American Spirit Award

June 10, 2016
The National WWII Museum
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center

American Spirit Awards

The American Spirit Awards is an awards gala celebrating individuals and organizations whose work reflects the values and spirit of those who served our country during the World War II years. We honor those who inspire others through their own acts of courage, sacrifice, initiative and generosity—particularly in the areas of leadership, service to country or community and education.

Proceeds from the American Spirit Awards will support educational programming at The National WWII Museum—including the ongoing development of classroom materials and professional development opportunities for teachers in schools across the country as well as online experiences that bring the Museum and its research resources to students around the world.

American Spirit Medallion

This prestigious honor is bestowed upon individuals who demonstrate extraordinary dedication to the principles that strengthen America’s freedom and democracy. Through their work and philanthropy, American Spirit Medallion recipients exemplify the highest standards of integrity, discipline, and initiative while making unselfish contributions to their community, state, or the nation.

Norman C. Francis, PhD
  • Dr. Norman C. Francis
  • As president of the nation's only historically black and Catholic university from 1968 to 2015, Dr. Francis guided Xavier University’s growth both in size and dimension. Through his leadership, the university instituted a core curriculum and mandatory comprehensives, and was nationally recognized as a leader in minority education. Xavier has been especially successful in educating health professionals. In premedical education, Xavier has been ranked first in the nation in placing African American students into medical schools since 1993. Named by his peers as one of the 100 most effective college and university leaders, Dr. Francis, who retired as president at the conclusion of the 2014–2015 school year, is often cited for his involvement in the community and his work on the national, state, and local level to improve education. He has served in an advisory role to eight US presidential administrations on education and Civil Rights issues, and has served on 54 boards and commissions. In 2006, President George W. Bush presented him with the nation’s highest civil award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Gov. William Winter
  • Governor William Winter
  • Before leading Mississippi as governor from 1980 to 1984, William Winter served as an infantry officer in the Pacific during World War II. After returning home, he began a career in elected public service. Throughout his career, Winter’s mission has been to strengthen public education while championing racial reconciliation, as well as historic preservation. He has served as chairman of the Southern Regional Education Board, the Commission on the Future of the South, the National Civic League, the Kettering Foundation, the Foundation for the Mid South, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the Ole Miss Alumni Association. He was a member of President Clinton’s National Advisory Board on Race and was instrumental in the founding of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi. He was awarded the Profile in Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. He served overseas as an infantry officer in the Pacific in World War II. An attorney in the Jones Walker law firm in Jackson, Mississippi, he is a graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Law.

Past Recipients

WWII Veterans Serving in Congress in 2004
Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen
Former Senator Howard Baker
Mr. Vernon Baker
Mr. Van T. Barfoot
Mr. Tom Brokaw
Former President George H.W. Bush
Former Senator Robert “Bob” Dole
Rear Adm. Robert F. Duncan
Col. Terry Ebbert
Mr. Walter D. Ehlers
Mr. John Finn
Mr. Maurice “Hank” Greenberg
Mr. Tom Hanks
Mr. Russell L. Honorè
Mrs. Bonnie McElveen-Hunter
Mr. Arthur J. Jackson
Mr. Peter Kalikow
Dr. Henry A. Kissinger
Mr. Charles P. Murray, Jr.
Gen. Colin Powell Lt. Gen
Former Secretary of State George Shultz
Gary Sinise
Mr. John Whitehead
Mr. Hershel “Woody” Williams

The Silver Service Medallion

The President of The National WWII Museum awards this medal to veterans and those with a direct connection to World War II who have served our country with distinction and, upon retirement, continue to lead by example.

Jerry Yellin
  • Jerry Yellin
  • In 1942, two months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Captain Jerry Yellin volunteered for the US Army Air Corps on his 18th birthday. Jerry graduated from Luke Air Field as a fighter pilot in August of 1943. He spent the remainder of the war flying P40, P47, and P51 combat missions in the Pacific with the 78th Fighter Squadron.

    Captain Yellin participated in the first land-based fighter mission over Japan on April 7, 1945. He also has the unique distinction of having flown the final combat mission of World War II on August 14, 1945 — the day the war ended. On that mission, his wingman, Phillip Schlamberg, was the last man killed in combat during World War II. After the war, Jerry went on to write about his experiences during World War II and is the author of numerous books including Of War and Weddings, The Blackened Canteen, The Resilient Warrior, and The Letter.

