USC President C. L. Max Nikias was among the 100 Americans who received the 2016 Ellis Island Medals of Honor from the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO) on May 7.
This year marks the medal’s 30th anniversary. The Ellis Island Medals of Honor ceremony featured a significant military presence and patriotic performers as well as notable speakers, followed by a black-tie gala dinner in the historic Ellis Island Great Hall.
Nikias, the 11th president of USC, chairs the USC Health System Board and serves as chairman of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities. He has been at USC since 1991 as a professor, director of national research centers, dean, provost and now president. He holds faculty appointments in both electrical engineering and the classics, and currently teaches an undergraduate course on the culture of the Athenian democracy.
The United States is a nation built on diversity and has long welcomed newcomers to its shores. These values are very much shared by USC.
C. L. Max Nikias
“On behalf of USC, I am proud to accept the Ellis Island Medal of Honor,” said Nikias, who was born in Cyprus. “The United States is a nation built on diversity and has long welcomed newcomers to its shores. These values are very much shared by USC, which welcomes students from all 50 states and 128 nations, representing 90 different religious views of the world. I salute the efforts of NECO to highlight the diversity that has benefited our country and am honored to stand amongst this year’s Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipients.”
During Nikias’ tenure as president, USC has emerged as a global research university with an undisputed academically elite status, due to a number of strategic initiatives including: recruiting a cadre of transformative, world-class faculty and accelerating the expansion of the university’s academic medical enterprise; broadening USC’s international presence; dramatically improving the breadth and quality of its outstanding student body; dramatically expanding and improving the university’s infrastructure, including the development of the 15-acre USC Village; and successfully advancing one of the largest fundraising campaigns in the history of higher education, the Campaign for USC.
NECO is the sponsor of the Ellis Island Medals of Honor, which are presented annually to American citizens, both native born and naturalized, who have distinguished themselves within their own ethnic groups while exemplifying the values of the American way of life. The Ellis Island Medals of Honor embody the spirit of America in their celebration of patriotism, tolerance, brotherhood and diversity. The medal recognizes individuals who have made it their mission to share with those less fortunate their wealth of knowledge, indomitable courage, boundless compassion, unique talents and selfless generosity; all while maintaining the traditions of their ethnic heritage as they uphold the ideals and spirit of America. Honorees include six Presidents of the United States, Nobel Prize recipient Elie Wiesel, Generals Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell, Sandra Day O’Connor, Hillary Clinton, Bob Hope, Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra, Rosa Parks, Yue-Sai Kan, Mike Wallace and Mia Farrow.
NECO was created on the conviction of its founders that the diversity of the American people is what makes this nation great. Its mission is to honor and preserve this diversity and to foster tolerance, respect and understanding among religious and ethnic groups. Additionally, NECO continues its commitment to the restoration and maintenance of Ellis Island, a living tribute to the courage and hope of all immigrants.
“Today, there is so much negative rhetoric about immigration. We forget that the great majority of our citizens celebrate a second heritage in addition to being Americans,” NECO Chairman Nasser J. Kazeminy said. “I believe that anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America must also take on the responsibilities of citizenship. Those responsibilities include being informed, being engaged and voting for our leaders. This is the small price we pay for such enormous freedom. When we talk about immigration, let’s not forget the men and women who we have honored who are highly-skilled workers, college graduates, and entrepreneurs and who contribute so much to our society and our economy. America is a nation of immigrants and it is what makes us great.”
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.