Sunday, July 31, 2011

Manuel Lara Lopez

Country of origin: Mexico

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel of Austin says he has given the oath of citizenship to close to 10,000 immigrants in 7½ years, often in packed halls, but no ceremony was like the one he held Wednesday.

Yeakel read the oath in the backyard of a modest house in South Austin, granting a terminally ill man his last wish.

To find out the rest of Manuel Lara Lopez's story, see the rest of the article at

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ciro Rodriguez

Country of origin: Mexico

Ciro Davis Rodriguez (born December 9, 1946) is the former U.S. Representative for Texas's 23rd congressional district, serving from 2007 until 2011. The district stretches from El Paso in the west to San Antonio in the east, a distance of some 500 miles. He previously represented the neighboring Texas's 28th congressional district from 1997 to 2005, and was a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1987 to 1997. He is a member of the Democratic Party.

Rodriguez was born in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, but was raised and received his education in San Antonio, Texas. When Ciro Rodriguez was young, his mother died suddenly and he dropped out of school. After working at a gas station for a year, he decided to go back to school and attended two different summer schools to catch up. He graduated with his entering class from Harlandale High School and then briefly attended San Antonio College, but subsequently graduated from St. Mary’s University with a B.A. in Political Science. He received his Master of Social Work from Our Lady of the Lake University.

To read more about Ciro Rodriguez, visit his page on Wikipedia.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Itzhak Perlman

Country of origin: Israel

Itzhak Perlman (Hebrew: יצחק פרלמן‎; born August 31, 1945) is an Israeli-American violinist, conductor, and instructor of master classes. He is generally regarded as one of the pre-eminent violinists of the 20th century.

To read more about Itzhak Perlman, visit his Wikipedia page.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Feniosky Peña-Mora

Country of origin: Dominican Republic

Feniosky Peña-Mora is a Dominican born engineer, educator, and the 14th Dean of Columbia University's Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. Formerly the Associate Provost of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, he has an international reputation for his teaching, research, and leadership in managing engineering programs at world-renowned universities. He is also Columbia University's Morris A. and Alma Schapiro Professor of Engineering in the Departments of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics and Computer Science. Peña-Mora's appointment to one of the top posts in the Ivy League school has garnered much sensationalism in his home country Dominican Republic, and he has been headlined as the country's prodigy son.

To read more about Feniosky Peña-Mora, read his page on Wikipedia, or read this article at the New York Times.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

Country of origin: Kenya

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o (pronounced [ŋɡoɣe wa ðiɔŋɔ]; born January 5, 1938) is a Kenyan author, formerly working in English and now working in Gĩkũyũ. His work includes novels, plays, short stories, and essays, ranging from literary and social criticism to children's literature. He is the founder and editor of the Gikuyu-language journal, Mutiiri.

In 1977, Ngugi embarked upon a novel form of theater in his native Kenya which sought to liberate the theatrical process from what he held to be "the general bourgeois education system", by encouraging spontaneity and audience participation in the performances. Ngugi's project sought to "demystify" the theatrical process, and to avoid the "process of alienation [which] produces a gallery of active stars and an undifferentiated mass of grateful admirers" which, according to Ngugi, encourages passivity in "ordinary people". Although Ngaahika Ndeenda was a commercial success, it was shut down by the authoritarian Kenyan regime six weeks after its opening. Ngugi was subsequently imprisoned for over a year.

Adopted as an Amnesty Prisoner of Conscience, the artist was released from prison, and fled Kenya. In the United States, he taught at Yale University for some years, and has since also taught at New York University, with a dual professorship in Comparative Literature and Performance Studies, and the University of California, Irvine. Ngũgĩ has frequently been regarded as a likely candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature. His son is the author Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ.

To read more about Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, see his article on Wikipedia.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dinaw Mengestu

Country of origin: Ethiopia

Dinaw Mengestu (b. 1978) is an award-winning American novelist and writer, who was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In addition to two novels, he has written for Rolling Stone on the war in Darfur, and for Jane Magazine on the conflict in northern Uganda. His writing has also appeared in Harper's, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous other publications.

To read more about Dinaw Mengestu, see his page on Wikipedia.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Yakov Smirnoff

Country of origin: Ukraine

Yakov Naumovich Pokhis (Russian: Яков Наумович Похис, Ukrainian: Яків Наумович Похис; born 24 January 1951), better known as Yakov Smirnoff, is a Ukrainian-born American comedian, painter and teacher. He was popular in the 1980s for comedy performances in which he used irony and word play to contrast life under the Communist regime in his native Soviet Union with life in the United States, delivered in heavily accented English. He has a theatre in Branson, Missouri, where he performs year-round. Yakov is also a professor at Missouri State University and Drury University where he teaches "The Business of Laughter."


