United in Their Italian Heritage

| 05 Apr 2016 | 11:12


Having lived all over the country, Maria Tamburri appreciated the rich Italian-American community she found when moving to New York in 2006. She relocated here with her husband following his appointment as dean of the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute at Queens College. That same year, she became involved with NOIAW, a national network devoted to celebrating Italian culture and heritage by hosting educational events, providing scholarships, mentoring young people and organizing cultural exchange programs.

Her involvement with NOIAW began almost immediately upon her arrival to the city and grew into her taking on different leadership roles within the organization. She was on the board, served as executive director, then president and, in June, became chair of the national board. Her job includes overseeing the other three regions, Rhode Island, Connecticut and greater Washington, D.C., that make up the organization.

On April 16, NOIAW will celebrate its 35th anniversary with a luncheon at The St. Regis honoring CNN news anchor Alisyn Camerota and Jeanne Mariani Sullivan, founding principal of venture capital firm StarVest Partners.

Explain NOIAW’s cultural exchange program.In 2007, we launched this cultural exchange program with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. So we’re actually going into our 10th year. This year, we’re selecting a group of Italian-American college women to go over to Italy and be hosted in Rome by the Italian government. They usually stay in a residence or a hotel. The idea is that they get to meet professional Italian women. It’s a cultural and educational experience. And this past June, we just had a group of Italian college women that came here for the same thing. We housed them in the dorms at Fordham Lincoln Center. Again, the same idea, they get to meet accomplished Italian-American professional women. They do some kinds of New York things as well, like see a show and go down to Ellis Island.

What does your job as chair entail?I oversee the office operation. I have someone here who is very good and in charge of the office, Beth, but I oversee the administration of the entire organization, whether it’s the board or the staff. Like right now, we’re in the middle of planning our major fundraiser and are executing that. But I’m involved in all of our regions. We have four: Rhode Island, Connecticut, greater Washington, D.C., and New York. In New York, we have subsets of the regions because we have Long Island and Staten Island. We’re about to launch Westchester, probably in the fall. We have these cultural and educational programs in addition to the youth programs, one of them I just talked about, the cultural exchange. And another one is the scholarships.

How would describe the Italian-American community in Manhattan?In Manhattan, it’s very rich in a sense that there are many organizations here. And we also welcome men; you don’t have to be a woman to be a member or friend of our organization. I’ve lived all over the country and I think you find New York and Manhattan very rich with a lot of Italian-American organizations and activities going on. There’s a group called the Italian Heritage and Culture Month. They represent about 30 different organizations and groups. They put together all the programming that goes on in October for Italian Heritage and Culture Month. We support each other and sometimes do things together with them.

Who have been your Italian-American women mentors in your life and some interesting women you’ve met through your job?I’ve met some very fascinating women. The late Geraldine Ferraro is one of our founding members. Because I came here in 2006, I got to know her. And Matilda Cuomo. Dr. Aileen Sirey is our founder and chair emeritus. I worked with her and she’s still very active on our board. She founded the organization and got support from Geraldine Ferraro, Matilda Cuomo, Donna de Matteo, Constance Mandina.

For more information, visit www.noiaw.org