The Indian American Kerala Cultural and Civic Center honored eight Indian Americans with Excellence Awards for their outstanding accomplishments in their respective fields of specialization and contributions to the larger society during the 31st Annual Awards Banquet held on October 28, 2023, in Elmont, New York. The prestigious awards ceremony was attended by nearly 200 people from across the United States and Canda, including several elected officials, community and business leaders.
This year’s honorees were: Dr. Shyam Kottilil (Baltimore, MD) – Life Time Achievement Award; Sajeeb Koya (Pickering, Ontario, Canada) – Entrepreneurship; Dr. Anna George (Long Island, NY) – Nursing; Shelby Kutty (Baltimore, MD) – Medicine; Ajay Ghosh (Trumbull, CT) – Media and Journalism; Lata Menon (Mississauga, Ontario, Canada) – Legal Services; Jayant Kamicheril (Reading, PA) – Pravasi Malayalam Literature; and Gopala Pillai (Dallas, Texas) – Community Service.
“Kerala Center is very happy to honor American Malayalees who excel in their professions and who work for social progress — their examples should be an inspiration for others,” said Dr. Madhu Bhaskaran, Chairman of the Board of Directors. Dr. Madhu Bhaskaran, who is also the Award Committee Chairman introduced the other members of the Awards Committee, including Dr. Thomas Abraham, Daisy P. Stephen and Varkey Abraham.
“The Kerala Center has been honoring outstanding achievers since 1992. Every year we invite nominations and the committee has to make a unanimous choice for a candidate in a category to receive the award and this year is no different from previous years in terms of their achievements. The Center has recognized nearly 200 American Malayalees in the last 31 years and it is great to see that they have continued to rise further in their careers and serve the society,” said Dr. Thomas Abraham, Kerala Center’s Trustee Board Chairman and Award Committee Member¸ who had played a pivotal role in the establishment of Kerala Center. Alex K. Esthappan, Kerala Center President said, “The Kerala Center, a non-profit, member supported organization, is the only center of its kind serving the Keralites and the Indian American community in the tri-state New York area,” he said. “It was founded to provide a platform to discuss the issues that are of concern to us, share our experiences, celebrate our festivals, promote our culture and traditions, and to bring our people together.” Raju Thomas, General Secretary of the Kerala Center in his remarks said, “We at the Indian American Kerala Cultural and Civic Center in Long Island, New York are very pleased to honor the distinguished members of our commnity with the prestigious award during the solemn ceremony here at our Center.”
Inaugurated in 1993, past awardees of the Kerala Center include, US Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, Dr. Shashi Tharoor, NY State Senator Kevin Thomas, Missouri City Mayor Robin Elackatt, American College of Physicians President Dr. George Abraham, Venture Capitalist Sreedhar Menon, Shanti Bhavan Founder Dr. Abraham George and Prof. P. Somasundaran of Columbia University.
In her very eloquent introductory remarks, Daisy Stephen, Vice President of the Kerala Center and Emcee for the ceremony said, “From a modest beginning 31 years ago, the Kerala Center has come a long way to play a vital role in the life of the Malayalee community in the United States.” She lauded the pioneers who had the vision to start the Kerala Center and dealt with many challenges of starting such an institution. “Today, the Kerala Center has become truly a ‘Shining Center’ of our culture and heritage. 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,” she said.
“I congratulate you on your success,” Kevin Thomas, New York State Senator told the awardees and the Non Resident Keralite community members. He praised the eight honorees for “showing the way” to the rest of the community, and the Kerala Center for being at the center of the Indian Diaspora in New York. “Over the past three decades, it 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.”
Dr. Shyam Kottilil, who was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award delivered the keynote address. He provided a brief introduction to Infectious diseases and how the measures initiated by the US Government has saved humanity. While cautioning about the “total lockdown” imposed on the world due to Covid, Dr. Kotilil shared about the many lessons learned and the ways we as members of the larger community can protect ourselves from future pandemics. As part of the Award Ceremony, a Souvenir was released depicting the history and the journey of the Kerala Center. James Thottam was the chairman of the Awards Dinner. Board members Abraham Thomas, Mathew Vazhappally and John Paul coordinated the event. A variety entertainment program curated by and performed by talented artists from Nupura School of Dances and a fabulous dinner was a treat to the body and soul of the participants. Bincy Cherian delighted the audience with beautiful melodies. Kerala Center Exceutive Director, Thambi Thalappillil concluded the ceremony with a vote of thanks to the guests, awardees, audience, sponsors and everyone worked so hard to make it a successful event.
Dr. Shyam Kottilil – Life Time Achievement Award
Dr. Shyam Kottilil is a world renowned virologist and immunologist who has made pivotal contributions in the field of Hepatitis and HIV. He is currently the Interim Director of the Institute of Human Virology in Baltimore, MD, the first and foremost Virology Institute in the world. Dr. Kottilil has had an illustrious career with over 350 major publications, as well as awards and accolades from premier societies in Medicine, Infectious Diseases, Hepatology and the National Institutes of Health.
Sajeeb Koya – Entrepreneurship
Sajeeb Koya, a North American Malayali, is the man behind the LED Façade lighting that lights up Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Sajeeb and his team are proud to be part of this project which owns 2 Guinness World Records. His company 3S International Inc., which has its headquarters at Pickering (Ontario, Canda), has executed numerous vibrant Architectural and Media Façade LED projects all over the world. People just see lights as utilitarian, whereas Sajeeb sees multitude of colors, shades, movements, and blends the beauty of light with technology.