Smirnoff is also a painter and has frequently featured the Statue of Liberty in his art since receiving his U.S. citizenship.

On the night of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, he started a painting inspired by his feelings about the event, based on an image of the Statue of Liberty. Just prior to the first anniversary of the attacks, he paid US$100,000 for his painting to be transformed into a large mural. Its dimensions were 200 feet by 135 feet (61 m by 41 m).

The mural, titled "America's Heart," is a pointillist-style piece, with one brush-stroke for each victim of the attacks. Sixty volunteers from the Sheet Metal Workers Union erected the mural on a damaged skyscraper overlooking the ruins of the World Trade Center. The mural remained there until November 2003, when it was removed because of storm damage. Various pieces of the mural can now be seen on display at his theater in Branson, Missouri.

The only stipulation he put on the hanging of the mural was that his name not be listed as the painter. He signed it: "The human spirit is not measured by the size of the act, but by the size of the heart."

To read more about Yakov Smirnoff, visit his page on Wikipedia. To read more about the "America's Heart" mural, visit his website.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Anthony Quinn

Country of origin: Mexico

Anthony Quinn (April 21, 1915 – June 3, 2001) was a Mexican-American actor, as well as a painter and writer. He starred in numerous critically acclaimed and commercially successful films, including Zorba the Greek, Lawrence of Arabia, The Guns of Navarone, The Message, Guns for San Sebastian, Lion of the Desert and Federico Fellini's La strada. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor twice; for Viva Zapata! in 1952 and Lust for Life in 1956.

To learn more about Anthony Quinn, visit his page on Wikipedia.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Fernando Espuelas

Country of origin: Uruguay

Fernando Espuelas, Editor-in-Chief of, is focused on empowering and connecting people through media, technology and information. Recognized as one of the Internet's pioneers by international media and academic institutions, Espuelas has been at the forefront of online communities and the social networks that they have fostered.

Espuelas is the host and managing editor of Fernando Espuelas, a daily national talkshow broadcast live on the Univision Radio Network, and online at

To read more about Fernando Espuelas,visit his bio page at

Friday, July 22, 2011

Andrew Thomas

Country of origin: Australia

Born December 18, 1951, in Adelaide, South Australia. Married to Astronaut Shannon Walker. He enjoys horse riding and jumping, mountain biking, running, wind surfing, and classical guitar playing. His father, Adrian C. Thomas, resides in Hackham, South Australia. His mother, Mary E. Thomas, resides in North Adelaide, South Australia.


Dr. Thomas was selected by NASA in March 1992 and reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1992. In August 1993, following one year of training, he was appointed a member of the astronaut corps and was qualified for assignment as a mission specialist on Space Shuttle flight crews.

Read the rest of his biography here.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Miguel Blas-Matus

Country of origin: Mexico

Miguel Blas-Matus vividly recalls growing up with seven siblings in a one-room, dirt-floor house in his homeland of Juchitan, Oaxaca, Mexico.

Lacking electricity, they lived by candlelight while his mother cooked over an open fire at night, raised pigs and made cheese.


Today at age 45, his life is much different. He rents a room from a friend in Yakima, owns a 2000 Chevrolet Impala, but mostly relies on his bicycle for transportation, and is a junior in medical school.

Last month, Blas-Matus realized his dream of becoming an American citizen. But his quest into the land of opportunity wasn't easy. It was a journey filled with pain, sacrifice and humiliation.

To read more about Miguel Blas-Matus, read the rest of this news article.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rena Kornreich Gelissen

Country of origin: Germany

In 1920, Rena was born in Tylicz, Lesser Poland Voivodeship, Poland, to Chaim and Sara Kornreich. She had three sisters: Gertrude, Zosia and Danka. She and her sister were raised in Tylicz, but after the Nazi invasion escaped to Slovakia. To protect the people hiding her, she turned herself in to Auschwitz. She was on the first transport of Jewish women into the concentration camp, on March 26, 1942. There, she was tattooed "1716", being the "716'th" female to enter the camp. Three days later, her sister Danka joined her, where they forged an incredibly strong bond of love and compassion that would help them survive the three years and forty-one days that they would endure in the camp, undergoing hunger, torment and abuse. Among these years, Rena and her sister narrowly escaped Nazi experimentation, underwent forced labour and in January 1945, the death march to the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

To find out more about Rena Kornreich Gelissen, visit her page on Wikipedia, or read her memoir, Rena's Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Marcus Goldman

Country of origin: Germany

Marcus Goldman (December 9, 1821 – July 20, 1904) was a German-born American businessman and entrepreneur. He was born in Trappstadt, Germany and emigrated to the United States in 1848. He was the founder of Goldman Sachs, which was one of the world's largest global investment banks and is now a bank holding company.

