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Black Tie International:
Ellis Island Medal of Honor


Dame Patricia Kennedy

Philanthropist, Arts Patron & Veterans Activist

Dame Patricia Kennedy to Receive Ellis Island
Medal of Honor

  Ellis Island, Saturday, May 11, 2013


On Saturday, May 11th, 2013, Beverly Hills philanthropist, arts patroness and veterans activist Dame Patricia J. Kennedy along with a group of prominent Americans will receive The National Ethnic Coalition of Organization's (NECO) highest honor The Ellis Island Medal of Honor at a ceremony on historic Ellis Island


Among the more than 90 other outstanding Americans  who will be honored along with Ms. Kennedy are  Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, US Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, USA, US Dept. of Defense, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Dionne Warwick, legendary recording artist, Alina Cho, CNN correspondent, Mia Farrow, actress, Danny Masterson, actor, Thomas Sherak, Revolution Consulting Services, David Merage, philanthropist and  entrepreneur,  Richard "Dick" Vermeil, retired NFL Coach and Steve Silks, Deputy Chief, NYPD. Past Medalists include six Presidents, Nobel Prize winners and leaders of industry, education, the arts, sports and government including Bob Hope, Renee Fleming, Tony Blair, Michael Bolton, Joe DiMaggio and Bill & Hillary Clinton.

NECO sponsors the Ellis Island Medals of Honor which are presented annually to American citizens who have distinguished themselves within their own ethnic groups while exemplifying the values of the American way of life. Past Medalists include six U.S. Presidents, one foreign President, Nobel Prize winners and leaders of industry, education, the arts, sports and government and, of course, everyday Americans who have made freedom, liberty and compassion a part of their life's work.

Dame Kennedy is a shining example of an American who has led the way to help so many of her fellow Americans. She is Founder and President of the non-profit organization STEP UP 4 VETS, which she started in 2008 to offer healing opportunities through cultural events to our men and women who have served in the military.  Veterans, especially those suffering with PTSD and the catastrophic injuries of war, reconnect with family and society through the transformative experience and healing power of the performing arts at events sponsored by STEP UP 4 VETS.


Honored for her dedication to her fellow man, Dame Kennedy was invested in The Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St George, Dame di Merito con Placca (Dame of Merit with Star) by His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago in 2008, and promoted to Dame di Gran Croce di Merito (Dame Grand Cross of Merit) by His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, DC in 2011.


Dame Patricia Kennedy is one of only six women in the world honored with the title of Dame di Gran Croce di Merito (Dame Grand Cross of Merit) and one of only two American women in the history of the Order to receive this highest honor. (The first American woman so honored was Lindy Boggs, former United States Ambassador to the Holy See).


Born in Cleveland, Ohio and raised in Southern California she began modeling at the age of thirteen.  While attending UCLA she also studied acting mentored by legendary Actors Studio founder Lee Strasberg. Her modeling career evolved into acting in film and television with her first part, a starring role with Robert De Niro in The Last Tycoon, directed by Elia Kazan.      


Patricia joined the Board of Directors of the Foundation for the Joffrey Ballet in 1984 and became a powerful force in the dance world.  Known as the First Lady of the Joffrey Ballet, her dynamic leadership raised international audience attendance and millions of dollars for Joffrey Ballet productions including The Nutcracker and Romeo and Juliet, and guided them through a significant and turbulent period of growth. She conceptualized and co-produced the groundbreaking rock ballet Billboards, which saved this great American treasure at a financially critical point and paved the way for the Joffrey to become the resident ballet of Chicago.


Billboards, with music composed by rock icon Prince, was a watershed event crossing cultural, ethnic, and generational boundaries, and introducing countless young people to ballet.  It has been written in the press and widely discussed if Billboards had never been produced in 1993, there would not have been a receptive audience for Riverdance in 1994, produced by Irish dancer and choreographer Michael Flatley.  


