"Our Italian American community and the Chicagoland community are infinitely richer for our Dante and Mazzei recipient contributions to journalism and public affairs."
-Dominic DiFrisco, JCCIA President Emeritus
Each year, the Human Relations Committee presents the coveted Dante Award to a member of the local news media who has answered Dante Alighieri's call to be "no timid friend to truth."
Past recipients have been Irv Kupcinet, John Madigan, Hugh Hill, Dick Kay, Joan Esposito, Walter Jacobson, Mark Giangreco, Emily Barr, Larry Wert, Allison Rosati, Joe Ahern, Merri Dee, Dominic Mancuso, Frank Mathie, Vince Gerasole, Ron Magers, Janet Davies, Greg Caputo, Neil Steinberg, Linda Yu, Stella Foster, Tom McNamee and Bruce Dold.
In addition, the Filippo Mazzei Public Affairs Award was also awarded.
In 2020, the JCCIA marked the celebration of the remarkable life of one of our most valued leaders with the first annual Dominic DiFrisco Award.
Dominic was born in New York to immigrant parents from Sicily. He would make Chicago his home and embark on a journey of life that left a tremendous and lasting impact on his community and city. He began an illustrious career in public relations commencing with Alitalia airlines, and soon emerged as a voice for Chicago’s Italian-American Community. He led media campaigns, defended against unfair stereotyping and depictions of Italian-Americans, promoted civic and educational initiatives aimed at informing the populace of the endless contributions that Italy and its people have given to our globe, forged alliances with other ethnic communities to combat discrimination and promote unity and, most of all, he worked tirelessly and selflessly in coming to the aid of others; His saying, in Sicilian, was always “Sunu Scaisu per la mancansa di vostre commande” (“I am poorer for a lack of your requests”), and indeed, he never said no when called upon for help.
We present this award to an individual devoted to continuing his life’s work and mission. That is, a recipient will be chosen on the basis of their efforts towards the betterment of their community, their work in helping those in need, their thirst for knowledge and its truthful dissemination, their superb character and kind nature, and their love of what unites us all: culture, fine food and wine, family, friendship and camaraderie.
May Dominic’s spirit live on forever, and may we strive always to carry his mission forward.
The Mazzei Award was given annually to a person who showed extraordinary skills in the world of public affairs. In the late 1770’s Italian immigrant Mazzei's friend and neighbor Thomas Jefferson, gave the founding father this line:
“Tutti gli uomini sono per natura egualmente liberi e indipendenti. Quest’eguaglianza è necessaria per costituire un governo libero. Bisogna che ognuno sia uguale all’altro nel diritto naturale.”
Translated by a friend and neighbor of Mazzei, it was published as follows:
“All men are by nature equally free and independent. Such equality is necessary in order to create a free government. All men must be equal to each other in natural law.”
The 2022 recipient of the Dante Award was Bob Sirott, Morning Host at WGN-AM Radio & TV News Legend. The 2022 Mazzei recipient was Jesse White, Illinois Secretary of State.
The 2021 Dante Award recipient was given to CBS2 President and General Manager Jennifer Lyons. The Mazzei Award was renamed in honor of the late Dominic DiFrisco. The recipient of the inaugural DiFrisco Lifetime Achievement Award was Antonio Romanucci, Founding Partner of Romanucci & Blandin LLC.
The 2019 Dante Award recipient was given to ABC7 news anchor Alan Krashesky, and the Mazzei Award recipient was Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean, Director Global Social Agenda of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The 2018 Dante Award was given to MSNBC contributor Stephen E. Schmidt and the Mazzei recipient was Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell.
The 2017 Dante Award was given to ABC7 President and General Manager John Idler and the Mazzei recipient was Simon Wiesenthal Center Midwest Director Alison Pure-Slovin.
The 2016 recipient of the Dante Award was Jennifer Graves, vice president and news director of ABC7. Lissa Druss, public affairs and crisis communications specialist of Strategia Consulting was the Mazzei recipient.
The inaugural recipient in 2014 was Thom Serafin, CEO and President of Chicago public affairs firm Serafin & Associates. The 2015 recipient was former U.S. Senator Mark Kirk.
This event is attended by over 250 representatives of the Italian American community and an impressive cross section of prominent Chicago media.
Dominic DiFrisco is the founder of the Dante/Mazzei Awards.
2023 Dante Award Recipient
Mary Ann Ahern, Emmy Award-Winning Political Reporter, NBC 5Chicago
2023 Dominic DiFrisco Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient
Robert Allegrini, President, National Italian American Foundation