To find out more about Marcus Goldman visit his page on Wikipedia.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Jesus Manuel Cordova

Country of origin: Mexico

A 9-year-old boy looking for help after his mother crashed their van in the southern Arizona desert was rescued by a man entering the U.S. illegally, who stayed with him until help arrived the next day, an official said.

To read the rest of Jesus Manuel Cordova's story, go to the story on cbsnews.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Geraldine Fitzgerald

Country of origin: Ireland

Geraldine Fitzgerald, Lady Lindsay-Hogg (November 24, 1913 – July 17, 2005) was an Irish-American actress and a member of the American Theatre Hall of Fame.


Geraldine Fitzgerald has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

To read more about Geraldine Fitzgerald, visit her Wikipedia page.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Rene Capo

Country of origin: Cuba

Rene Capo (May 9, 1961 – July 6, 2009) was a judoka from the United States who competed in the 1988 Summer Olympics and the 1996 Summer Olympics. Capo immigrated to the United States from Cuba as a young boy. Though he won several judo championships in high school, Capo took a four year break from the sport to attend the University of Minnesota. After college, Capo went on to qualify for two United States Olympics teams, could not compete as an alternate in another due to a back injury, and narrowly missed making the 2008 team. In 2008, Capo was diagnosed with lung cancer, which caused his death the following year.

To learn more about Rene Capo, visit his Wikipedia page.

Friday, July 15, 2011

William Shatner

Country of origin: Canada

William Alan Shatner (born March 22, 1931) is a Canadian actor, musician, recording artist, and author. He gained worldwide fame and became a cultural icon for his portrayal of James T. Kirk, captain of the USS Enterprise, in the science fiction television series Star Trek from 1966 to 1969, Star Trek: The Animated Series from 1973 to 1974, and in seven of the subsequent Star Trek feature films from 1979 to 1994. He has written a series of books chronicling his experiences playing Captain Kirk and being a part of Star Trek and has co-written several novels set in the Star Trek universe. He has also authored a series of science fiction novels called TekWar that were adapted for television.

To find out more about William Shatner, beam over to his Wikipedia page, or boldly go to his official website here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Catalino Tapia

Country of origin: Mexico

Catalino Tapia crossed the border from Mexico into the United States 40 years ago with a sixth-grade education and only $6 in his pocket. He became a legal resident and raised a family by working in a donut shop, a machine shop and then plant nurseries, before starting his own gardening business.

To read more about Catalino Tapia and his efforts to make money available for people to go to college, see this article at, or visit the website of the foundation he started, Bay Area Gardeners Foundation

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Johan Reinert Reierson

Country of origin: Norway

Johan Reinert Reierson (April 17, 1810, Vestre Moland, Aust-Agder - September 6, 1864) was Norwegian-American writer, author and publisher as well as an early Texas pioneer and emigration activist.


Reierson had been sponsored in 1843 by a group of prospective emigrants and financiers to tour the United States and report settlement possibilities. He made his way to the Republic of Texas. Reierson traveled to Austin, where President Sam Houston encouraged him to bring Norwegian settlers to the republic and promised aid in the establishment of a colony.

To read more about Johan Reinert Reierson, visit his page at Wikipedia.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Kojo Nnamdi

Country of origin: Guyana

Kojo Nnamdi is an American radio journalist. He was born on 8 January 1945. He is the host of The Kojo Nnamdi Show, and The Politics Hour on WAMU, and the Evening Exchange broadcast on WHUT-TV.

Nnamdi was born Rex Orville Montague Paul in Guyana. He emigrated to the United States in 1967 to attend college and explore the civil rights movement. He began his broadcast career in 1973 at WHUR-FM, as news editor. He has hosted WHUT-TV's public affairs show Evening Exchange since 1985, and he worked as a news editor and director before that.

To find out more about Kojo Nnamdi visit his page on Wikipedia or the biography page on his website.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Arianna Huffington

Country of origin: Greece

Arianna Huffington (born Arianna Stasinopoulos; Greek: Αριάννα Στασινοπούλος; July 15, 1950) is a Greek American author and syndicated columnist. She is best known as co-founder of the news website The Huffington Post. A popular conservative commentator in the mid-1990s, she adopted more liberal political beliefs in the late 1990s. She is the ex-wife of former Republican congressman Michael Huffington.

