IAMLA Director Knighted by Italian Republic

May 30, 2021 396

IAMLA executive director and cofounder Marianna Gatto has been awarded the Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia (Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy) by the Italian republic. Hon. Silvia Chiave, Italian Consul General in Los Angeles, knighted Gatto in a small ceremony on May 26 in Los Angeles on behalf of Sergio Mattarella, president of Italy.

This distinction is one of Italy’s highest honors for Italians abroad and is awarded to individuals who have distinguished themselves in philanthropy, community activism, research, and the promotion of friendly relations between Italy and other countries. 

Gatto was recognized for her community and academic efforts on behalf of Italian Americans along with three other luminaries, Vicky Carabini (International Affairs Professional), Clorinda Donato, Ph.D (California State University, Long Beach), and Hillary Stern (Fondazione Italia), who received the honor between 2018 and 2021.

Gatto offered the following comments when accepting the award: “To have been awarded the honor of Cavaliere last year, in 2020, is extremely significant for me. Not simply because the honor was a bright spot during the pandemic, but because the date carries tremendous symbolism for my family. It was a century ago, in 1920, that my grandfather, Mercurio Ferdinando Ghisberto Gatto, first came to the United States. By his name you would think he descended from royalty, but in reality he was a peasant from Calabria who arrived with little more than the clothes on his back and a ticket to Pittsburgh, where he worked in a steel mill, alongside scores of other immigrants helping build and defend this nation. A lot has transpired in my family over the last century and this award makes me all the more cognizant of that. The opportunity to promote awareness of Italian American culture and history, its extraordinary figures, and the experiences of unsung Italian Americans like my grandfather inspires my work. I thank the Italian Republic and Consul General Silvia Chiave for this recognition. It is truly an honor.”

Consul General Chiave had this to say: “I hosted a ceremony to honor four extraordinary women with the Decoration of Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy, awarded by the President of the Italian Republic. Vicky Carabini, Clorinda Donato, Marianna Gatto, and Hilary Stern have all greatly contributed to the promotion and propagation of Italian culture and language in Southern California, helping the Consulate General and other institutions representing Italy to nurture and sustain interest and passion towards our Country."

Gatto began her career in education before entering the field of museum administration. She began working on the museum project in 2005 and has served as the IAMLA's director since 2010. Gatto has raised many of the museum’s major gifts, is the author of the IAMLA’s permanent exhibition, and also curates and writes its temporary exhibitions, curricula, and Founding Family histories. Gatto’s research focuses on Italian Americans in Los Angeles and the West; her second book on Italian American history will be published in the coming year. The Los Angeles native is also a contributing editor to the Italian Sons and Daughters of America journal and co-chairs the Museum and Cultural Institutions Committee of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations. Gatto holds Italian dual citizenship; her family hails from Sicily and Calabria.


You may be interested