The Indian American Kerala Cultural and Civic Center honored six Indian American Malayalees for their outstanding achievements and contributions to the larger society during the Kerala Center’s 23rd Annual Awards Banquet on Saturday, November 7th, 2015 at World’s Fair Marina in Flushing, Queens, New York.
This year’s honorees included, Dr. Navin Manjooran, Global Director (Energy) for Siemens AG and responsible for the entire Siemens energy portfolio in Engineering; Dr. Sasi K. Pillay, Chief Information Officer, University Wisconsin System, Madison, WI and Former NASA CTO for IT and CIO, NASA Glenn Research Center for Information Technology; Dr. Prem Soman, Director of Nuclear Cardiology and Associate Professor of Medicine, and Clinical and Translation Science at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for Medicine; Dr. George M. Kakkanatt, a former US Air Force Captain, professional psychotherapist and Managing Director and Chief Editor of Azchavattom Malayalam News weekly for Journalism and Community Service; Ms. Leela Maret, Scientist at New York City’s Environmental Protection for Community Service; and Captain Jophiel Philips, Judge Advocate General in the U.S. Air Force for Service to the Nation.
The awardees were selected by a committee consisting of four members headed by Kerala Center Board Member and Trustee Dr. Thomas Abraham. While introducing the awardees to the audience, Dr. Abraham said, “Every year we invite nominations and the committee has to make a unanimous choice for a candidate in a category to be selected to receive the award and this year is no different from previous years in terms of their achievements.”
In his keynote address, chief guest, Ambassador Dnyaneshwar Mulay, Consul General of India in New York, congratulated the Non Resident Keralite community in the US and around the world. “The bridge you have built by contributing to the strengthening of the Indo-US relationship is outstanding. I thank you for making the Indo-US Nuclear deal a reality. The relationship needs to go on. And there are several more bridges to be built. And you are the cement between the two great democracies,” that binds us together, he said. After being highly successful in almost every area, he challenged them to take an active role in the political process of the nation.
Dr. Navin Manjooran was be honored for his outstanding contributions in Engineering. Dr. Manjooran is the Global Director (Energy) for Siemens AG and is responsible for the entire Siemens energy portfolio. He also serves as an engineering professor at Virginia Tech. Navin graduated with a BE degree from NIT (Warangal), a MS from University of Florida (Gainesville, USA), Ph.D. from Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, USA), all with the highest honors and later on completed MBA from University of Chicago. Navin has 11 patents/ disclosures, 9 books, 37 publications and 51 presentations at national/international conferences. He has received several awards including TMS Young Leader, ASM International Leadership Award and Siemens Performance Award. Navin is a Member of the US Technology Advisory Board and Virginia Tech Univ. Board and the Board of Trustees of Univ. of Chicago.
Dr. Sasi K. Pillay was recognized for Outstanding Contribution in Information Technology. Dr. Pillay serves as the CIO of the University of Wisconsin System comprising 26 campuses where he has started several initiatives such as the Innovation Program and Business Intelligence, while managing a portfolio of shared services totaling $45million. In his prior roles at NASA, Dr. Pillay oversaw the IT innovation program consisting of global crowd sourcing and the launch of the innovation program which have won several national awards. He is the recipient of the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, NASA Exceptional Service Medal and the U.S. President’s Rank Award as a Meritorious Executive.
Dr. Prem Soman was honored for his contributions ion the field of Medicine. Dr. Soman MD, PhD, FRCP (UK), FACC is Director of Nuclear Cardiology, and Associate Professor of Medicine, and Clinical and Translation Science at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He is internationally recognized for his research contributions to the field of nuclear cardiology, with more than 100 publications and text book chapters. He has coauthored national guidelines on imaging and Appropriate Use Criteria. Dr. Soman is the current chair of the Imaging Council of the American College of Cardiology, Vice-President elect of the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology, and Immediate Past President of the Cardiovascular Council of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging.
Dr. George M. Kakkanatt was recognized in Journalism and for Community Service. Dr. Kakkanatt, a former US Air Force Captain is a professional psychotherapist. George is one of the founding members and former Global General Secretary of the World Malayalee Council (WMC), Green Kerala Foundation, and ALTIUS youth program. He is the President of the South Indian US Chamber of Commerce and also the President of the Houston Chapter of India Press Club of NA. George is the Managing Director and Editor in Chief of Azchavattom Malayalam News weekly published from Houston. George received several awards for his creative commitment to serve the global community.
Leela Maret was honored for her community services. Ms. Maret has been doing superb job as a volunteer in many community organization for the last three decades. Working as a scientist for last 29 years at New York City’s Environmental Protection, Leela is also adjunct lecturer in Bronx Community College. Leela serves as Recording Secretary of Local Employees Union 375 for the city, delegate for Central Labor Council, FOKANA National Women’s Forum Chair, Vice President of South Asians for Labor and Vice President of INOC. She had served as the President of Kerala Samajam and in other capacities of several other organizations including FOKANA. She has helped to organize Asian Heritage, Diwali function at New York City Hall, Kerala Piravi and other events in Indian Consulate, actively participated in Voter Registration, taught Malayalam at St. John’s University, and took part in the testimony of redistricting of Richmond Hill to unite South Asians. She is the recipient of various Community awards such as NYC Comptroller’s Community Service award, and two Pravasi awards.
Captain Jophiel Philips was honored for his services to the Nation. Capt. Philips was born in Queens, New York, were he developed a passion for football leading him to earn a football scholarship at St. Francis Prep High School. He went on to play four years of college football, where he started at Wide Receiver. After coaching football at the University level, Capt Philips went to law school where he won numerous academic awards and was chosen to give the commencement speech. Capt Philips is a Judge Advocate General in the U.S. Air Force. During his recent deployment, he was awarded the Purple Heart, as well as the Bronze Star, for his actions in protecting service members from harm, after an insurgent attack- where eight of his comrades died.
In his welcome address, Thampi Thalappillil, President of the Kerala Center, said, “The Kerala Center annual gala awards are rated as the most prestigious award given from among the Malayalee community in North America. Recipients are chosen after a rigorous search and scrutiny. It has been our endeavor to honor the best, and those who are and can be role models to the rest of the community.”
E M Stephen, a founding member and the Executive Director of the Center, in his vote of thanks, said, “From a modest beginning 23years ago, the Center has come a long way to play a vital role in the life of the NRI community in the United States.” He praised the six honorees for “showing the way” to the rest of the community, and the awards committee for their commitment to the task assigned to them.
Elegant and enchanting performances by a group of talented young Indian Americans trained by Mayura School of Arts from m New Jersey, dressed in colorful Indian traditional attire, dancing to the tune of Bollywood music won the hearts and minds all present at the Banquet Hall.
Earlier during the day, a day-long Indian American Entrepreneurs Meet and Technology Summit for Kerala III, with participants consisting of Malayalee academics, scientists, technologists, engineers, entrepreneurs and businessmen was held at the Kerala Center, Elmont, New York. Ms. Daisy Babeendran eloquently emceed the awards ceremony.
Over the past two decades, The Kerala Center has become a focal point for Indian Americans, coordinating programs, activities, and services to the members and groups of the community in the New York region. The Center has outgrown its initial objectives for which it was founded, and has become a facility that serves the various needs of the larger Indian American community.