In 2003, she ran as an independent candidate for Governor in the California recall election.

In 2009, Huffington was named as number 12 in Forbes' first-ever list of the Most Influential Women In Media. She has also moved up to number 42 in The Guardian's Top 100 in Media List.

To read more about Arianna Huffington, visit her page on Wikipedia.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lisa Kalvelage

Country of origin: Germany

Kalvelage's passion for peace began after she and her immediate family lived through aerial bombings and other horrors during World War II. At the time, she was a young girl living in the historical city of Nuremberg, Germany.

Read more of Lisa Kalvelage's story here, or listen to an interview with her here.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Mourad Lahlou

Country of origin: Morocco

Self-taught Mourad Lahlou traveled to the United States from Marrakech in 1985 to study macroeconomics at San Francisco State University. There, Lahlou began cooking to ease the loneliness he felt while studying far away from home. Working from memories of watching his mother prepare traditional Moroccan dishes, Lahlou began to experiment for small groups of friends and professors. After receiving his master’s degree in economics, Lahlou had intended to continue his work towards a PhD but recognizing that his drive in the kitchen was getting serious, Lahlou postponed his academic career to supervise the kitchen as chef/owner of Kasbah which he opened in San Rafael, California in 1997.
Lahlou soon began to feel that consumer attachment to traditional Moroccan food and décor was beginning to inhibit his growth as a chef, and decided to create a modern establishment where he could reach his personal culinary goal of revolutionizing Moroccan cuisine. Lahlou conducted an extensive two-year search for a San Francisco location and closed Kasbah to open Aziza in November 2001.

To read an interview with Mourad Lahlou, visit this link, or to see an article about Mourad Lahlou, go here.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Allan Pinkerton

Country of origin: Scotland

Allan Pinkerton (25 August 1819 – 1 July 1884) was a Scottish American detective and spy, best known for creating the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, the first detective agency of the United States.


Pinkerton married Joan Carfrae (a singer) in Glasgow on 13 March 1842 secretly before moving to America. Disillusioned by the failure to win suffrage, Pinkerton emigrated to the United States in 1842, at the age of 23.

In 1849 Pinkerton was appointed as the first detective in Chicago. In the 1850s, he partnered with Chicago attorney Edward Rucker in forming the North-Western Police Agency, later known as the Pinkerton National Detective Agency and still in existence as Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations, a subsidiary of Securitas AB. Pinkerton's business insignia was a wide open eye with the caption "We never sleep." As the United States expanded in territory, rail transportation increased. Pinkerton's agency solved a series of train robberies during the 1850s, first bringing Pinkerton into contact with George McClellan and Abraham Lincoln.

To read more about Allan Pinkerton, visit his page on Wikipedia.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Jim Carrey

Country of origin: Canada

James Eugene "Jim" Carrey (born January 17, 1962) is a Canadian-American actor, comedian, singer and writer. He has received two Golden Globe Awards and has also been nominated on four occasions. Carrey began comedy in 1979, performing at Yuk Yuk's in Toronto, Ontario. After gaining prominence in 1981, he began working at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles where he was soon noticed by comedian Rodney Dangerfield, who immediately signed him to open his tour performances. Carrey, long interested in film and television, developed a close friendship with comedian Damon Wayans, which landed him a role in the sketch comedy hit In Living Color, in which he portrayed various characters during the show's 1990 season.

To read more about Jim Carrey, visit his page on Wikipedia.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Luis Perez

Country of origin: Mexico

Undocumented UCLA law grad is in a legal bind

His family crossed the border illegally when he was an 8-year-old, but he has done everything right since then. Will his adopted country now do right by him?

Ever since he was 8 years old, Luis Perez has dedicated his life to becoming an American. In grade school, days after his arrival from Mexico, he studied hard to master English — it quickly displaced Spanish as his dominant language.

To read more about Luis Perez, the first undocumented immigrant to graduate from the UCLA School of law, visit the Los Angeles Times website, or see this article at the Wall Street Journal.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Denny Chin

Country of origin: Hong Kong

Denny Chin (Chinese: 陳卓光) is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He was a judge on the United States district court for the Southern District of New York before joining the federal appeals bench. President Clinton nominated Chin to the district court on March 24, 1994, and Chin was confirmed August 9 of that same year. On October 6, 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Chin to the federal appeals court. He was confirmed on April 22, 2010 by the U.S. Senate, filling the vacancy created by Judge Robert D. Sack who assumed senior status. Chin was the first Asian American appointed as a U.S. District Judge outside of the Ninth Circuit. He is the only Asian American judge in active service in the federal appellate court system.

