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Five leaders receive M.O.S.A.I.C. Awards

Five leaders receive M.O.S.A.I.C. Awards

JFCS’ signature event sparkles

[by Shiela Steinman Wallace, Editor]

The M.O.S.A.I.C. Awards has become Jewish Family & Career Services’ signature event celebrating the achievements and contributions immigrants and refugees have made to Louisville and beyond. It is an elegant evening that takes advantage of the twin ballrooms of the Henry Clay to host a cocktail hour and microbusiness showcase featuring businesses JFCS has helped immigrants start in one and accommodates several hundred people for dinner and the program in the other.

This year, the M.O.S.A.I.C. Awards were held on Thursday, May 30. Proprietors of around a dozen new businesses – from a handyman service to a courier service to artists and more – stood at tables showcasing their products and services and talking with the people – potential clients – who came by. All of them received help from JFCS’s Navigat Enterprise Center.

Later, during her opening remarks, JFCS Executive Director Judy Freundlich Tiell noted that “in the past two years, we have helped start 60 businesses and expand 25 others, creating 111 jobs.”

The main event started with a parade of flags honoring the United States and the birth countries of this year’s honorees. Rabbi Stanley Miles set the tone for the evening, reading Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” as the invocation.

Brooks Bauer, M.O.S.A.I.C. Awards honorary chair and CEO of Papercone, one of the evening’s sponsors, said Louisville “has attracted thousands of immigrants who are younger, better educated and more diverse than the nation’s foreign-born population as a whole” and “to capitalize on that trend, the community must continue to welcome immigrants, support efforts to attract highly skilled foreign workers and expand adult education opportunities.”

Through its Navigate Enterprise Center, he said, that is part of what JFCS does. “The M.O.S.A.I.C. Awards showcase the positive impact international Americans are making in our community. And, perhaps more importantly, we hope the awards will educate the rest of the community about the value of the new ideas and talents of those who choose America as their new homeland.”

Sandy Hammond, vice chair of the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence, the M.O.S.A.I.C. Awards’ title sponsor, provided a brief overview of the grant-making organization’s history, noting that it has two major foci – health care and the Jewish community. It has already invested $1.4 million in the Jewish community and is now making its first round of medical grants and embarking on developing a strategic plan.

Osbourn Scholarship

While the M.O.S.A.I.C. Awards recognize immigrants and refugees who are well established and have impressive achievements, the program also includes the presentation of the Jeff and Phyllis Osbourn Scholarship Award to an immigrant or refugee who is just getting started and needs some help as he/she pursues a degree in a medical field.

This year, Sherri Craig, vice president of KentuckyOne Health presented the scholarship to Kim Ngan Ngo. Ngo is studying physical therapy at Spalding University and plans to return to Viet Nam when she completes her studies.

Mayor Fischer

After sharing how moved he was when he attended a naturalization ceremony for 145 people the prior week, Mayor Greg Fischer told the story of his wife’s, Alexandra Gerassimides’, flight with her parents from Greece and its civil war and their later return. His wife came back to the U.S. for college, first at Berea then at the University of Louisville Medical School.

Fischer also said that being an international city is vital to Louisville’s economic development. To that end, he spoke of a new program, Refugees, Immigrants Succeeding in Entrepreneurship (RISE). Working with JFCS and other problem solvers, he said, RISE will look for mentors to help immigrants and refugees get their businesses off the ground.

The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the M.O.S.A.I.C. Awards.

Paul Diaz

The first went to Paul Diaz, CEO of Kindred Healthcare, whose parents came to the U.S. from Cuba and Spain. In addition to overseeing the growth and development of this Fortune 500 company, Diaz established the Paul J. Diaz Scholarship Fund at his alma mater, Georgetown University Law School, to help students with financial needs and to promote ethnic diversity. He also supports Hispanic Scouting and through the Hispanic Initiative Program made it possible for 800 Hispanic scouts to participate.

Diaz currently serves on the Board of Directors of DaVita and the Board of Visitors of Georgetown University Law Center. He is also a member of the Business Roundtable and the Wall Street Journal CEO Council. He was formerly on the Board of PharMerica Corporation, the Board of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, and the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee of the Suburban Hospital Healthcare Systems in Bethesda, Maryland. He is an attorney and accountant with a bachelor’s degree in finance and accounting from American University’s Kogod School of Business and a law degree from Georgetown University.

In accepting the award, Diaz expressed gratitude for the recognition and said there are three things that make America great – a body of law that respects and protects the individual, the idea that anything is possible and the principle that merit matters. Six or seven months ago, he added, his cousin came from Cuba and observed in Cuba, no matter how hard people work, nothing is possible. Here anything is possible.


Riffat Hassan

The next went to Dr. Riffat Hassan, who has taught in the Religious Studies Program at the University of Louisville for 33 years. She earned her double-honors degree in English literature and philosophy in Pakistan and her Ph.D. from the University of Durham in England.

A distinguished academician, she directed two major peace-building exchange programs – “Islamic Life in the U.S.” and “Religion and Society: a Dialogue” – which helped build bridges between the U.S. and clerics and scholars from Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. Both were funded by the U.S. Department of State through grants to U of L.

Over the years, she received the U of L Distinguished International Service Award from the College of Arts and Sciences, was inducted into  that college’s Hall of Honor and received the Kennedy Center/Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Meadville Lombard Theological School.

