2015 UNICO National Scholarship Recipients
The Scholarship Committee proudly presents the recipients of our 2015 UNICO National Awards:
Major Don S. Gentile Memorial Scholarship: Matthew Anthony Casterella
Sponsored by the St. Joe’s HS Montvale, NJ Chapter, Judged in New York
William C. Davini Memorial Scholarship: Thomas William Kessler
Sponsored by the Greater Ramsey, NJ Chapter, Judged in Wisconsin
Alphonse A. Miele Memorial Scholarship: Bryce Andrew Badura
Sponsored by the National Office for Virginia, Judged in Florida
Theodore Mazza Memorial Scholarship: Olivia W. Gugliemini
Sponsored by the Brick, NJ Chapter, Judged in New Jersey
Confirmed by the Review Committee
Sgt. John Basilone Memorial Scholarship: Celeste Raphael Carano
Sponsored by the National Office for Washington, DC, Judged in New Jersey
Dr. Benjamin J. Cottone Memorial Scholarship: Michael A. DiIorio
Sponsored by the National Office for Massachusetts, Judged in Pennsylvania
Bernard and Carolyn Torraco Memorial Nursing Scholarships
Sybil Aisha Bleus
Sponsored by the Massachusetts District III
Merry Kay Chernosky
Sponsored by the San Antonio, TX Chapter
Nicole Shay Dauksavage
Sponsored by the National Office for Texas
Kristin Jane Donadio
Sponsored by the Orange/West Orange, NJ Chapter
Catherine E. Fonseca
Sponsored by the Orange/West Orange, NJ Chapter
Alison Clare George
Sponsored by the Waterbury, CT Chapter
Madeline Faye Jacobs
Sponsored by the National Office for Wisconsin
Julie Anna Kochersperger
Sponsored by the Highland Beach, FL Chapter
Oguaha Chikwelu Nnanyelu
Sponsored by the National Office for California
Mari A. Quinn
Sponsored by the Scranton, PA Chapter
Sponsored by the Raritan Valley, NJ Chapter
Sponsored by the National Office for New York
DiMattio Celli Family Study Abroad Scholarship
Stephen Gerard Piccininni
Sponsored by the National Office for New Jersey
Christina Marie Simonetti
Sponsored by the Rockaway Township, NJ Chapter
Ella T. Grasso Literary Scholarship
Kathryn Helena Kerr
Sponsored by the Scranton, PA Chapter
Dominic Carl Conti
Sponsored by the Santa Barbara, CA Chapter
These candidates demonstrated exceptional qualifications. The scholastic achievements, extra curricular activities and community service projects of the applicants are remarkable and worthy of recognition. Selecting the recipients was extremely difficult.
We extend our thanks and congratulations to all participating Chapters. By providing your nominees with the opportunity to apply, you have demonstrated great respect for, and appreciation of their accomplishments.
2014 Award Recipients
Dr. Anthony P. Vastola Award:
Frank C. Paolercio, Sr., Sponsored by: Orange/West Orange, New Jersey Chapterof UNICO
Frank Paolercio has been a member of the Orange/West Chapter since 1976. He has held numerous positions on the Chapter, District and National level. Since 2005 Frank has chaired the UNICO National “V” Foundation for Cancer Research Committee, helping to raise over $450,000. On the National level he has also served as the 2002-2004 Business Manager, 2002 National Convention Chair and 2002-2003 Promotional and Fund-raising Chair.
Frank is most proud of the work he has done with the “V” Foundation and the national recognition and exposure UNICO National has received at the Jimmy “V” Basketball Classic at Madison Square Garden and the “V” Classic Dinner and Auction.
Antonio R. Rizzuto Award:
Michael Amante, Sponsored by The Rizzuto Award Committee
Michael Amante is a celebrated American singer and stage actor whose voice and presence has captivated audiences and critics around the world. He sings a repertoire that ranges from Broadway, American Standards, Gospel and Jazz to the soaring notes of High Opera. He has been called the “The People’s Tenor.” He has received praise from singing icons Luciano Pavarotti and Franco Corelli for his natural tenor range. In 2001 Michael landed a recording contract with RCA/Victor Records and his debut recording of classical songs and arias placed him as the number one artist in Billboard Magazine’s classical charts in 2002. His self-titled PBS Television Special was nominated for a regional Emmy Award.
