On Saturday, May 10th, 2014, jewelry designer and philanthropist Joan Hornig, five time Heavyweight Champion of the World Evander Holyfield, hit reality series “So You Think You Can Dance” creator & celebrity judge Nigel Lythgoe, “FOX Business” Network Anchor and Global Markets Editor Maria Bartiromo, U.S. Representative Ed Royce, Fashion Designer Elie Tahari, Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr. Commander – U.S. Pacific Fleet, Secretary of State Senior Advisor and Former United States Ambassador to Italy David Thorne, National Guard Bureau Chief, General Frank J. Grass, USA, TV host and humanitarian Yue-Sai Kan, Grucci Fireworks, Felix Grucci, Tim Zagat, Co-Founder, Co-Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Zagat Survey and more than 100 other distinguished Americans gathered to receive the Ellis Island Medals of Honor.
Following 20 years as a Wall Street professional, in 2003, jewelry designer Joan Hornig launched a jewelry collection with a distinct concept that has impacted the way people select jewelry in better stores throughout America. Her idea was to design statement pieces that enhance a woman’s beauty by making her feel as beautiful as she looks. Joan donates 100 percent of her profits 100 percent of the time to the charity of the customer’s choice. This unique business model enables women of all ages, means, and taste to join Joan in combining passion for beauty, individuality and giving back. To date, the Joan B. Hornig Foundation has donated to more than 800 worthy initiatives around the world addressing issues such as education, medical research, social services, the arts, animal rights, and environmental protection. Her unique creations and her mantra “Philanthropy is beautiful” have made her a favorite of the young socially conscious Hollywood set including such fashion trend-setters as Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Meg Ryan, Elizabeth Moss, Eva Mendes, Zoe Saldana, Hayden Panettierre, Elizabeth Olsen and Oscar Golden Girl Lupita Nyong’o.
In keeping with her own philosophy of giving back, Ms. Hornig created a special collection of pendant, pin and cufflinks based on the torch held by The Statue of Liberty to support the efforts of NECO in preserving Ellis Island. The exquisite pieces are available at www.joanhornig.com and the profits from your purchase will be donated to NECO’s campaign.
British-born Nigel Lythgoe received the International Medal for his charitable and educational efforts on behalf of the arts. In an impassioned speech, Lythgoe reminded his fellow recipients and the nearly 900 invited guests that the arts are a critical part of a child’s education and encouraged their support of all school-based creative activities which provide kids with alternatives to guns and idleness.
Yue-Sai Kan, known as ‘China’s Oprah,’ spoke eloquently about how America was the only country she felt embraced her Chinese heritage and fully accepted her into American culture.
Commissioner Joshua R. Laird of the National Parks of New York Harbor, which includes Liberty and Ellis Islands, represented the National Parks Service and thanked NECO in his remarks for their commitment to Ellis Island’s restoration and recent gift of a restored elevator that had been severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
The awards are presented by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO) and followed by a Gala Dinner in the historic Great Hall. Emmy-winning WPIX-11 Senior Correspondent Marvin Scott and renowned entertainer Tom Dreesen served as the Masters of Ceremony. Ms. Bartiromo shared a very personal story about growing up in Brooklyn, New York and her grandparents’ journey to America to pursue the promise of great opportunity and freedom. Evander Holyfield ended the ceremony with a heartfelt tribute to his mother, crediting her for his strong moral values and determination.
According to Nasser J. Kazeminy, Chairman of NECO, “NECO is about investing in the power of caring, where people from all cultures and walks of life stand together arm in arm to make a real difference in our world through shared compassion and philanthropy. Each of these honorees represent traits that I admire in great Americans: the vision of a better world for all; the tenacity to overcome great adversity; the leadership and imagination to blaze their own trail. And most importantly, they have the humility and self-reflection to appreciate the amazing opportunities the America has given them. They inspire me; and we honor them so they can inspire others as well.”
The Ellis Island Medals of Honor embody the spirit of America in their celebration of patriotism, tolerance, brotherhood and diversity. The Awards recognize individuals who have made it their mission to share with those less fortunate their wealth of knowledge, indomitable courage, boundless compassion, unique talents and selfless generosity; all while maintaining the traditions of their ethnic heritage as they uphold the ideals and spirit of America.
NECO remains dedicated to the maintenance and restoration of America’s greatest symbol of its immigrant history, Ellis Island. Since the Medal was founded in 1986, they have honored such distinguished and diverse Americans including: six Presidents of the United States; Nobel Prize recipient Elie Wiesel, Generals Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell, Hon. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sen. John McCain, Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra, Barbara Walters, Mike Wallace, Quincy Jones, Mia Farrow, just to name a few – all who have distinguished themselves through their significant contributions to this country. The Ellis Island Medal of Honor ranks among the nation’s most prestigious awards. The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have officially recognized the Ellis Island Medals of Honor, and each year the recipients are listed in the Congressional Record. To date, more than 1,800 American citizens have received Ellis Island Medals of Honor. As always, the majestic evening was capped off with a spectacular fireworks display provided by Fireworks by Grucci over the Statue of Liberty as the ferries headed back to Battery Park.