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Past Newsmakers

Spring 2009 Newsmakers

Louie Bellson, the legendary drummer, died Feb. 14 at age 84 in California of complications from a hip fracture. Born Luigi Balassoni to Italian immigrants in Illinois, he had a long career playing with Duke Ellington, Louie Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Tony Bennett among many others. He wrote more than 1,000 compositions and 12 books on percussion. He married Pearl Bailey and managed her career until her death in 1990. In 2007, he received a Living Jazz Legends Award from the Kennedy Center and was still touring last fall.

Robert Gallucci is the new president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in Chicago, the premier philanthropic organization. Gallucci, 63, has been dean of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service since 1996. Before that he was a diplomat/negotiator in Asia and the Middle East. He begins his five-year term in June.

Maria Mazziotti Gillan, poet, professor and author, was honored by the American Book Awards in 2008 for her collection of poems, All That Lies Between Us, devoted to the Italian American experience. Widely published and often honored, she founded and directs the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in Paterson, NJ, and teaches at Binghamton University-State University of New York.

Dana Gioia, immediate past chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, received a 2008 Presidential Citizens Medal by Pres. George W. Bush Nov. 17 for promoting the arts. A poet, critic and former businessman, Gioia led the NEA from 2003 to 2008.

Joel N.H. Stern, Ph.D., a biochemist/immunologist at Harvard University, is investigating new drugs to treat Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and a skin disease called Pemphigus Vulgaris. One of the drugs he discovered to treat MS is currently in clinical trials. His great grandparents came from Abruzzo, Naples and Salerno and settled in the Bronx, New York.