Columbus Alliance honors Italian-American leaders

President, Neil Mattera, master of ceremonies, Philip Foglia, and honorees, Mario DeGiorgio, Dr. Teresa McCann, Annamaria Giordano, Bill Suriani and Joeseph Cicciu, at the 9th annual Columbus Alliance Silvio Savatteri Italian American Role Model Award. - Photo by Victor Chu

The Columbus Alliance paid tribute to five individuals who have made a significant contribution to the Bronx and throughout their lifetime at the annual Salute to Italian American Role Models.

The organizations 9th annual Role Model Awards Dinner, renamed the Silvio Savatteri Italian American Role Model Award, was held on Wednesday, October 22, at Maestro’s Restaurant.

 “These are a distinguished group of diverse people and they are all more than worth of the distinction and honor,” said master of ceremonies for event, Philip Foglia.  “They are not only role models for the Italian-American community, but for society in general.”

The five honorees were each nominated by a member, and then voted upon by the alliance in order to be selected for their achievements and contributions to society.

Joseph Cicciu, executive director of the Belmont Arthur Local Development Corporation, is recognized for his projects geared towards improvement to the streets and stores within the Belmont community.

Honored for her excellence with the children of the Bronx, through her teaching and leadership, now in her third year as principal of M.S. 45, is Annamaria Giordano.

“Being a teacher is a tough job, but the rewards are great.  Each day I constantly learn from my students and staff,” said Giordano.  “All educators are role models by the nature of the work they do.” 

Doctor Teresa McCann devoted her life to the treatment of children as Jacobi Medical Centers Attending Pediatrician, and helps educate others entering the field as an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  In addition, McCann is the new owner of the popular Venice Restaurant.

“It is such an honor to he considered a role model for doing something I love, helping and talking to people of this community,” said McCann.  “I look forward to many more years taking care of kids in the Bronx and feeding residents at my restaurant.”

Mario John DeGiorgio has been a successful businessman in the Bronx for over 32 years, running a children’s store, Youngland, on 3rd Avenue.  He is also president of the HUB Third Avenue Business Improvement District, and soon to be Bronx Shore Kiwanis Bronx/Westchester South Division Lieutenant Governor, two organizations dedicated to improving and the Bronx.

“I was so surprised and just very happy,” said DeGiorgio.  “When I found out I thought they were joking, but to see all my family and friends here for me, I am really shocked and deeply honored.

Awarded for his service to this country and the Columbus Alliance is Bill Suriani, born in 1922, who joined the US Air Force during World War II in 1941 when he became a radio operator on a bay bomber and Italian interpreter.  Suriani returned to begin his own interior design business with his wife, and has been an active member of the Columbus Alliance for over 10 years.

 “The awards were created to recognize excellence in lifetime achievements by individuals who represent the best of the Italian American Community,” said Neil Mattera, president of the Columbus Alliance,  “for this reason we are proud to honor them.”

The organization, created in 1909, is known for its philanthropic work, providing scholarship money to high school students, holding an annual pasta night at the Middletown Road Senior Center, organizing a Mother’s Day Breakfast for the residents of Providence Rest Nursing Home, supporting the Italian American Welfare League, aiding underprivileged children, and supporting the recently opened Italian-American Museum. 

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