2016 Outstanding American by Choice Recipients

Uri Herscher

Photo credit:
Loretta Ayeroff

April 5, 2016
Washington, DC

Uri D. Herscher
President and CEO, Skirball Cultural Center
Los Angeles, California

Uri D. Herscher is the Founding President and CEO of the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, CA, a dynamic cultural institution devoted to the appreciation of Jewish heritage, American democratic ideals, and the formative impact of immigration on American society. Since its founding in 1996, the Skirball has welcomed millions of visitors from across the nation and around the world.

Born in Tel Aviv in 1941 to parents who fled Nazi Germany, Dr. Herscher immigrated with his family to San Jose, CA, in 1954. In 1960, while still in high school, he chose to become a U.S. citizen. In 1964 he graduated with honors with a B.A. in history and sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. He received rabbinic ordination at Hebrew Union College in 1970 and a doctorate in American Jewish history in 1973. He went on to become its National Dean of Admissions (1970-1974) and Executive Vice President and Dean of Faculty of its four campuses in Cincinnati, OH; Los Angeles, CA; New York, NY; and Jerusalem (1975-1995), while simultaneously holding an appointment as Professor of American Jewish History, specializing in immigration studies.

Throughout his years of institutional and communal leadership, Dr. Herscher has sought to build public support and appreciation for the constructive role of immigration in American life. The Skirball Cultural Center's exhibitions and programs frequently focus on the significant contributions of immigrants from many lands and cultures to the character and fabric of our nation.

Sally Jewell

May 18, 2016
Washington, DC

The Honorable Sally Jewell
Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior
Washington, District of Columbia 

Sally Jewell was sworn in as the 51st Secretary of the Interior on April 12, 2013 to lead an agency with more than 70,000 employees. Interior serves as steward for approximately 20 percent of the nation's lands, including national parks, national wildlife refuges, and other public lands; oversees the responsible development of conventional and renewable energy supplies on public lands and waters; is the largest supplier and manager of water in the 17 Western states; and upholds trust responsibilities to the 566 federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Natives.

Prior to her confirmation, Secretary Jewell served in the private sector, most recently as President and CEO of Recreation Equipment, Inc. (REI). She is also a former banker and oil industry engineer. An avid outdoorswoman, Secretary Jewell has worked to ensure that public lands are accessible and relevant to all people from all backgrounds, and to build a connection between the great outdoors and a new generation of Americans.

Secretary Jewell became a naturalized citizen in 1975 while in college. She had immigrated to the United States with her parents from England as a young child. She is the only member of President Barack Obama's Cabinet who is a naturalized citizen.

Hesung Chun Koh

July 19, 2016
New Haven, CT

Hesung Chun Koh
Co-Founder, Chair and President Emerita, East Rock Institute

Director Emerita, Research and Development and East Asian Studies, Human Relations Area Files (HRAF), Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut

A native of Seoul, South Korea, Dr. Hesung Chun Koh emigrated to the U.S. as a 19 year-old scholarship student, eventually becoming a renowned scholar of comparative culture studies. She has dedicated her 50-plus year professional life to fostering understanding between East and West and helping to lay the groundwork for Korean studies in the U.S. In 1952, she co-founded East Rock Institute of New Haven, CT, the nation’s first institution dedicated to Korean and Korean Diaspora culture, with her late husband, Dr. Kwang Lim Koh, a former ambassador to the U.S. She served more than two decades as Director of Research and Development and East Asian Research at Yale’s HRAF (Human Relations Area Files) and taught for many years at Yale Law School and Yale College.

Dr. Koh is the author of several best-selling books, including Authentic Leadership in a Multicultural Society, Women’s Authentic Leadership, and Meaningful Ageing, and is an accomplished artist, holding several solo art exhibits in Asia and the U.S. She has received prestigious awards such as the Prime Minister’s Award, South Korea (1990), Connecticut Governor’s Award (2003), and the Order of Civil Merit, South Korea (2007). Dr. Koh earned a B.A. in economics/sociology from Dickinson College, M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology and anthropology from Boston University, and conducted post-doctoral work in Chinese studies at Harvard University and Georgetown University. She is the mother of six—including two former U.S. government officials, three deans, and four professors (three at Yale or Harvard)—grandmother of eleven, and great-grandmother of six.

Antonia Hernandez

September 29, 2016
Los Angeles, CA

Antonia Hernández
President and Chief Executive Officer, California Community Foundation
Los Angeles, California

Nationally regarded for a career spanning four decades in social justice, expertise in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector, and a lifelong devotion to underserved communities in Los Angeles County and beyond, Antonia Hernández joined the California Community Foundation as president and chief executive officer in 2004. Established in 1915, the California Community Foundation is one of the largest and most active philanthropic organizations in Southern California, with assets of more than $1.5 billion. In partnership with its more than 1,600 individual, family and corporate donors, the foundation supports nonprofit organizations and public institutions with funds for health and human services, affordable housing, early childhood education, community arts and culture and other areas of need.

Previously, Hernández was president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), a national nonprofit litigation and advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the civil rights of the nation’s Latinos through the legal system, community education, and research and policy initiatives. Hernández earned her B.A. in History at UCLA in 1970 and J.D. at the UCLA School of Law in 1974. She became a U.S. citizen in 1975.

