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2009 Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards

March 19th, 2009



Today in the historic Great Hall on Ellis Island five esteemed individuals were honored by The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. for their contributions to the American Tapestry.

The 8th Annual Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards, given annually to a select number of Port of New York and Ellis Island immigrants or their descendants, along with the B.C. Forbes Peopling of America Award were presented by Stephen A. Briganti, President and CEO of the Foundation, and Thomas L. Strickland, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, in an 11:00 a.m. ceremony hosted by actress Candice Bergen at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. The 2009 honorees are:

SPORTS — Joe Namath — Born in Beaver Falls, PA, Mr. Namath received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama. The iconic quarterback led his New York Jets to a legendary upset in Super Bowl III. The game’s first true media superstar was elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985. His father Janos (John) immigrated to America from Hungary in 1920. His mother, Rose Juhasz, born in America, was also the daughter of Hungarian immigrants.

SCIENCE/MEDICINE — Dr. Eric R. Kandel — Awarded the 2000 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his contribution to understanding the molecular basis of memory storage. Currently University Professor at Columbia, Fred Kavli Professor and Director, Kavli Institute for Brain Science and Senior Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dr. Kandel came to America from Vienna, Austria as a child in 1939.

ENTERTAINMENT — Jerry Seinfeld — The Brooklyn-born comedian’s first successful spot on The Tonight Show launched his career. He teamed up with Larry David in 1989 to create and star in the celebrated TV series Seinfeld which ran for nine seasons on NBC and is still shown in syndication. Mr. Seinfeld is currently executive producing the real life comedy, The Marriage Ref, for NBC. His maternal grandparents emigrated from Syria.

B.C. FORBES PEOPLING OF AMERICA AWARD — This Award honors immigrants who arrived after the Ellis era or through another port. Gloria and Emilio Estefan both fled Cuba with their respective families after the rise of Fidel Castro. They met in a local Miami band in 1975 and the rest is history. Gloria is a world-renowned recording artist, and Emilio one of America’s most successful music and television producers. The Estefans support many charities including their Gloria Estefan Foundation dedicated to childhood illnesses, paralysis research and animals. Emilio wrote and produced Gloria’s latest chart topping album 90 Millas, a tribute to their native Cuba.

This year’s event initiated the B.C. Forbes Peopling of America Award, sponsored by the Forbes Family in honor of family patriarch B.C. “Bertie” Forbes, who immigrated to America from Scotland in 1904.

The Ellis Island honorees received a framed copy of the original ship’s passenger manifest documenting the arrival of their family in America. The Foundation’s database of ship’s passenger arrivals available at the American Family Immigration History Center® at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and online at ( documents the arrival records of the more than 25 million immigrants, travelers and crew members who came through America’s Golden Door and the Port of New York from 1892-1924. Forty percent of Americans have family immigration records in this database.

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