, leading the organization as Chairman since 2005. He joined the Foundation’s board in 1990 and held a variety of leadership positions.

Dr. A. Kenneth Ciongoli

A prominent neurologist, Ciongoli’s dual commitment to heritage and science defined his career. In 1980, he was appointed senior medical officer of the United States Olympic Team for the Lake Placid, New York games. More than 25 years later he returned to the Olympics in 2006 as part of a delegation of Italian-American leaders appointed by President George W. Bush to represent the United States in Torino, Italy.

The many projects that he championed, including NIAF’s annual Roman Roundtable conferences in Italy, the establishment of the Gay Talese Writers Series and his support of education through “NIAF Visits the Ivies,” a program examining why Italian Americans are under-represented at Ivy League institutions, will serve as his legacy.

Ciongoli graduated with honors from St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia, Penn., and was the first member of his family to attend college. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1964 and from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1968. He completed a general internship in Detroit, Mich., followed by a year of internal medicine at the University of Vermont. During his subsequent residency at the University of Vermont, he was the first neurology resident to be awarded the title of chief resident and began researching multiple sclerosis. He held a series of research and teaching posts at institutions such as Walter Reed Army hospital in Washington, D.C., the Wistar Institute at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. In 1974, Ciongoli was the first non-Danish citizen to be awarded a Danish government fellowship in medicine. His research led to the publication of more than 30 articles and abstracts on multiple sclerosis.

Ciongoli joined the faculty of the University of Vermont Medical School in 1975 and co-founded the Neurological Associates of Vermont in 1977. He was appointed Physician Commissioner of the State of Vermont by three different governors.

In addition to his work as a physician, Ciongoli was extremely active in cultural and philanthropic activities. He was a founding member of the Vermont Italian Cultural Association (VICA) and a member of The Mutuo Soccorso. In 1985 he began his involvement with the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), culminating in positions as President (1996-2000), Vice Chairman (2000-2004), and Chairman of the Board (2005 to the present).

Ciongoli was a dedicated voice against ethnic stereotyping in all forms and advocated the bi-partisan confirmation of qualified Italian-Americans to the cabinet and the United States Supreme Court. He led delegations of business leaders on annual missions to Italy, Argentina and Australia to foster cultural understanding, trade initiatives, and tourism between the United States, Italy and abroad.

With his friend, noted author Jay Parini, Ciongoli co-edited “Beyond the Godfather,” a series of essays by Italian-American authors and co-wrote “Passage to Liberty,” a book on the Italian-American immigrant experience. He also authored the yet-unpublished “Let Me In,” the autobiographical account of his journey from South Philadelphia to the Ivy League and back to his heritage.

In commemoration of his life and spirit, contributions can be made to The Dr. A. Kenneth Ciongoli Colloquium Endowment at the National Italian American Foundation. Visit

NIAF is a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., and dedicated to preserving the heritage of Italian Americans. Visit