A prolific writer with numerous publications to her credit, she is a pioneer in both inter-religious dialogue and feminist theology in Islam. She also founded the International Network for the Rights of Female Victims of Violence in Pakistan.

Dr. Hassan said both the presentation of the flags at the beginning of the ceremony and the M.O.S.A.I.C. Awards themselves are symbols that a person can promote harmony through dialogue and that JFCS recognizes the value in that. “If I had not come to the United States,” she added, “I would not have been able to do much of the work I did.” She expressed appreciation for the award to both U of L and JFCS, pride in being a Louisvillian and a hope that she can continue to be of service to the community.

Dennis Ogbe

Dennis Ogbe’s story is one of grit and determination. At age three, he contracted malaria, and at the clinic where he was being treated a nurse broke a needle in his back, leaving him in a coma for three days. He survived with a weakened immune system and soon contracted polio, which paralyzed him from the waist down, although later, through determination and hard work, he regained the use of his right leg.

Ogbe set his sights on getting an education and participating in field sports that let him tap into his upper body strength – shot put, discus and javelin. He represented Nigeria in the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia, where his athletic prowess and sharp intellect caught the attention of coaches from Bellarmine University.

The coaches offered him a sports scholarship and he competed in all three events against able-bodied competitors while earning his B.A. and M.B.A. from Bellarmine. He became an American citizen in 2010, and realized his dream of representing the U.S. in the IPC Athletics World Championships in Cristchurch, New Zealand, in 2011 and as a member of the American Paralympic team in London in 2012. Along the way, he captured American records for discus and shot put.

Ogbe works as a global community relations specialist for Brown-Forman Corp. and is an advocate for polio eradication, working with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

“When I came to the U.S.,” Ogbe said when he accepted the award, “I had to learn all life over again” and he knew it would be tough, but there were people there to help him at Bellarmine and opportunities at Brown-Foreman. “I dedicate this award,” he continued, “to all first generation Americans and all those who hold their hands.”

Vidya Ravichandran

Vidya Ravichandran is the IT entrepreneur from India who has transformed GlowTouch Technologies from a two-person start-up to a 1,000-person powerhouse that recruits top technology talent from local institutions. Her company is regularly included in lists that recognize fast-growing businesses and she is frequently singled out as a successful entrepreneur and businesswoman.

Ravichandran serves on several volunteer boards around the city and is a trustee of the GT Foundation, a charitable organization in Mangalore, India, that works toward solving some of today’s most challenging problems, including domestic violence, poverty, disease, hunger, old age and more.

Calling the M.O.S.A.I.C. Awards a memorable event, Ravichandran expressed her gratitude. “For a group of 200 people to celebrate someone else’s success,” she said, “only in America.”

She said she grew up in a household where nothing was more important than education and getting to the United State was a goal. She added that came from a family of entrepreneurs. When she got to Louisville, Mayor Fischer’s group helped her further develop her plans and with support from her family and the help of many people along the way, she succeeded.


Shlomit Schaal

Dr. Shlomit Schaal was a board-certified ophthalmologist in Israel who wanted a competitive fellowship in vitreo-retinal surgery and found her opportunity at the University of Louisville – one of the top programs in the United States.

In her first year, she developed new techniques that help patients suffering from age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. She presented her work at several national and international meetings and her research won national and international awards. Through clinical research, she also observed that age-related macular degeneration patients who have been treated with drugs for a long period of time can lead to resistance to the treatment. Her paper on this work is now regarded as a fundamental paper in the retina field.

She joined the faculty at the U of L Department of Ophtalmology and Visual Sciences in 2008 and continues to do groundbreaking work and to receive awards. In addition to her research, she teaches medical students, residents and fellows and has initiated a new educational program for ophthalmology residents and diabetic patients. She also offers free medical and surgical care to patients who cannot afford it.

In addition to her professional accomplishments, she has committed herself to a healthy lifestyle, is an avid runner and a competitive swimmer.

Schaal expressed appreciation for the award. She described herself as always looking forward with hope and aspiring to do more and almost never looking back ah what she has already achieved. Louisville, she said, offered her the perfect opportunity to fulfill her dream – to become a world leader in retinology and to work with the top people in the field.

Each year the M.O.S.A.I.C. Awards are specially commissioned unique pieces of art. The 2013 awards were created by Mark Payton, who works in colored glass. The artist said the JFCS logo was the inspiration for this year’s award, “where the patterns and colors of the leaves create a mosaic of color and texture.”

The Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence was the title sponsorship of the 2013 M.O.S.A.I.C. Awards. PaperCone Corporation, Kindred, PharMerica and Bonnie Bizer were the lead sponsors. WLKY was the media sponsor and Rick VanHoose was the emcee.

The M.O.S.A.I.C. Event Committee included Chair Sandi Friedson, Sheilah Abramson Miles, Mark Ament, Jeani Bryant, Mary Cleary, Debbie Friedman, Jan Glaubinger, Michael Iacovazzi-Pau, Khalib Kahloon, Laura Klein, Jay Klempner, Melissa Mershon, Stephanie Mutchnick, Djenita Pasic, Claudia Peralta-Mudd, Ben Ruiz, Beth Salamon, Diane Tobin and Leon Wahba.

Beverly Bromley, JFCS’s development director, worked tirelessly to ensure the success of this evening.

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