In 1992, she was honored with The Decade of Leadership Award from the Joffrey Ballet.  The Arpino Angel Award followed in 1996 presented to her by previous recipient and founder of the Classic Arts Showcase, philanthropist Lloyd Rigler. In honor of her dedication to the vision of founders Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, she was presented the Arpino Angel Award a second time during the Joffrey Ballet 50th Anniversary celebration in 2006.


As a Benefactor of the Music Center of Los Angeles County, Patricia Kennedy has been involved in The Blue Ribbon, an organization that provides exposure to the performing arts for Los Angeles youth. The Los Angeles Headquarters Association honored her with the Cultural Award in 2004 for her support of the arts.


Helping men, women and children in transition has been a hallmark of Patricia Kennedy’s philanthropy.  Recognizing her dedication and commitment to the Joffrey Ballet and her artistic vision to entice a larger and younger audience through the rock ballet Billboards, Career Transition for Dancers presented her with The Outstanding Contribution to the World of Dance Award in 2004. 


Continuing her passion for dance and dancers, Patricia became involved with Career Transition for Dancers  and was instrumental in raising millions of dollars for the organization to assist injured dancers so they can return to college and forge second act careers.  She served as gala chair in 2005, 2006 and 2007, including the landmark CTFD 20th Anniversary Jubilee Gala in 2005.


An Ambassador for World Peace, Patricia Kennedy designed the Peace One Earth Medallion in 2008 as a tribute to our soldiers from past and present conflicts.  The distinctive design of the medallion expresses gratitude to the defenders of our freedoms, while acknowledging the hope for a world at peace.  The medallion has been presented to many dignitaries, public figures, and members of our military in honor of their efforts to improve the lives of our veterans, and their commitment towards world peace.  The first recipient was Wayne Newton* for his dedication to our troops and veterans through his extraordinary work with the USO.  Other notable recipients include Gary Sinise* Dr. Buzz Aldrin, Hugh O’Brian* , Stefanie Powers, Kate Linder, Ed Begley Jr., Mike Vogel, Luc Robitaille, Rick Monday and Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles. (names* are also recipients of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor) 


Dame Kennedy believes our veterans are our national pride and she founded STEP UP 4 VETS to honor their service and help them transition back to family life and society.  STEP UP 4 VETS provides healing opportunities for our veterans through public appreciation, cultural events and the celebration with their families of iconic holidays missed while serving in harm’s way protecting the rights and freedoms of all Americans.  Bandages can bind the wounds of our warriors, but only joy can heal their hearts and minds, ”says Patricia Kennedy.


A Media Reception begins at 3:00 p.m. at The Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park. NECO will present the 27th Annual Ellis Island Medal of Honor Ceremony on Ellis Island at 6:00 p.m. The Ceremony will be followed by a Gala Dinner in the historic Great Hall. WPIX-11 Senior Correspondent Marvin Scott and renowned comedian/entertainer Tom Dreesen will be the Masters of Ceremony.


A complete list of 2013 medalists is available at



Each year since 1986, NECO has honored our nation's diverse past by sponsoring the Ellis Island Medals of Honor. The Ellis Island Medals of Honor annually pays tribute to the ancestry groups that comprise America's unique cultural mosaic. The Medals are presented on Ellis Island, in a dramatic ceremony, to American citizens for their outstanding contributions to their communities, their nation and the world.


According to NECO Chairman Nasser J. Kazeminy, "NECO is about investing in the power of caring, where people from all cultures and walks of life stand together arm in arm to make a real difference in our world through shared compassion and philanthropy - not just for now, but to also inspire future generations who will continue to preserve and build upon the legacy that each of our cultures has contributed. With our Medalists, we will see America at its best. We will see every color, every race from so many walks of life - together - celebrating the magic that is America. Our Medalists' influence and achievements truly inspire and touch the lives of people everywhere."


The Ellis Island Medal of Honor ranks among the nation's most prestigious 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 learn more about Dame Patricia Kennedy's activities
please visit:







Entertainment Tonight – Peace One Earth medallion presented to Wayne Newton


Peace One Earth medallion presented to Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles

Peace One Earth Medallion Video 

Investiture Mass, Dame Kennedy


joyce brooks, gerard mckeon.  photo by:  rose billings

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