Kerala Center Honors Seven At Banquet Gala
Seven prominent individuals were honored at the 14th annual awards banquet gala for their outstanding achievements in their field of specialization or for their service to the society during a colorful ceremony on Saturday, November 11, 2006 at the at the Indian American Kerala Civic and Cultural Center, Elmont, NY. Attended by over 200 community and business leaders, the awards ceremony was more than just celebrating individual achievements: it was a way of celebrating the culture and traditions of the southern state of Kerala in India, where most of the awardees came from.
This sentiment was reflected in the address by the Chief Guest Vijay Nambiar, Special Advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and former Permanent Representative of India to the UN. Reminding the audience of the achievements of Kerala on its 50th birth anniversary, Nambiar said, “I am proud and privileged to be a Malayalee” and want to celebrate with the awardees and the Kerala Center “the great gifts we are all bestowed with as members of this great state that is Kerala.”
In his keynote address, Dr. Ajay Menon, Dean of the College of Business at Colorado State University ,Fort Collins, Colorado, expressed similar thoughts. “I am a product of charity and pure generosity of my parents and the many people in my home state, Kerala, and here in the United States, who helped me become what I am today.” Describing himself as a “work in progress and not a success story,” his advice to the children and youth of the current generations was: “Be curious; Read anything you get on your way; Your personal brands will determine if you can conquer the village or you will be conquered.” Finally, what ultimately matters, he said, was, “Are you concerned about others?”
Madhu Yaskhi, the first and the only NRI Member of Lok Sabha from Andra Pradesh and a resident of NJ, who was the guest speaker, said, “I am the voice of the large NRI community in the Indian Parliament.” He exhorted the community members to “give back to our motherland, what we have gained here in the United States.” Dr. Neena Malhotra, Minister at the Indian Consulate, spoke eloquently of the achievements Indian Americans have made in the past few decades and reminded the audience of the proud heritage that they belong to.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Thomas Abraham, a member of the Board of Directors, and emcee of the evening, said, “With the enormous grouth of the community in the U.S. and New York in Particular, the Kerala Community had long felt the need for a Community Center, which serves to promote the civic and other social service activities among the Indian American community and also to serve as a focal point to coordinate the activities and services to the Kerala Community.
Jose Chummar, president of the Kerala Center, in his welcome address, gave a brief on the growth of the Center since the founding of the Center under the leadership of E. M. Stephen. He said, since 1990, the Kerala Center was has become a focal point to coordinate activities and services to the Indian American Kerala Community. There are Malayalam language, Music and Dance classes for children, SAT coahing for youngsters. Various seminars are conducted ranging from political to investment in addition to many Civic and Cultural activities taking place on a regular basis at the Kerala Center. The Center has also been providing platform for various political leaders for have Town Hall meetings with the Indian Community. Also the Center provides the facilities for various religious activities and celebration for the members of the center which include Hindu, Muslim and different denominations of Christians. The Kerala Center is where the friendship and harmony among members of the community emerge, he added.
While introducing George Abraham (Houston, TX) to the audience as one of the honorees for his community services, Joyan Mathew mentioned of his deep commitment to the cause of the needy people in Kerala and in the United States. G. Mathew gave way the plaque honoring Agraham, who took the initiative to ship ten containers of medicine and medical supplies worth Rupees 80 Crores for the needy people in Kerala between 2003 – 2006.
Dr. K.P. Ananthpadmanabhan (Troy, NY) was honored in the field of Applied Sciences. He was introduced by Prof. Somasundaram of Coulmbia University as “a lead scientist / group leader at Unilever Research & Development in Trumbull, CT working on personal care research.” Ananth is an author-editor of a book and has 20+ patents and 80+ publications. He is a recipient of several awards and is widely recognized for his contributions to surfactant-polymer physical chemistry and physiology of skin cleansing. S. Stephen gave away the award to Dr. K.P. Ananthpadmanabhan.
T.S. Dharmarajan, MD, FACP, AGSF (Scarsdale, NY) was honored for his contributions in the field of medicine. Dr. Cecily Anto, while introducing him to the audience, said, Dr. T. S. Dharmarajan, is Chairman, Department of Medicine; Chief, Division of Geriatrics and Director, Geriatric Medicine Fellowship Program at Our Lady of Mercy Medical Center, Bronx, a University Hospital of New York Medical College, where he also serves as Professor of Medicine. Dr. Dharmarajan was instrumental in developing a 70 bed geriatric medicine program at Our Lady of Mercy Medical, over the last decade, with strong clinical, academic and research components, including a fully accredited fellowship program in Geriatrics. His program is one of the biggest in the country and recognized as among the finest in the tri-state area. He received the award from the hands of Dr. John Mathew.
Samual Easo (Bergenfield, NJ), known as Sunil Tristar, was honored for his contributions in the field of mass media. Alex Keedarathil told the audience that Sunil currently serves as Asianet USA's Director of Production and Marketing in North America. Sunil has been instrumental in launching Asianet TV in USA and also in producing several ongoing TV News & Entertainment Programs featuring people, events and many facets of Indians especially Malayalees’ LifeStyle to the Asianet's Global Audience. Rajeshwar Prasad presented Sunil with the annual award on behalf of the Kerala Center.
Dr. Ajay Menon, (Fort Collins, CO), Ajay Menon is the Dean of the College of Business at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, was awarded for his achievements in the field of education. Whille introducing him, M T Antony, said, Directing the College of Business’ executive and academic programs for nearly seven years, Menon forged partnerships with several influential Colorado companies. He teaches International Marketing and Marketing Strategy in the College of Business. Professor Menon's research interests are Customer Care Management and Strategy Planning & Implementation.
John B. Pessala (Westbury, NY), the only non Indian to be honored at the annual wards night, was introduced to the audience by E M Stephen, as a “true and loyal friend of the Kerala Center.” Graduating from SUNY Cortland and Hofstra University with a BA and MA respectively, John taught social studies at Smithtown Central High School and simultaneously completing a Juris Doctor from St. John’s University. Starting as a court attorney for Nassau County District Court, John went on to become Deputy County Attorney in the Family Court Bureau, Senior Deputy Town Attorney for the Town of Hempstead and Counsel to the Nassau County Executive. In 1993, John was elected as District Court Judge and was subsequently appointed and confirmed by NY State Senate as a Nassau County Family Court Judge.
Dr. Prathibha Varkey (Rochester, MN) was given a Special Recognition for her great achievements in the field of Medicine. Theresa Anthony introduced Dr. Varkey as an Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine and Internal Medicine at Mayo Clinic, who serves as the Program Director for the Preventive Medicine Fellowship. She has made significant contributions to curricular reform in undergraduate and graduate education and serves as the founding Director of the Quality Improvement Curriculum at Mayo Medical School and Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education, and the Director of Quality at the Division of Preventive and Occupational Medicine. She is the recipient of the 2004 AMA Foundation Leadership Award Program for her contributions to education and community services. While acknowledging the award given to her by Madhu Yashik, Dr. Varkey declared, “It’s time for all of us to celebrate the Malayalee Indian culture as well as the American culture.”
With that call began the celebration of the cultural extravaganza prepared and presented by the students of the Kalashrtee School of Arts. Classical, semiclasical, and cinematic dances by talented children were a treat to the hearts and minds of the participants while they were enjoying a delicious Kerala style dinner.
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KC Vijay Nambiar addressing the audience