    Jerry is currently working on a feature film about his life titled The Last Man Standing. This documentary will explore Jerry's experiences coming to terms with the war and his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Jerry and his late wife Helene celebrated 65 years of marriage and had four children together.
Richard E. Cole
  • Mr. Richard E. Cole
  • Richard “Dick” Cole is one of the remaining two Doolittle Raiders, the 80 servicemen who struck the first blow against Japan in World War II. Cole had completed pilot training with the US Army Air Force in July 1941, and as a newly commissioned second lieutenant, was eager to serve after the Pearl Harbor attacks. In early 1942, Cole volunteered for a dangerous mission he knew nothing about. Three months later, on April 18, 1942, he was in the copilot’s seat of General Jimmy Doolittle’s B-25, bound on a one-way trip over Tokyo on the first American counterstrike of the war. After reaching mainland Asia in the B-25, Cole remained in the China-Burma-India theater for more than a year after the Doolittle Raid, only to return to service there from October 1943 to June 1944. He was relieved from active duty in January 1947 after the war’s end. Cole was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Bronze Star Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, and Chinese Army, Navy, Air Corps Medal, Class A, 1st grade for his service during World War II. Cole retired from the US Air Force with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Betty Reid Soskin
  • Mrs. Betty Reid Soskin
  • Betty Soskin (nee Charbonnet) grew up in a Cajun/Creole African-American family that settled in the San Francisco area after the historic flooding that devastated Louisiana in 1927. Her parents joined her maternal grandfather, George Allen, who had resettled in Oakland at the end of World War I. Betty worked as a file clerk in a segregated union hall, Boilermakers A-36, during World War II. In 1945 she and her young husband, Mel Reid, founded a small Berkeley music store—Reid’s Records—that is still in operation. Betty has since held positions as staff to a Berkeley City Council member and as a field representative serving West Contra Costa County for two members of the California State Assembly. She was named a Woman of the Year by the California State Legislature in 1995, and in 2005, she was named one of the nation’s 10 outstanding women by the National Women’s History Project. At 94, Soskin still works as a park ranger for the Rosie the Riveter World War II/Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California.

Past Recipients

Dr. Hal Baumgarten
Mr. Bert Stolier
Mr. Ralph Morse
Dr. Lester Tenney
Mr. Hershel “Woody” Williams
Mr. John Whitehead
Mr. Maurice “Hank” Greenberg
The Honorable Robert “Bob” Dole
Maj. Norman Hatch
The Armed Forces
Mr. Harry Connick, Sr.
Mrs. Elizabeth Dole
Mr. Walt Ehlers
The Honorable George McGovern
Mr. Amos Pierce
Mr. Carl Reiner
BG Mark Graham, DCG
Rear Adm. Robert F. Duncan
Maj. Gen. Scott Mays
Lt. Gen. John W. Bergman
Rear Adm. Joseph Kilkenny
Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landraneau
Mr. Dwight Landreneau
Col. Henry L. Whitehorn
Supt. Warren Riley
Col. Thomas Beron
Brig. Gen. Ralph Lupin
Col. Terry Ebbert

Celebrity Chef

Donald Link
  • Chef Donald Link
  • Inspired by the Cajun and Southern cooking of his grandparents, Louisiana native Chef Donald Link began his professional cooking career at 15 years old. Recognized as one of New Orleans’ preeminent chefs, Chef Link has peppered the streets of the Warehouse District of New Orleans with several restaurants over the course of the past fifteen years. Link’s flagship restaurant Herbsaint earned him a James Beard award in 2007 for Best Chef South. The same year, his restaurant Cochon was nominated for Best New Restaurant; Link was also nominated by the James Beard Foundation for the prestigious award of Outstanding Chef for multiple years. Pêche Seafood Grill was awarded Best New Restaurant at the 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards. Gourmet magazine listed Herbsaint as one of the top 50 restaurants in America, and was inducted into the Nations Restaurant News Hall of Fame. Cochon was listed in The New York Times as "one of the top 3 restaurants that count” and recently named one of the 20 most important restaurants in America by Bon Appétit. For his commitment to the industry, the Louisiana Restaurant Association honored Link by naming him Restaurateur of the Year in 2012. In 2015, Chef Link and his chef-partner Stephen Stryjewski created the Link Stryjewski Foundation to address the persistent cycle of violence and poverty, as well as the lack of quality education and job training opportunities available to young people in New Orleans.