Chin was born in 1954 in Kowloon, Hong Kong and came to the U.S. in 1956. He graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1971. He received his Bachelor's degree, magna cum laude, from Princeton University in 1975. In 1978, Chin graduated from Fordham University School of Law, where he was the Managing Editor of the Fordham Law Review. Chin currently teaches first year Legal Writing at Fordham.

To read more about Denny Chin, visit his page on Wikipedia.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Frank Capra

Country of origin: Italy

Frank Russell Capra (May 18, 1897 – September 3, 1991) was a Sicilian-born American film director and a creative force behind a number of films of the 1930s and 1940s, including It Happened One Night (1934), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), Lost Horizon (1937), You Can't Take It With You (1938), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Meet John Doe (1941), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) and It's a Wonderful Life (1946).

To read more about Frank Capra, visit his page on Wikipedia.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Albert Bierstadt

Country of origin: Germany

Albert Bierstadt (January 7, 1830 – February 18, 1902) was a German-American painter best known for his lush, sweeping landscapes of the American West. In obtaining the subject matter for these works, Bierstadt joined several journeys of the Westward Expansion. Though not the first artist to record these sites, Bierstadt was the foremost painter of these scenes for the remainder of the 19th century.

To find out more about Albert Bierstadt, visit his page on Wikipedia, or see a catalog of his amazing paintings here.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Maximilian Faktorowicz

Country of origin: Russian Poland

Max Factor, Sr. (15 September 1875 – 30 August 1938), born Maximilian Faktorowicz, was a successful Polish-Jewish businessman, cosmetician, chemist, wigmaker. Founder of cosmetics giant Max Factor & Company, he largely developed the modern cosmetics industry and popularised the term make-up in noun form based on the verb.


Factor moved his family to Los Angeles, California, seeing an opportunity to provide made to order wigs and theatrical make-up to the growing film industry. Initially he established a shop on South Central Avenue, advertising the business as “Max Factor’s Antiseptic Hair Store”. Founding Max Factor & Company in 1909, he soon became the West Coast distributor of Leichner and Minor, two leading theatrical make-up manufacturers. During the early years of movie-making, greasepaint in stick form, although the accepted make-up for use on the stage, could not be applied thinly enough, nor were the colours appropriate to work satisfactorily on the screen.

Factor began experimenting with various compounds in an effort to develop a suitable make-up for the new film medium. By 1914 he had perfected the first cosmetic specifically created for motion picture use — a thinner greasepaint in cream form, packaged in a jar, and created in 12 precisely-graduated shades. Unlike theatrical cosmetics, it would not crack or cake.

To read more about Maximilian Faktorowicz, visit his page on Wikipedia.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Mihajlo Idvorski Pupin

Country of origin: Austria Hungary

Mihajlo Idvorski Pupin, Ph.D, LL.D. (4 October 1858 – 12 March 1935; Serbian Cyrillic: Михајло Идворски Пупин), also known as Michael I. Pupin, was a Serbian physicist and physical chemist. Pupin is best known for his numerous patents, including a means of greatly extending the range of long-distance telephone communication by placing loading coils (of wire) at predetermined intervals along the transmitting wire (known as "pupinization").


After the sudden death of his father, Pupin emigrated to the United States of America in 1874. Pupin says, "I bless the stars that the immigration laws were different then than they are now ... My admission by a special favor of the examiners was a puzzle and a disappointment to me." After a short time as a farm laborer in Delaware, he spent the next few years in a series of menial jobs in New York City (most notably, the biscuit factory on Cortlandt Street in Manhattan), learning English and American ways; the library and lectures at Cooper Union were an important resource for him.

He entered Columbia College in 1879, where he became known as an exceptional athlete and scholar. A friend of Pupin's predicted that his physique would make him a splendid oarsman, and that Columbia would do anything for a good oarsman. A popular student, he was elected president of his class in his Junior year. He graduated with honors in 1883 and became an American citizen at the same time. He obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Berlin under Hermann von Helmholtz, and in 1889 he returned to Columbia University to become a lecturer of mathematical physics in the newly formed Department of Electrical Engineering. Pupin's research pioneered carrier wave detection and current analysis.

To read more about Mihajlo Idvorski Pupin, visit his page on Wikipedia, or watch "From Immigrant to Inventor : Michael Pupin Remembered" (information about this program can be seen here)