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2003 Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards

April 10th, 2003



Today in the historic Great Hall, five esteemed individuals who trace their family roots through the Golden Door of Ellis Island, were honored by The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation for their contributions to the American Experience.

The 2003 Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards were presented by the Foundation’s Founding Chairman, Lee Iacocca in a ceremony hosted by Frank Gifford. Tributes were paid to the group of accomplished honorees whose diverse backgrounds share the common thread of an Ellis Island heritage.

The awards were given in the fields of:

Entertainment: to Bob Hope, one of the most famous Ellis Island immigrants who arrived as a very young child in America at Ellis Island in 1908.

Medicine & Science: to Dr. Anthony Fauci - a pioneering AIDS researcher and scientific leader who serves as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH, and a grandson of Ellis Island immigrants.

Performing Arts: to Cicely Tyson, star of stage, screen and television, whose family immigrated through Ellis Island from St. Kitts and Nevis, British West Indies.

Sports: to Yogi Berra, beloved baseball legend whose Italian parents came through Ellis Island.

Government Service: to Abie Abraham (Master Sergeant, United States Army, Retired) son of Ellis Island immigrants, whose heroic service in World War II was profiled in the best-selling book, Ghost Soldiers.

The honorees were presented with a framed copy of the original ship’s passenger manifest documenting the arrival of their family in America, obtained from the database of the American Family Immigration History Center at Ellis Island and online at

The Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards were instituted in 2001 to mark the first annual Ellis Island Family History Day and to celebrate Ellis Island as the Golden Door to America for the 17 million immigrants who first set foot on American soil there. Annually a select number of Ellis Island immigrants or their descendants are chosen to be honored.

In his closing remarks Lee Iacocca stated, “Ellis Island is a landmark that is half physical building, and half an emotional marker – a doorway to our past.” In congratulating the honorees he added, “How wonderful to come from this immigrant stock, rooted in dreams, and boldness, and endurance. It is a pedigree to be proud of.”

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