Julian Chow

Photo credit:
UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare

October 19, 2016
Oakland, CA

Dr. Julian Chun-Chung Chow
Chair Professor, Hutto-Patterson Charitable Foundation, Child and Family Studies, School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, California

Dr. Julian Chun-Chung Chow is a professor at the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley. He is considered a leading scholar in community practice, service delivery, and urban poverty in the field of social work. In 2016, Dr. Chow was appointed as chair professor for the Hutto-Patterson Charitable Foundation in Child and Family Studies, the first Asian American faculty member to have been honored with an endowed chair professorship at the School of Social Welfare. Dr. Chow was recently named a 2016 Fellow by the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR). This prestigious honor is bestowed upon SSWR members who have worked to promote a diverse and equitable society and to advance research addressing issues of social work practice and policy. In 2011, Dr. Chow was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to become the first Fulbright Scholar in social work to visit the Department of Social Work at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he studied the development of social service systems and infrastructure in China.

Dr. Chow received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and Social Work from Tunghai University in Taiwan, and both his Master of Science in Social Administration and his Ph.D. in Social Welfare from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. He is one of the founders of the Cleveland Chinese School, a nonprofit organization that revolutionized language immersion programs by offering both a Chinese language curriculum to English-speaking children and English-learning classes for their immigrant parents. Dr. Chow has remained an active volunteer within the Asian American community and continually works to improve the lives of immigrants to the United States. Dr. Chow became a U.S. citizen in 1989.

Samantha Power

November 15, 2016
New York, NY

Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York

Ambassador Samantha Power is the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) and a member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet. At the United Nations, Ambassador Power works to advance U.S. interests, promote and defend universal values, and address pressing global challenges to global peace, security, and prosperity. Prior to this role, Ambassador Power served as Special Assistant to President Obama and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights on the National Security Staff at the White House. In this role she focused on issues including UN reform; LGBT and women’s rights; the promotion of religious freedom and the protection of religious minorities; human trafficking; and democracy and human rights.

Before joining the U.S. government, Ambassador Power was the Anna Lindh Professor of the Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, teaching courses on U.S. foreign policy, human rights, and UN reform. She was also the founding Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard. Ambassador Power began her career as a journalist, reporting from places such as Bosnia, East Timor, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sudan, and Zimbabwe, and contributed regularly to The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, the New York Review of Books, and The New Yorker Magazine.

Ambassador Power immigrated to the United States from Ireland at the age of nine and became a U.S. citizen in 1993. She is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of two books and has received many accolades and awards. She received a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Florent Groberg

November 21, 2016
Alexandria, VA

Captain Florent A. Groberg (Retired)
U.S. Army; Medal of Honor Recipient; Director, Veterans Outreach, Boeing
Washington, District of Columbia

Florent A. Groberg is a retired U.S. Army captain who was born in Poissy, France. He is a recipient of the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor for his heroism while serving in combat operations in Afghanistan in 2012. As a result of his actions, he sustained the loss of 45 to 50 percent of his left calf muscle with significant nerve damage, a blown eardrum, and a mild traumatic brain injury. Captain Groberg spent his recovery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center from August 2012 through May 2015. He was medically retired from Company B Warriors, Warrior Transition Battalion, as a captain in July 2015. 

Captain Groberg is the Director of Veterans Outreach at Boeing in Washington, DC, serving in this position since September 2016. In this role, he is responsible for developing and implementing a company-wide giving and engagement strategy for Boeing’s support of military veterans and their families, and will lead Boeing’s community engagement in the eastern United States. Prior to joining Boeing, Captain Groberg served as a spokesperson for LinkedIn where he was responsible for the promotion of LinkedIn’s veterans program that consisted of a tailored job search tool for veterans transitioning out of the military and into the civilian workforce.

Captain Groberg came to the United States at the age of 12 and was raised in Bethesda, MD. He became a United States citizen in 2001. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal justice from the University of Maryland.

Johan Uvin

December 20, 2016
Alexandria, VA

Johan E. Uvin
Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education
Washington, District of Columbia

Johan E. Uvin is the Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) at the U.S. Department of Education. He joined OCTAE in December 2009 as a senior policy advisor. In 2011, he was appointed to the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary for policy and strategic initiatives and in 2014 he was named as the Acting Assistant Secretary for OCTAE. Acting Assistant Secretary Uvin is responsible for the Department of Education’s adult education portfolio, including corrections and reentry education, secondary, postsecondary and adult career and technical education, and community colleges.

Since 2010, Acting Assistant Secretary Uvin has been a member of the steering committee of the White House Domestic Policy Council's New Americans Citizenship and Integration Initiative, which developed a framework for federal efforts on immigrant integration. More recently, he has represented the Department of Education on the White House Task Force on New Americans.

Prior to his work at the Department of Education, Acting Assistant Secretary Uvin led the Rhode Island state office that oversees adult education, career and technical education, and General Education Development testing. He started his career in the United States as an English as a Second Language teacher in Boston, MA and worked as a coordinator of a refugee program in Boston’s Chinatown. Acting Assistant Secretary Uvin holds a doctorate in administration, planning and social policy and a master's degree in international education from Harvard University. He also holds a Master of Arts in teaching English to speakers of other languages from the School of International Training in Brattleboro, VT.

Last Reviewed/Updated: