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Joseph Sciame Elected as President of Major Italian American Organizations

Joseph Sciame, a National Past President of the Order Sons of Italy in America, recently was elected 2011-2013 Chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations. The election took place at the annual Conference meeting of more than 50 organizations held in Washington, DC at the end of October at the Washington Hilton, site of the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) annual meeting and gala weekend.

Sciame will lead the organization, known as “The Conference,” which was founded over 40 years ago “…to enroll as members in a spiritual bond all national, regional, statewide and special Italian American organizations,” and in order to provide a clearinghouse for centralized thinking and unified directed guidance for Italian American activities at their broadest national levels and interests.

In the past, the Conference was successful, among its many activities in: its campaign to gather some 100,000 signatures presented to the White House and United Nations, thereby thwarting off efforts to include other countries in the Security Council other than Italy; its work for the cause and success of the awarding of the Congressional Medal of Honor to the WWII hero Anthony Casamento after 41 years of struggle to attain the honor; its support of an annual thematic celebration of Italian Heritage and Culture Month each October; its united efforts against TV media productions that do not portray Italian Americans in an appropriate and positive way; its persistence in obtaining a Congressional Resolution on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of famed architect Andrea Palladio; and, most recently, its work towards the successful and coordinated effort to raise $3.2 million with the Republic of Italy, a sum that will reactivate the Advanced Placement (AP) in Italian by the College Board for high school students in Fall 2011.

 Sciame has been at the forefront of Italian American activities for more than 40 years having become local chapter president of a lodge in New Hyde Park, thereafter leading to his state and national presidency from 2003-2005 of the Order of Sons of Italy in America, an organization of some 600 lodges, 75,000 members and 600,000 family affiliates. He has served as President of the 800 plus membership of the American Society of the Italian Legions of Merit for those honored by the Republic of Italy; and currently is the president/chair of the Italian Heritage and Culture Committee-NY, Inc., a group of Italian Americans who promote the annual theme and production of all educational materials for Italian American Heritage Month celebrations.

 Honored twice by the Republic of Italy with the rank of Cavaliere and then Ufficiale in the Order of Merit, he was invested as Commendatore by Prince Vittorio Emmanuele of the House of Savoy in the Order of Merit and is an Ufficiale in the Order of SS. Maurice and Lazarus.  He currently serves as Vice-Delegate of the American Delegation of the Savoy Orders, and as a member of the American Foundation of Savoy Orders. The Holy See has also recognized him as a Knight Grand Cross for the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher.

A graduate of St. John’s University School of Education, Sciame resides in New Hyde Park, and he has served at the university in a variety of roles in the field of financial aid, initially as director, dean and vice-president, and in 1994 appointed to a new role in community relations.  In this position, he has coalesced the university with local surrounding community and civic organizations on matters pertaining to outreach by the university, as well as relating to issues that pertain to student off campus housing. In addition to his duties in the area of community relations, in 2010 Sciame was appointed as chair of the St. John’s University Italian Culture Center, succeeding the well-known and beloved Louis Carnesecca.

A person of wide interests, Sciame served as president of the state and regional financial aid associations, and then as first national chair of then 10,000 member National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators Association. Most recently, with the assistance of a group of interested community activists he founded and now chairs the Board of the Bedford Stuyvesant New Beginnings Charter School. In addition, he serves currently as the Chair of the Kupferberg Holocaust Center located QCC/CUNY and the Board of Ethics for the Town of North Hempstead, Nassau County. As well, he sits on the Board of Trustees of St. John’s Preparatory, the American Cancer Society Advisory Council for the Borough of Queens, the NY Blood Services Community Relations Council, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Staten Island Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the Futures in Education of the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Education Commission of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

In achieving this new recognition as Chair of the Conference, he said: “I am quite humbled to be elected by my peers to this important role in the realm of Italian American activities, and consider it an honor and obligation, for it is an honor for my heritage and a recognition of my cumulative professional and educational background at St. John’s University.  Indeed, this is a genuine opportunity to give back in a special way to the Italian American community and the community at large. I am very proud to use the gifts of leadership that I have been blessed with, and accumulated, over the years.  My faith, my family and its firm Italian and Sicilian heritage and values, as well as St. John’s University all have been part of my life’s achievements.”