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Joe Torre Sen. George J. Mitchell Martina Navratilova Lee A. Iacocca
Joe Torre Sen. George Mitchell Martina Navratilova Lee A. Iacocca

On April 13, 2011 in the historic Great Hall on Ellis Island four esteemed individuals were honored by The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. for the contributions they have made to the “American Dream.” Celebrating their 10th year, the Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards were hosted by Inside Edition’s Deborah Norville in an 11:00 a.m. ceremony at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. This year’s Awards featured a salute to the Statue of Liberty on her 125th anniversary and the 25 years since her historic restoration, an effort headed up by Lee Iacocca when asked by President Reagan to raise funds to restore and preserve the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island for their centennials.

The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation presents the Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards to celebrate the Golden Door to America for the 17 million immigrants who came to this country through the Port of New York and Ellis Island. The B.C. Forbes Peopling of America® Award, sponsored by the Forbes Family, honors the lives of immigrants who arrived at another time or through another port of entry. Each year, a select number of these immigrants or their descendants are chosen through a process that is guided by an Awards Committee of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.

The 2011 Ellis Island Family Heritage Award recipients are:

Joe Torre
The Brooklyn-born baseball manager was recently named MLB’s Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations. He concluded his third and final season as manager of the LA Dodgers in 2010, having led them to the National League Championship Series in 2008 and 2009. He managed the New York Yankees for 12 seasons, leading them to World Series Championships in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. His “Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation” educates and supports teens and families to end the cycle of abuse at home, and “Margaret’s Place” provides teens a safe space to meet with peers and counselors experienced in domestic violence issues. His mother Margaret Rofrano emigrated from Salerno, Italy through Ellis Island in 1911.

Sen. George J. Mitchell
A native of Waterville, Maine, he was appointed its U.S. Senator in 1980, and held the post of Senate Majority Leader from 1989 until his retirement in 1995. That same year, he served as President’s Clinton’s special representative to Northern Ireland, overseeing peace negotiations which ended decades of conflict. In 2009, President Obama appointed him Special Envoy for Middle East Peace. His integrity and reputation for impartiality has led to his being asked to oversee committees assuring the accountability of many high-profile organizations including the Olympic Games, the American Red Cross Liberty Disaster Relief Fund and Major League Baseball. His mother Mintaha Saad arrived from Lebanon in 1920 through Ellis Island.

Martina Navratilova
Born in Prague, in communist Czechoslovakia in 1956, she defected at the U.S. Open in 1975 at the age of 18. In 1978, she became the world’s best player, dominating the sport for years. She has won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 41 Grand Slam doubles titles and has been named one of the “Top 40 Athletes of All-time” by Sports Illustrated. One of the first openly gay sports figures, she continues to blaze a trail for LGBT visibility and equality through her philanthropic work, including the Rainbow Endowment. She received her U.S. citizenship in 1981 and continues to play exhibition matches, author books on fitness and is an in-demand tennis commentator.

Lee A. Iacocca
As Founding Chairman of The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, he spearheaded the historic restoration of these national treasures. He spent over 40 years in the automotive industry, most notably as the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of the Chrysler Corporation. At Chrysler he introduced the successful “Minivan” platform and became one of the most famous business men of the era after rescuing the company from bankruptcy in 1979. During his previous tenure at Ford, he was credited with the creation of the Mustang. In 1984, he founded The Iacocca Foundation, dedicated to educational projects and diabetes research. A bestselling author, his Iacocca: An Autobiography made him a cultural icon. His father Nicola came through Ellis Island from San Marco in 1910, and again in 1921 as a citizen bringing his Italian bride, Antoinetta.

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