NEW YORK CITY (March 8, 2007) – Officials and Trustees of The National World War II Museum, located in New Orleans, honored three leaders of the New York community with the presentation of the American Spirit Medallion at a ceremony in the Rainbow Room in New York City on Wednesday, March 7. The three recipients – Peter Kalikow, Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, and John Whitehead – were recognized for their roles in helping to create, support, and sustain the Museum since its creation. The event was entitled “A Generation Speaks…The National World War II Museum Remembers.”
“The National World War II Museum is proud to honor these three extraordinary men for their visionary support of the Museum,” said Governor Pete Wilson, Chairman of the Museum’s Board of Trustees. He added, “Their leadership and their contributions to our country will long be remembered, and will inspire future generations to seek knowledge, aim for the highest goals, and never forget that freedom isn’t free. Freedom is secured only with the courage and sacrifice of those willing to fight and die for it.”
Former NBC Nightly News Anchor Tom Brokaw, a longtime supporter of The National World War II Museum, served as Master of Ceremonies for the tribute dinner and spoke about World War II and its significance today. The American Spirit Medallion is one of the most prestigious honors given by The National World War II Museum. It is reserved for distinguished veterans and citizens who have contributed to the success of the Museum and who epitomize the values represented in the Museum’s mission: courage, discipline, teamwork, and sacrifice, all of which defined the American Spirit of the World War II era. Museum President and CEO Dr. Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller noted, “The Museum has been fortunate to have the support of key leaders in New York from the very beginning of the Museum’s development as early as 1990; they came to our aid again during the crisis following Hurricane Katrina and are still helping us move forward in our expansion plans.”
The three honorees have all had distinguished careers in New York and exceptional records of service to their country and their communities.
Peter Kalikow is President of H.J. Kalikow & Company, LLC, one of New York’s leading real estate firms. He has a long history of public service in local, state and national politics, including his current position as Chairman of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority. An enthusiastic student of World War II and military history, Kalikow developed a close relationship with Dr. Stephen Ambrose, one of the country’s most renowned World War II historian and authors. In 1990, Kalikow funded the original feasibility study that launched Dr. Ambrose’s vision to build a museum to tell the story of the D-Day invasion at Normandy. That gift was the first step toward the creation of the Museum, which opened in 2000. Kalikow served as a member of the Board of Trustees from 2003-2005. In large part, his work on behalf of the Museum is a tribute to his father, the late Harold J. Kalikow, who served with the U.S. Marine Corps at Guadalcanal. Father and son were honored together as Men of the Year by the UJA-Federation in 1976 and received the Norman Tishman Award from the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith in 1978. Peter Kalikow also received The Peace Medal, the State of Israel’s highest civilian award, in 1982 for his many years in aiding the nation’s development.
In 2000, Maurice Greenberg and The Starr Foundation made a capstone gift that completed the first phase of the Museum – the “D-Day’s of the Pacific” wing. “Hank”Greenberg, nicknamed after his favorite baseball player, is the Chairman and CEO of C.V. Starr & Company, Inc., a global investment firm. He left high school at the age of 17 to join the U.S. Army and was attached to the Army Rangers, storming Omaha Beach on D-Day. Later, he was among the soldiers who liberated the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. He returned to New York to continue his education and completed law school on the G.I. Bill. Recalled for service in Korea, Greenberg rose to the rank of Captain. He is a recipient of the Bronze Star. Greenberg also is an active member of numerous civic and charitable organizations including being the founding Chairman of the U.S.-Philippine Business Committee, Vice Chairman of the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, Chairman Emeritus of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, and Life Trustee of New York University.
John Whitehead enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the age of 19. He piloted landing craft to the shore in Normandy on D-Day and participated in the invasions of Southern France, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. Whitehead began his professional career in 1947 at Goldman, Sachs & Co., where he worked for 38 years. He was named Co-Chairman and Senior Partner in 1976 and is currently Chairman of the Goldman Sachs Foundation. He has served on the board of numerous companies and is a former Director of the New York Stock Exchange and Chairman of the Securities Industry Association. Whitehead further served his country when appointed Deputy Secretary of State in 1985 under Secretary George Schultz, and was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Ronald Reagan. Returning to New York in 1989, Whitehead has been active in many educational, civic, and charitable organizations. He is a former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the United Nations Association, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Harvard Board of Overseers, Haverford College, and the Asia Society. In 2001, he was appointed Chairman of the Board of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the organization responsible for revitalization of the area following September 11, and served in that position until May 2006. He is the Founding Chairman of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation. Along with noted journalist and news anchor Tom Brokaw, Whitehead showed leadership support for the Museum in the critical days following Hurricane Katrina by co-hosting a private fundraiser luncheon in New York to help the Museum through its immediate financial crisis and reopen its doors to the public on December 3, 2005.
Previous recipients of the American Spirit Medallion include members of Congress who are WWII veterans, Normandy veterans who participated in a special 60th anniversary ceremony of the D-Day invasion, and leaders of the U.S. Coast guard and American Red Cross who came to the aid of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
“These honorees are remarkable for their devotion to our country, their focus on ensuring that future generations learn about World War II and its significance for today, the mark they have made on the world in business, and their participation in civic, educational, religious and philanthropic causes,” said Wilson. “The National World War II Museum is grateful to be among their priorities.”
The Museum, officially designated by the U.S. Congress as the country’s National World War II Museum in 2003, has launched a $300 million, 220,000 square foot expansion project, which will cover an additional three city blocks in New Orleans’ historic Warehouse District. Plans include four prominent exhibition pavilions which will portray all campaigns of the war on land, sea, and air; each branch of the U.S. military services; a theater and USO entertainment facility, and a WWII period restaurant. It is located in New Orleans because it was there that Andrew Higgins designed and built the landing craft used in the war’s amphibious invasions – which President Eisenhower believed won the war for the Allies.
Recognized with a #1 ranking in USA Today’s listing of Best Places to Learn U.S. Military History, the current 80,000 square foot Museum comprises dramatic interactive displays, personal accounts, and more than 10,000 artifacts covering the D-Days of Normandy and the Pacific as well as the home front effort. A new K-12 education and research center opened last year. The Museum continues to build a comprehensive collection of WWII-era oral histories. “Our mission is urgent as America is losing nearly 1,500 WWII veterans every day,” said Mueller. “Their stories are priceless and must be preserved for future generations.”
Since it opened in 2000, more than 1.6 million people have visited the Museum, including more than a 250,000 students and teachers, many of whom experienced for the first time the impact of WWII and the contributions that people throughout our nation made to the war effort. The Museum had minimal damage from Hurricane Katrina and reopened to the public after a few months. Total visitation since the reopening in December 2005 has been more than 85,000. Membership continues to grow, with more than 130,000 members from every state in the country. WWII veterans account for 40,000 of that number. The Museum’s goal is to share the values of the American Spirit with the next generation, to increase awareness of our democratic heritage, to nurture responsible citizens, and to cultivate leaders.