The Sons of Italy Foundation®'s 2010 NELA Gala was a celebration of Italian American culture and achievement. Since its founding in 1959, the Sons of Italy Foundation® (SIF) has given more than $110 million to medical research, disaster relief, cultural preservation and other special projects as well as $50 million to scholarships.
President Bill Clinton is greeted by legendary producer Quincy Jones as he accepts the Sons of Italy® Lifetime Achievement Award for Public Service.
Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq, presents the Special Award for Courage and Patriotism to his son, Cpt. Anthony Odierno, who was severely wounded in Iraq in 2004.
Lewis Merletti (center), retired director of the U.S. Secret Service and current Senior Vice President of the Cleveland Browns, accepts the National Education & Leadership Award from Hon. Arthur Gajarsa (left), judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and Robert Scardelletti, International President of the Transportation Communications Union-IAM, both 2009 Sons of Italy Foundation® honorees.
Hon. Giorgio Napolitano (left), president of the Republic of Italy, and Italy's Ambassador to the United States Giulio Terzi (center) are welcomed to the NELA Gala by Sons of Italy® National President Joseph DiTrapani.
Sons of Italy® national scholarship recipient Fiona Corbisiero Love is presented to the NELA Gala audience by Dr. Robert Gallo (left), director of the Institute of Human Virology, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, both previous Sons of Italy Foundation® honorees.
The nearly 900 Gala guests included (front): Frances Visco (left), previous Sons of Italy Foundation® honoree and president of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, Harry Johns (center), president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association, and Michael Rienzi (right), president of the Rienzi Foundation for Cochlear Implant Research. The three represent charities whose work the Sons of Italy Foundation® has supported.
Bob Johnson (left), BET founder and RJL Companies founder and chairman, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Franco Nuschese, Cafe Milano proprietor and president of Georgetown Entertainment Group
President Bill Clinton and Sons of Italy Foundation® National Executive Director & CEO Philip R. Piccigallo, Ph.D.
Rep. Pat Tiberi (OH), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Sons of Italy® National President Joseph DiTrapani (right)
The Washington Metropolitan Police Department Ceremonial Honor Guard presents the colors as Sons of Italy® California State President Maria Fassio Pignati sings the national anthem.
Gen. Raymond Odierno and Sons of Italy Foundation® National Executive Director & CEO Philip R. Piccigallo, Ph.D.
President Napolitano addresses the Gala audience and thanked the Sons of Italy® for its "great financial and moral support provided Abruzzi" following the earthquake that devastated L'Aquila in April 2009.
In accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award for Public Service, President Clinton asks the audience to focus on their common humanity rather than their differences.
Watch President Clinton's full address:
Cpt. Anthony Odierno (U.S. Army, Ret.), board director for the Wounded Warrior Project, accepted the Special Award for Courage and Patriotism, saying, "Courage and patriotism sometimes go unrecognized. They are the actions of ordinary people in extraordinary situations."
Lewis Merletti, a veteran of the Army 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam told NELA guests, "Whenever I had a difficult decision to make, I would remember an inscription I saw at the Naval Academy in Annapolis: 'Not for self but for country.' That is how I've tried to live my life because I think each of us has a duty of be committed to this country."
President Clinton is presented the Lalique Crystal Lion by Order Sons of Italy in America® National President Joseph DiTrapani (left) and Sons of Italy Foundation® President Vincent Sarno.
Gen. Raymond Odierno spoke of Sgt. John Basilone, the only enlisted man to earn both the Navy Cross and the Congressional Medal of Honor during World War II. He called the late Marine "a shining example of what Italian Americans have given this country." Basilone's niece, Diane Hawkins, was in attendance at the NELA Gala.
Charles Evans Foundation President Linda J. Munson (maiden name Conserva) presents the inaugural Charles Evans Scholarship to Joseph Sciavone. The scholarship was made possible by an endowment from the Charles Evans Foundation, through the vision of Ms. Munson.
Charles Evans, a successful businessman, veteran, and philanthropist, co-founded fashion house Evan-Picone and was executive producer of the Academy Award-winning film Tootsie. Mr. Evans crusaded for causes close to his heart, namely fire detection safety and Alzheimer's disease research, for which he served as National Director of the Alzheimer's Association
View the Commemorative Gala Journal