On a unique night of splendor, the Institute for Latino Studies (ILS), dedicated to quality research for effective advocacy, honored distinguished unsung Latinos healing from varied professions.

Partial illustrious audience

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Cameras captured honorees and guests as they walked on red carpet and into the welcome cocktail reception.

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As toreadores of their own live stories, honorees marched proudly into a packed auditorium to the magistral rhythm of La Virgen de la Macarena, played live by solo trumpetist Eganam Segbefia.

Illustrious Trompetista

They made their grand entrance into the auditorium of Rutgers University’s Paul Robeson Campus Center in Newark, NJ, holding their heads high and their chest swollen with pride.

The formal black-tie ceremony begun promptly with welcoming remarks by ILS President Dr. Maria Teresa Montilla. She explained the making of the Illustrious Awards was based on primary research and dossier in the archives of the Institute for Latino Studies.

The ceremony was an interactive two-hour pre-produced audio-visual presentation depicting Latino contributions to the United States. Each honoree’s life story, accomplishments and contributions were highlighted on five screens set in the auditorium.


Their life stories were also included in the Collectible Illustrious Awards Tribute Journal, released and distributed to those in attendance. In addition, each life story will be featured in the documentary Latino Illustrious to be released in 2017

Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented to Honorable Arthur O. Eve, First Dominican Elected to Public Office in the United States, Jose Rohaidy (Posthumous), Cuban Dean of Journalism in New Jersey, and Maria Magda O’Keefe, First Latina & Puerto Rican Elected to Paterson City Council.

Illustrious Award Recipients included:

1.     Arts
Eduardo Hoepelman, Photographer
Vanessa DeLeon, Interior Design

2.     Business & Entrepreneurship
Cira Ángeles, Business Advocacy
Jaime Lucero, Corporate Management
John Estevez, Franchise Management
Hector Nuñez, Accounting Service

3.     Communications
Aida Rosario, Broadcast Media Community Relations
Antonio Ibarría – Newspaper Publishing
Juan Guillen – Trendsetter Media & Marketing
Willie Sanchez – TV Production
Fernando Aquino – Government Media Relations
Miguel Pérez – Journalism
Malin Falu – Radio

4.      Education
Gloria Bonilla, PhD – Higher Education
Isabel Nazario – Higher Education Administration
Leonel Morales – Elementary Education
Edwin Quezada – Public School Administration
Loyda García – Elementary Education
Ana Garcia Reyes, Higher Education Community Relations
Carlos Medina, Higher Education Management & Administration

5.      Government
Dennis González – Public Administration
Lucio Fernandez – Public Service
Feniosky Pena-Mora, Engineering

6.      Law & Law Enforcement
Evelyn Padin, Esq. – Practice of Law
Fernando Alonso, Esq. – Education
Seny Taveras, Esq. – Education Administration

7.      Leadership
Luz E. Santiago (Lucy) – Nonprofit Advocacy
Martin Pérez – Civil Rights Advocacy
Sandra Harris – Community Advocacy
Lourdes Cortez – Corporate Financial Development
Rosita Romero – Community Activism
Charito Cisneros, Small business Advocacy
Richard Rivera – Law Enforcement Advocacy

8.      Medicine
Julia E. Bello, MD – Victim Advocacy
Marcos Charles, MD -Internal Medicine & Hematology
Ramón Tallaj, MD – Corporate Trailblazer

9.      Politics
Sonia Rosado – Political Pioneering
Luis A. Quintana – Political Pioneering
Wilda Díaz – Political Pioneering
Robert Menendez – Political Pioneering

10.  Religion
Alvin Bridgewater – Religious Advocacy
Dr. Héctor Chiesa – Christian Radio Management
Dr. Rev. John Muñiz – Capacity Building
Rev. José López – Social Entrepreneurship
José Rodríguez, Sr. – Church Leadership
Alejandro Benjamin – Education & Community Activism

11.  Social Sciences
José C. Novas, Historical Research
Ramón Emilio Espinola, Historical Research
Héctor Bonilla – Latino History Erudition

“This was a historic night,” said honoree Jaime Lucero after receiving an Illustrious Award in the Business Category for his success and contributions in corporate management.

Reacting to the experience, honoree Dr. Marcos A. Charles wrote a note to the Illustrious Awards producer indicating the following: “Dear Dra. Maria Teresa y Nestor Montilla: I would like to congratulate both of you for the spectacular success of the ILS Awards, rewarding  Latino accomplishments in different areas. Your vision and creativity behind theses prestigious awards are very commendable! Using an expression very common in Oscar ceremonies (by the way no more enjoyable than these awards),”it was a perfect 10!”. I believe after this presentation,our contribution to the progress of this Country should be divided in two chapters: “before, and after the ILS awards” Best wishes.   Marcos A Charles.”

A note from Fernando Aquino:

“Dear Maria Teresa & Nestor Montilla,

I cannot pass this opportunity to thank you and congratulate you for conceiving, organizing and perfectly executing the first Latino Studies Institute’s Illustrious Awards. I was not only lucky enough to be one of the recipients of the Awards, but to witness a flawless documentation of the great contribution Latinos have made to the American nation, even before the foundation of the United States of America. As a scholar of Latino studies, I was impressed and will be eternally grateful to you for making me part of it.

Back then and now, the Latino community has been an essential component in forging this nation while enduring its own cultural heritage by breaking barriers. With you work, you are helping tell and document the story for generations to come.

Again, thank you and congratulations for this great contribution.”

Fernando Aquino

NM and MM at Illustrious

Nestor & Maria Teresa Montilla.

The second and third installments of the Illustrious Awards have been scheduled for 2017 and 2018.

Special thanks to Corinthian IPA, Columbia University Medical Center, Evelyn Padin, Esq., Rutgers University, Gold & Silver, Inc., El Especial, Yonkers, NY Board of Education, CUNY In The Heights, North Jersey Federal Credit Union, LA Riverside Insurance Brokerage, Inc., Association of Jesus Christ of the New Covenant, New Jersey Center for Empowerment and Community Development, The Pentecostal Church Assembly of God, Trenton, Fairleigh Dickinson University, New York Hispanic Cosmetology and Beauty Chamber of Commerce, Councilman-at-Large Luis Quintana, Hon. Wilda Diaz, Mayor of Perth Amboy, NJ, Berkeley College, Fernando Alonso, Esq., Marcos Charles, MD, 512 Quantum Sound, Hispanic Multi-Purpose Center and Babylion Productions, LLC.

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