By Mary Hearty
Dr Segenet Kelemu, icipe Director General has received the 2022 prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor (EIHS) for her special achievements and contributions to the global community.
The EIHS are awarded to individuals who have made it their mission to share with the less fortunate, their wealth of knowledge, indomitable courage, boundless compassion, unique talents and selfless generosity. They do so while acknowledging their debt to their ethnic heritage as they uphold the ideals and spirit of America.
Dr Kelemu intimated: “It is a great privilege to receive this recognition and to be associated with its symbolism. My journey to becoming a scientist started in rural Ethiopia, where I was inspired by the possibility of changing the lives of rural communities through science and agriculture. The opportunity to study in the United States helped to transform this dream into reality, setting me up for an international career as a molecular plant pathologist and the rise to scientific leadership.”
The medals, which were established in 1986 by the Ellis Island Honors Society, are among the United States most renowned awards. They are officially recognised by the US Senate and House of Representatives, and all the recipients are listed in the Congressional Records; the official record of the proceedings and debates of the US Congress.
The medals are aptly named after Ellis Island, located in Upper New York Bay, which served as the US principal immigration reception centre (1892–1954). Thus, the island remains an enduring symbol of the immigrant roots and diversity that characterizes the United States.
Dr. Kelemu took the helm of icipe after a highly prolific scientific tenure (1992–2007) at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Cali, Colombia; as the Director of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub at the International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI Hub), from 2007 to 2012; and as Vice-President of Programmes at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), from 2012 – 2013.
Dr Kelemu joins a list of noteworthy past recipients of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor including: several United States Presidents, among them Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Joe Biden; Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger, Madeline Albright, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton; American activist and civil rights movement icon, Rosa Parks; Nobel Prize laureates Elie Wiesel and Malala Yousufzai; artistes including singer and actor Frank Sinatra, film director Martin Scorsese, actress Rita Moreno and opera singer Renée Fleming; celebrated sports figure Muhammad Ali; Albert II, Prince of Monaco; industry leaders, including former Apple CEO John Sculley; former Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt; Mastercard Executive Chairman, Ajay Banga; former IBM CEO Ginni Rometty; former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi; and Prof. Bill Hansson, Director and Scientific Member, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology and former Chair of the Governing Council of icipe