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Three West Hartford Residents to be Inducted into Immigrant Heritage Hall of Fame

Immigrant Hall of Fame honorees. Courtesy image

Four leaders in pediatric medicine, civil engineering, economics, and nonprofit leadership, three of whom are from West Hartford, will be inducted into the Immigrant Heritage Hall of Fame on Oct. 12, 2023.


The Immigrant Heritage Hall of Fame (IHHF) will be adding four iconic contributors to the fabric of life in Connecticut and America, representing vast accomplishment and varied backgrounds and religious traditions. The Induction Ceremony & Gala, by the National Immigrant Heritage Center, will take place on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023.

The new class of IHHF inductees will include distinguished individuals who have been leaders, activists and scholars in pediatric medicine, nonprofit leadership, civil engineering, entrepreneurship, economics, and interreligious understanding. They are:

  • Dr. Leon Chameides of West Hartford; pediatric cardiologist, author, and Holocaust survivor and educator
  • Rohan Freeman of Glastonbury; civil engineer, entrepreneur, adventurer-mountaineer and nonprofit advocate
  • Dr. Shyamala Raman of West Hartford; economist, educator and activist for inter-religious understanding
  • Dr. Galo Rodriguez of West Hartford; CEO, Village for Children and Families; nonprofit executive

“We are very pleased to recognize this inspiring group of individuals who embody the kind of perseverance, commitment to excellence and notable achievement that have made our world a better place,” said Demetrios Giannaros, president of the National Immigrant Heritage Center. “The Immigrant Heritage Hall of Fame Induction Gala is a celebration of the great contributions that our inductees and those of immigrant heritage make to this great state, nation and the world beyond. We expect to have a very successful IHHF Inductions Gala celebrating our great multicultural and multi-ethnic nation – the envy of the world. Please join us on October 12 at the Aqua Turf for a fantastic experience.”

The mission of the National Immigrant Heritage Center is to “celebrate, preserve, publicize, and promote immigrant heritage and cultural diversity as defining characteristics of the American Nation, and the contributions of Immigrants and Immigration to American economy, culture, and civil society.”

In addition to honoring each inductee, the 2023 event honoring the new inductees will also include an artistic program featuring performances reflecting the cultural backgrounds and heritage of the inductees. The October 12 induction ceremony program will be held at AquaTurf in Plantsville, CT.

The number of individuals and families honored by the Immigrant Heritage Hall of Fame since its inception in 2013 will total 39, with the four new inductees. Detailed inductee profiles – for the 2023 honorees and previous inductees – can be seen on the IHHF website at immigrantheritage.org.

The IHHF celebrates the diverse ethnic heritage of Connecticut by honoring individuals and institutions who exemplify the best of their immigrant heritage and who have made outstanding contributions to the cultural, economic, and civic development of our state and nation. The IHHF preserves heritage through publication of biographies and histories, and strives to educate the public about the importance of immigrant heritage to the identity of America and about the contributions of immigrants and immigrant communities.

CT Attorney General William Tong to keynote Induction Ceremony

Attorney General William Tong. Courtesy photo (we-ha.com file photo)

Keynote speaker for the IHHF induction ceremony will be Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a national leader in many of the most consequential lawsuits and investigations in our country today. Taking office in 2019, he became the first Asian American elected to any state office in Connecticut history and the first Chinese American to be elected Attorney General nationwide. He previously served for 12 years as a State Representative in the Connecticut General Assembly, where he served as House Chairman of the Judiciary Committee as well as the Banking Committee. Attorney General Tong currently serves as Eastern Region Chair and Finance Chair of the National Association of Attorneys General.

As a father and the son of immigrant small business owners, Attorney General Tong knows first-hand how Connecticut families are squeezed by rising costs that are unaffordable and unsustainable, and he has prioritized efforts to drive down energy costs, expand access to reliable broadband internet, and ensure access to affordable healthcare. Tong is the oldest of five children and grew up working side- by-side with his immigrant parents in their family’s Chinese restaurant.

Hall of Fame inductees have contributed to Connecticut’s quality of life

Dr. Leon Chameides was born in Poland in 1935. Following the German invasion, Leon and his family fled to settle in present-day Ukraine, where he went into hiding in a monastery to survive the Holocaust. After immigrating to the U.S., Dr. Chameides later became the founding Chair of Pediatric Cardiology and Chair of Pediatrics at Hartford Hospital and worked on committees that established Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in 1996. He also helped in the development of the first cardiovascular curriculum at the University of Connecticut’s new School of Medicine as a Clinical Professor. Dr. Chameides has been an active leader in the Jewish-American community.

Rohan Freeman was born and raised in Jamaica, and first came to the United States to study civil engineering at the University of Connecticut. Mr. Freeman is a successful entrepreneur and civil engineer who established the Freeman Companies and has used his success to give back through endowed scholarships. Accomplished as an adventurer-mountaineer, Mr. Freeman is the first African- American to have climbed the Seven Summits and is also a motivational speaker active on boards for several civic and cultural organizations.

Dr. Shyamala Raman received her B.A. and M.A. in Economics from the University of Madras in India before continuing her education at Wesleyan University and the University of Connecticut. Dr. Raman has taught generations of students as a Professor of Economics and International Studies at the University of Saint Joseph since 1983, reaching Emerita status in 2016. She is former Co-Chair of the Connecticut Council for Interreligious Understanding and a board member of the World Affairs Council.

Dr. Galo Rodriguez, born in Colombia, began his career as a family physician before immigrating to the United States. Dr. Rodriguez currently serves as President and CEO of the Village for Children and Families, leading over 400 professional staff, and recently announced plans to retire. He previously served as the Chief Operating Officer of the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Hartford, overseeing programs in Hartford, Litchfield, and New Haven counties, and is on the Connecticut Behavioral Health Partnership Oversight Council, and serves on the boards of several local nonprofit organizations.

New Nonprofit Operates Immigrant Heritage Hall of Fame

The Immigrant Heritage Hall of Fame was initially a project of the Polish American Foundation of Connecticut, Inc., a 501(c)3 charitable organization, which launched and operated the Hall of Fame from inception. It was succeeded by the establishment during 2021 of the National Immigrant Heritage Center (NIHC), an independent 501(c)3 organization established as a multi-ethnic Center, inclusive in its mission, structure and governance.

NIHC aims to promote and publish research, lectures, and conferences on the many dimensions of Connecticut’s immigrant heritage and the role of immigration throughout the American economy and culture. Its work, and the annual Immigrant Heritage Hall of Fame induction ceremony, is to be supported by an endowment that organizers anticipate will sponsor, support and provide research fellowships, to further these activities and expand public awareness and understanding.

Tickets for the 2023 Immigrant Heritage Hall of Fame gala are now available. A wide variety of sponsorships are also available to support the event and the National Immigrant Heritage Center. For up-to-date event, ticket, and sponsorship information, visit immigrantheritage.org or call 860-817- 0368.

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