2016 Event Schedule

  • Friday, June 10, 2016
  • Patron Party
    6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
  • American Spirit Awards Gala
    7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
  • Post-Party with Live Entertainment
    9:30 pm – 10:30 pm
  • Attire: Black-Tie
    Complimentary Valet Parking Available

2016 Sponsorship & Patron Opportunities

Sponsorship Opportunities

  • $20,000
  • 10 tickets for the Patron Party + Gala + Post-Party
  • Photo opportunity for two couples at the 2016 American Spirit Awards with inclusion in post-event marketing materials (when available)
  • 2016 Normandy Academy Scholar Sponsorship
  • 2016–2017 Patriots Circle Membership
  • Dinner with Board of Trustees June 9, 2016
  • $15,000
  • 10 tickets for the Patron Party + Gala + Post-Party
  • Photo opportunity for one at the 2016 American Spirit Awards with inclusion in post-event marketing materials (when available)
  • 2017 Summer Residential Program Scholar Sponsorship
  • Dinner with Board of Trustees June 9, 2016
  • $10,000
  • 10 tickets for the Patron Party + Gala + Post-Party
  • $2,500
    Veteran Supporter
  • Donation to allow a WWII Veteran and one guest access to the Patron Party + Gala + Post Party

Patron Opportunities

  • $1,000
    Individual Patron Ticket
  • Includes Admittance to the Patron Party + Gala + Post Party
  • $750
    Member Patron Ticket
    Active Museum Membership Required
  • Includes Admittance to the Patron Party + Gala + Post Party
  • Purchase
  • $500
    Individual Gala Ticket
  • Includes Admittance to the Gala + Post Party
  • Purchase
  • Tribute Gift
  • I am unable to attend, but wish to make a contribution in support of the Museum or honoree of my choice

2016 American Spirit Awards Sponsors

Presenting Sponsor

Event Production Sponsor

Official Media Sponsor

Gustaf W. McIlhenny Foundation
Latter & Blum, Inc.
Patrick F. Taylor Foundation

Boysie and Joy Bollinger
Cudd Foundation
Madlyn and Paul Hilliard
Liskow & Lewis in honor of The World War II Veterans of Liskow & Lewis
Lupo Family Charitable Fund
Mathes Brierre Architects
Colonel and Mrs. Larry L. Merington in honor of Charles E. Domangue and Jack L. Merington
Oscar J. Tolmas Charitable Trust in honor of Oscar J. Tolmas
Ochsner Health System
The Lemoine Company in honor of Russell Duet

Veteran Supporters
Dathel and Thomas Coleman
Louise H. Moffett Family Foundation
Mr. Ben A. Martinez
Otto Candies, LLC
Toska and Barry Quinnies
Mr. Robert V. Siebel
Tidewater, Inc.

Mr. John G. Amato
David and Stephanie Barksdale
Bellingrath Wealth Management and Benefits Services
Mr. and Mrs. Brandon Berger
Char and Harold Bouillion
Mr. Clarence Burnett
Jeffrey R. Carter
Dr. and Mrs. James Crouch
Dan and Ann Claire Fordice
Pam Davis Friedler
Bill and Susan Hess
Jean Horn
Jones Walker
Dr. and Mrs. John Patrick Jordan
Ann and John Koerner
Deborah G. Lindsay
Jimmy and Lillian Maurin
Col. Craig and Kathleen Mays
LTL Neil and Mrs. Bonnie McAskill
Diane Garber Miller
Otto Candies, LLC
Mr. William and Mrs. Dina Riviere
Dr. Eduardo E. Rodriguez
Jennifer and Phil Satre
Lori and Dr. Bobby Savoie
Kathryn and Jeff Scurlock
Mr. Robert V. Siebel
Frank and Paulette Stewart
Thirty North Investments, LLC
Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Ungarino
Richard and Kathryn Winter
Fred and Kay Zeidman

Education at the Museum

The National WWII Museum is a dynamic educational resource, serving the needs of teachers and students from grade school through the post-graduate level. USA Today gave the Museum its top rank as one of the “Best Places to Learn US Military History." Exhibitions and programs allow students from all backgrounds to explore the values and beliefs—the universal concepts—that Americans and their Allies embraced during World War II.

For more information, contact our Fundraising Events staff at 504-528-1944 x 334 or x 365.

American Spirit Medallions and Silver Service Medallions provided by