News & Events





Not a Member?
Become One Now!

Sign up today for a free WebPass membership

Sons of Italy Foundation® Honors Actor Mantegna, AIDS Researcher Gallo and Union Leader Maddaloni

Press Contact: Diane Crespy, 202-547-8115

For Immediate Release:

WASHINGTON, June 4, 2002 – The achievements of actor Joe Mantegna, scientist Robert Gallo, M.D., and labor leader Martin J. Maddaloni were recognized by the Sons of Italy Foundation® (SIF), a leading Italian American philanthropic organization, during its annual Gala held May 22 in Washington, D.C.

The foundation also awarded 11 scholarships worth nearly $100,000 during its 14th annual National Education & Leadership Awards (NELA) Gala at the National Building Museum, an historic landmark in the nation's capital.

Acclaimed stage, screen and television actor Joe Mantegna, who portrayed a U.S. Supreme Court justice on the recent television series, "First Monday," received the Sons of Italy Foundation® Excellence in Media award. It was the first time in the Sons of Italy®'s nearly 100-year history that this award was conferred.

Mantegna said he insisted that his character on "First Monday" be Italian American to underscore that people of Italian heritage are noteworthy contributors to society. "Today I went to the Vietnam Memorial," he told the gala guests. "And I saw names like Esposito, Nunzio, and Morello up there on the wall. There were many other Italian names and I realized it was also to honor their sacrifice that my character on "First Monday" should be named ‘Novelli'."

Robert Gallo, director of the Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute in Baltimore, received the SIF 2002 NELA award for his work in cancer and AIDS research. Gallo is the co-discoverer of the retrovirus that causes AIDS.

In his remarks, Gallo paid particular homage to the 11 Sons of Italy® scholarship winners, who were present. "I have received many awards in my career," he said, "but it is a special honor to share this evening's recognition with these students whose talents and accomplishments make me feel spectacularly insignificant."

Martin Maddaloni, general president of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices, was honored with the SIF Humanitarian Award for his initiatives to benefit workers. Maddaloni has pioneered new policies and practices that have expanded educational programs, such as a college-degree program and training for union members. He also has helped raise millions of dollars for children's causes.

Maddaloni, who worked his way up through his union's ranks, beginning as a young apprentice 30 years ago, seemed particularly moved by the award ceremony. "I have such respect for the Sons of Italy® and this occasion, which celebrates education. Growing up in an Italian family I learned first-hand how important schooling is."

The 11 students who received Sons of Italy® scholarships came from all over the U.S. They will attend such Ivy League universities as Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Stanford to study mathematics, science, engineering, and nursing, among other subjects. All are student leaders, as well as musicians, athletes, and community volunteers, who have earned outstanding grade point averages and other academic honors.

For the second consecutive year, the evening's emcee was television journalist Sam Donaldson. "I must be Italian somewhere in my family history," he laughingly told the 600 guests at the black–tie gala.

Earlier, Gov. Tom Ridge, director of the Office of Homeland Security, addressed the gathering. In his remarks, Gov. Ridge commended the Sons of Italy Foundation® for its long history of philanthropy. "You have truly earned the accolades that so many send your way," he said. He praised the contributions the evening's honorees have made to the arts and sciences as well as to the construction crafts that literally helped build America.

Gov. Ridge made particular mention of Marine Sgt. John Basilone, who died at Iwo Jima, and was the only enlisted Marine in World War II to receive both the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross. "He is one of the hundreds of thousands of Italian Americans who have fought for this country," Ridge said. "I'm told that drill instructors at Camp Pendleton …uphold him [to young recruits] as an example of honor, courage and commitment."

The Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, president of Catholic University of America, offered the benediction.

The evening's entertainment included a selection of songs and arias by tenor Michael Amante and baritone Nemeh Azzam; a piano performance by Dimitri Nazarenko; and a closing Salute to America, narrated by Joe Mantegna. It ended with an intricate light show and the dropping of two 30-foot American flags, which received a standing ovation from the gala guests.

Among the speakers were SIF Chairman Robert Messa and SIF President Paul Polo, who presented the awards; and gala chairman, Robert Corrao, chairman and CEO of Sports Impact, Inc.

Attending from the U.S. Congress were Representatives Peter King, John LaFalce, Carolyn McCarthy, Jack Quinn, and U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman.

Other guests included: Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos; White House Congressional Liaison Nick Calio; Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe; Italy's ambassador, Ferdinando Salleo and members of his staff; AFL-CIO President John Sweeney; and executives from leading American and foreign corporations.

The SIF is the philanthropic arm of the Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA), the largest and oldest national organization for people of Italian heritage in the country. Over the years, the SIF has contributed more than $77 million to medical research, disaster relief, and education. The NELA Gala proceeds fund these philanthropic programs.

OSIA was founded in 1905 and has 575,000 members and supporters along with a grass roots network of more than 700 chapters across the nation.