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Leaders in public service, business, labor, and philanthropy received awards from the Sons of Italy Foundation (SIF), the philanthropic arm of the Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSDIA), the nation’s largest and oldest organization for people of Italian heritage.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice; Airline for America President & CEO Nicholas E. Calio; The Mattone Group Chairman & CEO Joseph M. Mattone, Sr.; Philanthropist and Community Leader Mary Ann Pessolano Mattone, RN/MPH; and National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi were honored on May 26 at the SIF’s 28th Annual National Education & Leadership Award (NELA) Gala hosted at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Condoleezza Rice received the 2016 SIF Lifetime Achievement Award for Public Service for her commitment to country and education. Dr. Rice was the 66th U.S. Secretary of State—the first African-American woman to hold that position—and currently teaches at Stanford University, where she served as provost from 1993 to 1999. President George W. Bush and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell introduced Dr. Rice via video.
The SIF Lifetime Achievement Award for Public Service is presented annually to a person who is not of Italian heritage. The award and the recipient reflect the significance of working together to build a better global community. Past recipients include former Secretaries of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Gen. Colin Powell; U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden; and U.S. Senator Jack Reed. “You, the sons and daughters of Italians who believed (they) could come here and do great things, embody what is so great about America, which is that ‘We the People’ is an inclusive concept,” Dr. Rice said in her speech. “You honor the heritage of your ancestors who came here and made this country what it is because they believed in the American dream.”
Nicholas E. Calio received the 2016 SIF Award for Excellence in Business. Mr. Calio is President and CEO of Airlines for America (A4A), the trade association for the country’s leading passenger and cargo airlines, whose members and affiliates transport more than 90 percent of all U.S. airline passenger and cargo traffic. In accepting the award, Mr. Calio recognized those who sacrificed for him, particularly his parents, saying that they “struggled to make ends meet, but they tried to make sure we could take advantage of every opportunity. To that end, my mother, who was such a huge influence on my life, went to work full-time in the 1950s.”
Joseph M. Mattone, Sr. and Mary Ann Pessolano Mattone, RN/MPH were co-recipients of the night’s highest honor—the 2016 SIF National Education & Leadership Award (NELA). Mr. Mattone is Chairman and President of The Mattone Group—a development, construction and property management company in Queens, New York. He also serves as a senior partner in law firm Mattone, Mattone, Mattone, LLP. Mr. Mattone shared an anecdote about the adversity his grandfather faced, ending it by saying that “you can have people throw rocks at you, and they can say bad things about you … it’s organizations like (OSDIA) that give you the courage to stand your ground.”
Mrs. Mattone is a registered nurse with a Master’s in public health. She is also a noted philanthropist and community leader who has raised funds for many causes, such as the New York Mentoring Program and L’Aquila earthquake relief. She praised the line of strong women from which she came, saying that her maternal grandmother “would go to bed without enough food because she wanted the children to eat. But they were never poor of spirit. They shared everything.”
Paul Rinaldi received the2016 SIF Humanitarian Award. Mr. Rinaldi is in his third term as president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), the first person to have been elected for three terms in the union. He credited such success to his upbringing, saying that “my mother and father instilled the workhorse mentality in me and my brother to understand that good enough is never acceptable and to always strive for greatness.”
In addition to honoring these distinguished individuals, the SIF awarded 11 highly selective scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students of Italian descent for exemplary academic performance, school leadership, and community service.
For the 15th straight year, actor Joe Mantegna served as the Master of Ceremonies of the NELA Gala. Among the guests were:
Dozens of wounded servicemen and women, veterans, and their families were special guests of the SIF and were recognized at the NELA Gala for their service to the country. Actor Gary Sinise spoke on behalf of The Gary Sinise Foundation, an organization that supports military veterans. “I want to thank (the SIF) for the generous donation to The Gary Sinise Foundation. We’re going to do some good things with that money.” Earlier this year, the SIF donated $10,000 to his foundation.
Nearly 900 guests come to the annual NELA Gala, the SIF’s leading fundraising and public affairs event. Past attendees have included U.S. presidents, members of Congress and the Cabinet, and foreign diplomats. Previous SIF honorees include President Bill Clinton; President George W. Bush; Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano; U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia; AIDS researcher Robert Gallo; late Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro; former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace, USMC (Ret.); entertainers Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Annette Funicello, Joe Mantegna, and Connie Stevens; and racing legend Mario Andretti.
The Sons of Italy Foundation® has contributed nearly $165 million to scholarships, medical research, disaster relief efforts, cultural projects, veterans’ causes and other special projects. The proceeds from the NELA Gala help fund these philanthropic programs.
Established in 1905, the Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA) has hundreds of thousands of family members located in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. OSIA works at the community, national and international levels to promote the heritage and culture of an estimated 26 million Italian Americans, the nation's fifth largest ethnic group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. To learn more, visit www.osia.org
We are proud to spotlight the many businesses who support our efforts, and many of these companies offer perks and discounts to our members!