Five Persons of Indian Origin, including four from the United States, and one from Canada were among the 84 prominent immigrants who received the prestigious 2018 Ellis Island Medal of Honor at a ceremony in New York on May 12nd. The Medal has been officially recognized by Congress as one of the nation’s most prestigious awards; it is annually memorialized in the Congressional Record.
Software pioneer Vanu Bose, who was honored posthumously after succumbing to a sudden pulmonary embolism last year; Moon Express founder Naveen Jain; Ethan Allen chairman and Kashmiri activist Farooq Kathwari; and Sikh activist Bhai Sahiba Inderjit Kaur Khalsa, and Peter Dhillon, the ‘cranberry king’ of Canada, were the recipients of the International Ellis Island Medal.
According to reports, all the honorees and their guests were ferried to Ellis Island for the awards ceremony. Fireworks illuminated the night skies above the Statue of Liberty – the symbol of the American immigrant dream – in New York Harbor after the medals were presented.
“The Ellis Island Medals of Honor embody the spirit of America in their salute to tolerance, brotherhood, diversity and patriotism,” said the organization in a press statement. “Honorees may be native-born or naturalized, but most importantly, they are individuals who have made it their mission to share their wealth of knowledge, indomitable courage, boundless compassion, unique talents and selfless generosity with those less fortunate.”
According to the NECO website, “the Ellis Island Medals of Honor embody the spirit of America in their celebration of patriotism, tolerance, brotherhood and diversity. They 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. As always, NECO remains dedicated to the maintenance and restoration of America’s greatest symbol of its immigrant history, Ellis Island.”
Farooq Kathwari, the chairman, president and CEO of Ethan Allen, said, “It is an honor for me to receive this esteemed award. I am a proud American by choice, a citizen of a country that offers equality and freedom of expression. I consider myself very fortunate to have the opportunity to use what I have learned for the benefit of others.”
Kathwari is a member of the Board of Overseers of the International Rescue Committee, the advisory board of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Council on Foreign Relations, chairman emeritus of Refugees International, an advisory member of the New York Stock Exchange, co-chairman of the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council, a director of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University and a member of the International Advisory Council of the United States Institute of Peace.
Vanu Bose: Bose, who died unexpectedly at the age of 52 on Nov. 11, 2017, was a software pioneer best known for bringing mobile service to remote areas in the U.S., India, and Africa, among other regions. Bose was the son of Amar Bose, founder of the Bose Corporation, which pioneered high-quality audio.
Vanu Bose founded Vanu, using his research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The company’s technology enables multiple networks to operate on the same devices. Vanu, Inc. has also developed cellular antenna systems that require relatively small amounts of energy and can run on solar power. The reduction in power needed for these networks has allowed the firm to help build out networks in rural areas around the world, from India to Rwanda to Vermont, and to address what Bose called the “great need for communication” in those areas, noted MIT in an obituary for Bose last November. Last year, the company used its technology to help hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. “To be unconnected is to be left behind, and we don’t want anyone to be left behind,” said Bose, as noted on the company’s Web site.
Naveen Jain made history in 2016 when Moon Express, a for-profit venture, received approval to embark on the first commercial space mission beyond Earth’s orbit. Former President Barack Obama granted Jain rights to essentially mine the moon. “We are thrilled to have the support of the U.S. Congress allowing Moon Express to mine precious resources on the moon for the benefit of humanity,” said Jain in a press statement. “We applaud the leadership shown by the House in passing this pivotal legislation and look forward to President Obama signing the bill into law.”
Bhai Sahiba Inderjit Kaur Khalsa is known throughout the world as the Bhai Sahiba (chief minister) of Sikh Dharma. She is followed by more than 25 million Sikhs around the globe. Khalsa was born in India in 1935 and immigrated to the U.S. with her husband, the late Yogi Harbhajan Singh. She was given the title of Bhai Sahiba by the Sri Akal Takhat Sahib in 2004, the Jewel of the Nation in 2005, Ambassador of Peace in 2006, the Pride of India award in 2007, named the New Mexico Governor’s Representative to India in 2007, and the Jewel of the Punjab in 2017, according to her biography. She is the founder of the Miri Piri Academy, a boarding school in Amritsar. “Bibiji” – as she is commonly known – is also the founder of the organization Create Inner Peace and has authored numerous of books on Sikh education.
Peter Dhillon: Dhillon, the “cranberry king” of Canada, is the president and CEO of the Richberry Group, the largest Canadian supplier of cranberries to Ocean Spray. The company annually supplies Ocean Spray with more than 20 billion pounds of cranberries; Dhillon also serves as Ocean Spray’s chairman of the board.
At the University of British Columbia, he established the Rashpal Dhillon Pulmonary Fibrosis Research Endowment and the Rashpal Dhillon Track & Field Center in his father’s memory. He has also established the Peter P. Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics in partnership with the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia.
The medal was created in 1986 by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations, whose founder is the transportation magnate William Denis Fugazy. “From successful businessmen, to pioneering physicians, to artists who enrich our lives through art and music and those who dedicate their lives to the advancement of our community through philanthropy, service to humanity are among those honored with this award every year. In 2017, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, Fareed Zakaria, Author and host of CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” show, Harman International Industries chairman CEO Dinesh Paliwal, Dr Annapoorna S Kini, Yashvant Patel, and Mohan H Patel were honored with the award.