Largest Class Ever to be Honored at 2017 Immigrant Heritage Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Gala

November 4 Event at CCSU to Honor Distinguished Connecticut Citizens of Hispanic, Italian, Jewish, Pakistani and Polish Heritage

New Britain, Conn., July 10, 2017 – Over the past four years, Connecticut’s Immigrant Heritage Hall of Fame has honored 17 iconic individuals and families who have made major contributions to the cultural fabric that is Connecticut and America. On November 4, six more esteemed individuals will join them at the 2017 Immigrant Heritage Hall of Fame (IHHF) Induction Ceremony and Gala at Central Connecticut State University.

The IHHF Class of 2017 will include a distinguished group of individuals of Hispanic, Italian, Jewish, Pakistani and Polish heritage. They are: The late Franciszek Herzog, a survivor of the Siberian exile following the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939 and long-time leader in America in Polish scouting; Rabbi Henry Okolica, 103, a German native of Polish heritage, holocaust survivor and inspirational leader at New Britain’s Congregation Tephereth Israel; Bessy Reyna, a Cuban native raised in Panama who is an award-winning, bilingual poet, activist, lecturer and journalist; the late Angelo Tomasso, Sr., an Italian immigrant, business and community leader who founded the Angelo Tomasso, Inc. construction company; the late Angelo Tomasso, Jr., who followed in his father’s footsteps to forever make the Tomasso name synonymous with Connecticut construction and philanthropy; and the Honorable Mohammad Nawaz Wahla of Pakistan, the first Muslim to serve the State of Connecticut as a Superior Court judge.

Complete inductee profiles are available on the IHHF website at

“Our 2017 class is our largest and truly reflects not only the enormous diversity at the heart of who we are as Americans, but the yeoman contributions of immigrants and those of immigrant heritage to our country,” said Andre Blaszczynski, long-time Tunxis Community College Professor of Economics, chair of the IHHF Organizing Committee and President of the Polish American Foundation of Connecticut.

The 2017 IHHF Induction Ceremony and Gala is open to the public and will be highlighted by a keynote address by Judge Wahla. In addition to ceremonies honoring each inductee, the evening will include an artistic program.

The event takes place at the CCSU Student Center Alumni Hall. Tickets are $85 per person, with cocktails at 5:30 and dinner at 7:00. Sponsorships are available and businesses and organizations are encouraged to consider purchasing a table of 10. For complete information and to purchase tickets online, visit

The Immigrant Heritage Hall of Fame is a program of the Polish American Foundation of Connecticut, Inc., a 501(c)3 charitable organization. The IHHF celebrates the diverse ethnic heritage of Connecticut by honoring individuals and institutions who exemplify the best of their immigrant heritage and have made outstanding contributions to the cultural, economic and civic development of our state and nation. The IHHF preserves heritage through publication of biographies and histories, and strives to educate the public about the importance of immigrant heritage to the identity of America and about the contributions of immigrants and immigrant communities.

It is the IHHF’s vision to establish an institution that will promote and publish research, lectures and conferences on the immigrant heritage of our state and the role of immigration in the American economy and culture, and build an endowment to sponsor, and offer research fellowships in support of these activities.

For more information, visit or call (860) 829-1215.