Joseph P. Cianci Humanitarian Award:
Ralph J. Torraco, Sponsored by: Orange/West Orange, New Jersey Chapterof UNICO
Ralph Torraco joined UNICO National in 1958 and served as National Auditor from 1970-1983 and was a member of the Executive Committee for 13 years. In addition he has served on the Committee to Study Women joining UNICO in 1975, the National Budget Committee, Scholarship Committee and Convention Committee. Over the past several years Ralph has endowed the Bernard and Carolyn Torraco Nursing Scholarship, the Louise Torraco Memorial Scholarship Doctorate in Science, Ralph J. Torraco Doctoral Scholarship for the Study of Ancient Mediterranean History/ Archaeology for and the Ralph J. Torraco Doctoral Scholarship for Music Study and the Ralph J. Torraco Food Bank/Shelter Fund.
Basilone Freedom Award:
Louis Attilio DeFillipo Award
Robert F. Gynn, Sponsored by: Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey Chapter of UNICO
Much like Louis DeFillipo, Robert Gynn is a proud American who served his country during war, honors his family and heritage and devotes himself to UNICO and his community. In June 1966, Robert enlisted in the United States Army and spent his first year with the 588th Direct Support Maintenance Company. In September 1967 he was deployed to Vietnam. During the 1968 Tet Offensive, Robert was wounded in action and spent the next 52 days in the hospital. At that time Robert opted to return to his unit for the remainder of his tour. For his military service Robert received the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, as well as various Letters of Commendation.
In 2008, forty years after he was wounded, the Veteran’s Administration finally awarded Robert full disability due to his injuries. Robert Gynn continues to be an outspoken supporter of Veteran’s rights.
Vincent T. Lombardi Professional Athletics Memorial Award:
Richard "Dick" Vitale, Sponsored by: The Lombardi Award Committee
Dick Vitale is a former head basketball coach in both the college and professional ranks. He is also a well known college basketball broadcaster. He has called well over 1000 games during his career.
Born in Passaic, New Jersey, he graduated from Seton Hall University and earned a masters degree from William Paterson University. He was a close friend of Jimmy Valvano, also known as Jimmy “V” and continues to spearhead fund-raising activities for the “V” Foundation for Cancer Research in his honor.
Vitale was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Little League Museum Hall of Excellence in 2012.
Phillip Mazzei Americanism Award-Grand Patriot:
Joseph J. Stango, Sponsored by: Waterbury, Connecticut Chapter of UNICO
Joseph Stango, an extremely proud Italian American, is the founder of Dora’s Hope. The mission of Dora’s Hope is to advocate for Choice Centered Medicaid on behalf of seniors and disabled Americans. Stated in Connecticut, to ensure that the senior and disabled population would continue living their lives in freedom by receiving their long term care services in a place of their choice rather than be forced into institutionalized care by the government. Dora’s Hope broadened its horizons in 2010 and established a new presence in the world of Medicaid reform and advocacy by launching ChoiceCenteredMedical.org. CCM’s mandate is to change the face of Medicaid throughout America.
Philip Mazzei Americanism Award-Civis Illustris:
Father Alphonse Stephenson, Sponsored by: Plainfields’, New Jersey Chapter of UNICO
Father Stephenson was ordained a Catholic priest in 1975 for the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey. In 1989 he was commissioned in the Air National Guard. He has risen through the ranks and is currently a Brigadier General reporting directly to the Pentagon. Father Stephenson is the primary advisor on religious, ethical, moral and morale issues to the 450,000 members of the National Guard and to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau.
Father Stephenson is the founder of the Orchestra of St. Peter by the Sea, based in New Jersey. The orchestra is the only professional, union orchestra formed in the United States whose mission is to serve as a fund-raising vehicle for charitable organizations. The orchestra has raised millions of dollars for various hospitals, educational facilities and churches that assist the homeless.
Joseph Coccia, Jr. Heritage, Language and Culture Award:
Cav. Uff. Joseph Sciame, Sponsored by the North Shore L.I. Chapter of UNICO
Joseph Sciame is currently the Vice President for Community Relations at St. John’s University. He chairs the Italian Cultural Center of St. John’s University and Board of Trustees for the Bedford Stuyvesant New Beginnings Charter School. He is a board member of St. John’s Preparatory and National Cooley’s Anemia Foundation. He also served as Chair of the Futures in Education Foundation.
In 2007, Mr. Siame assumed the postion of President/Chair of the Board of Directors of the Italian Heritage and Culture Committee of New York. He was elected in 2010 as Chair by the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations. He was appointed by the Ambassador of Italy to membership on an Observatory to monitor the issues related to the AP. He is also been recognized by the Holy Father as Papal Knight; decorated as a Cavaliere Ufficale and elevated to the rank of Gran Ufficiale in 2013.
In April 2004 he had the privilege of being with the late Holy Father, John Paul II and current President of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Campi.