NIAF News Releases

Official Statement on the Passing of Former NIAF National Vice Chairman Joseph R. Cerrell


Contact:   Elissa Ruffino (NIAF) 202/939-3106 or

Attribute to the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) Board of Directors

The National Italian American Foundation Board of Directors is deeply saddened by the death of the Foundation’s former vice chairman Joseph R. Cerrell, who passed away today near his beach home in Oxnard, Calif., following complications from pneumonia. He was 75. All who worked with him during the 16 years in which he served as the Foundation’s National Vice Chairman (2005-2009), President (1999-2005), and Member (1994-1999) of the Board of Directors, will feel the loss of his friendship, guidance and dedication.

Active in the Italian American community, Joe was admired and respected by Italian and international leaders and all ethnic groups. His visionary leadership and support have advanced the mission of NIAF. Joe’s tireless efforts to stop ethnic stereotyping of any individual or group will be long remembered by all who served with him on the Foundation’s Media Institute and his chairmanship of NIAF’s Public Affairs Committee.

Power broker, veteran campaign consultant, political kingmaker, policy confidant, opinion leader, advisor, professor, mentor and role model are just a few titles that describe the numerous roles Joe played during the more than 50 years he was involved in public affairs.

He was one of the most respected and admired individuals in his profession. Joe advised national leaders from Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson to Vice Presidents Hubert H. Humphrey and Albert Gore as well as many state and local officials over the past five decades. He started his career in the 1950s as a student political activist at the University of Southern California and later founded and served as Chairman of Cerrell Associates, Inc., one of California’s oldest, largest and most respected public affairs firms.

His grandparents Giussepina and Francesco Cerrella emigrated from Italy’s region of Calabria. In 1941, when Joe’s father, Salvatore, enrolled his son in school in Queens, N.Y., he dropped the letter “A” from Joe’s last name due to the outbreak of World War II and the discrimination against Italian Americans. Due to his strong family roots, Joe’s passport reflects the original family spelling. On a recent trip to Italy, he was appointed honorary Mayor of Rossano in the province of Cosenza, Italy.

His passion in life was to instill the appreciation for our rich Italian American culture in the hearts of young Italian Americans and challenged them to advance the Foundation’s educational mission through hard work and commitment to NIAF.

Washington, DC
December 3, 2010
Contact: Natasha Borato, 202/939-3116,

The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) is a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., dedicated to preserving the heritage of Italian Americans. Visit

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