Sajeeb Koya hailing from Trivandrum, is an Electrical Engineer graduated in 1987 from CET Trivandrum. He has held key positions with several Multi Nationals before starting his own business in Canada in 2001. He lives with his family at Pickering, Ontario, Canada. He is very active since childhood in the fields of photography, music and acting. He is currently involved in key positions with several community &amp; charity organizations.
Dr. Anna George – for Nursing
Dr. Anna George is the current President of the Indian Nurses Association of New York (INANY). She is a Nurse, a nurse practitioner, human rights advocate, and a social activist. She works at Molloy University as an Associate Professor, teaching the Nurse Practitioner Track and as a Nurse Practitioner at Northwell Health.
Dr. Shelby Kutty – Medicine
Dr. Shelby Kutty is a physician scientist and academic leader, serving as the Helen B. Taussig endowed professor and director of pediatric and congenital cardiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He also chairs the analytic intelligence program at Johns Hopkins. One of the world’s preeminent experts on multimodality cardiovascular imaging with over 400 peer-reviewed publications, Dr. Kutty is passionate about patient outcomes and evidence-based assessment of new technologies.
Lata Menon, Esq. – Legal Services
An accomplished Barrister and Solicitor and active community member, Lata Menon has become a recognized name in the legal community in Ontario, as well as the Indian states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Kerala, where she practiced as a lawyer before immigrating to Canada. In addition to her professional activities as a lawyer, Lata devotes her time to the community at large and has become an active supporter and champion of women’s equality and rights. She is actively engaged in several social and community programs in her capacity as a Founder, Board Member, Secretary, Legal Advisor, and many other positions. As a professional, Lata has touched the lives of several of her clients who came to her in distress when faced with family discord, domestic violence, abuse, and family disputes, which she has influenced many of her clients to pull their lives together and persevere in the face of adversity. Lata’s achievements and success makes her a true leader, mentor, formidable force, influence, and inspiration to many.
Jayant Kamicheril – Pravasi Malayalam Literature
Jayant Kamicheril is a recipient of Kerala Sahithya Academy award for 2022 for his book “Oru Kumarakom Karantay Kuruthamketta Likhithangal”. He won LANA Award in 2019 for his book: Kumarakathu Oru Pesaha. His essays and stories in English and Malayalam have been published in N. America and India. He lives in Reading, PA with wife Anita Namboodiri and they have two daughters – Aloka and Shreela.
Gopala Pillai –Community Service
Gopala Pillai has served as the President and Board Member of several organizations in CultureTexas and Detroit, and has been with the World Malayali Council from1995 as its Secretary, President and Chairman. Through these organizations he has been able to provide many services for the good of society. His life’s work reflects his unwavering commitment to both the local community in the USA and the betterment of the less privileged in Kerala, India. He has degrees in Economics, Journalism, and Computer Science, pursuing a successful career in Information Technology in the USA since 1975.
Ajay Ghosh – Media and Journalism
Ajay Ghosh is the Chief Editor and co-publisher of The Universal News Network (www. theunn.com ), an online publication, launched in 2012, focusing on possibility oriented storytelling that fuels hope and sparks innovative ideas and actions; seeking to lead discussions, creating, disseminating, and using news and information that serves us all, and providing a platform for diverse voices, forms, and continually engaging everyone.
Ajay graduated with a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Marquette University , Milwaukee, WI in 1998. Prior to coming to the United States, Ajay was the Chief Editor of The Voice Delhi and contributed articles to several national publications in India.
Starting his journalistic career as a reporter in 1999 for India Post, Ajay had worked as the New York Bureau Chief of Indian Reporter and World News , and he served as the New York Bureau Chief of India Tribune, a weekly newspaper published from Chicago. Ajay was the Executive Editor of NRI Today, and the Bureau Chief of The Indian Express, North American Editions. He was the Chief Editor of The Asian Era, a monthly publication from New York since its launch in 2005 to 2018.
Since 2014, Ajay has been serving as the Media Coordinator of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States, representing 100,000 physicians of Indian origin. In 2023, he was appointed as the Media Consultant for Public Relations for ITServe Alliance, the largest association of IT Solutions and services organizations in the United States, with over 2,200 small and medium sized member companies of Information Technology.
Ajay had graduated with a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Delhi University in 1989. Ajay served as an Adjunct Faculty, teaching Social Work Seminar and guiding MSW students at the Fordham Graduate School of Social Work in New York City from 2006 to 2016. He was an Adjunct Professor at Bridgeport University, where he taught Psychology.
Ajay works as a Psychiatric Social Worker at Yale-New Haven Psychiatric Hospital from 2017 onwards, and currently serves as a full-time Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Bridgeport Hospital. He worked as a Social Worker at Hartford Health at Home from 2019 to 2022. Ajay served as the Administrator of the Mental Health Clinic at St. Dominic’s Home, Bronx, NY from 1999 to 2015.
In 2019, Ajay was part of a nearly 200-member expedition to Antarctica, the 7th Continent on Earth. Ajay served as the founder President of the Indo-American Press Club (IAPC) in 2014. He currently serves as the Secretary of the Borad of Directors of IPAC.
Ajay was honored with the Excellence in Reporting Award by AAPI for several years. In 2018, Ajay received the Excellence in Journalism Award from NAMAM, a North American Community Organization. In October 2023, Ajay received the prestigious Excellence in Journalism & Media Award by The Kerala Center in New York.
Ajay is married to Mini, and the couple are blessed with three adorable daughters, Archana, Navya, and Ahana.