December 6, 2022

NEW YORK (April 27, 2017) — The National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO), announced Monday the recipients of the 2017 Ellis Island Medals of Honor.

Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner and Retired Major General Larry Shellito of Woodbury, along with legendary former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi, TV host and journalist Fareed Zakaria, CEO of HSN Mindy Grossman, former actress and film studio executive Sherry Lansing, chef and restaurateur Thomas Keller, are amongst the one-hundred outstanding Americans in business, government, medicine, art, and education, as well as honorees from all branches of the military, who will receive the 2017 medal.

In its 31st year, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor ceremony will once again be held on Ellis Island on May 13, starting at 6:30pm ET. The ceremony, which will be followed by a black-tie Gala Dinner in the historic Great Hall, will take place in the original registry room, a symbolic and literal gateway for 12 million immigrants to the U.S.

Commissioner Shellito began his military career in 1968 when he enlisted in the United States Army, where his active duty service included serving in Vietnam as a Mobile Advisory Team Leader.  Commissioner Shellito retired as the Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard in 2010 after 37 years of service. During his seven years as Adjutant General, Major General Shellito helped build a national reputation for the Guard. He was instrumental in establishing the nation-leading “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program” in Minnesota to reintegrate service members following deployments. In his current position as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, Shellito is charged with assisting the state’s 353,000 Veterans and their families.

“Ellis Island remains an iconic symbol of hope, new beginnings and freedom. NECO’s Medals of Honor stand to remind citizens to support ethnic inclusion, diversity and the pursuit of the American Dream for all, something especially needed today’s current political climate,” said Nasser J. Kazeminy,  NECO chair.

The medal recognizes 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; all while maintaining the traditions of their ethnic heritage as they uphold the ideals and spirit of America.  Since the Medal was founded in 1986, NECO has honored such distinguished and diverse Americans including: seven Presidents of the United States; Nobel Prize recipient Elie Wiesel; Generals Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell; Justice Sandra Day O’Connor; Secretaries of State Madeline Albright, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton; Bob Hope; Muhammad Ali; Frank Sinatra; Rosa Parks; Mike Wallace and Mia Farrow. All of whom have distinguished themselves through their significant philanthropic and humanitarian contributions to this country.

“Nothing compares to the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Not only is the award itself incredibly prestigious, but the recipients each year reflect America’s diversity, across background, ethnicity, occupation and more. The medal is such a reminder that we may have different backgrounds and stories, but we’re all united in this country together,” said NECO board member and legendary former congressman Charlie Rangel.

The Ellis Island Medal of Honor ranks among the nation’s most renowned awards. The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have officially recognized the Ellis Island Medals of Honor, and each year the recipients are listed in the Congressional Record.

To see the full list of 2017 recipients, please visit: www.neco.org.

The National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations – NECO- was created on the conviction of its founders that the diversity of the American people is what makes this nation great.  Its mission is to honor and preserve this diversity and to foster tolerance, respect and understanding among religious and ethnic groups. NECO is the sponsor of the Ellis Island Medals of Honor which are presented annually to American citizens, both native born and naturalized, who have distinguished themselves within their own ethnic groups while exemplifying the values of the American way of life. For more information, visit: http://www.neco.org.

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