MAY-New Jersey’s Hall of Fame


…coming to a town near you

                                                            Tom Dwyer

 What do Frank Sinatra, Meryl Streep, Yogi Berra, Bill Bradley, Thomas Edison, Toni Morrison and Bruce Springsteen all have in common? They are part of the first group of New Jerseyans inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.  On May 4th, fifteen men and women became the inaugural class of inductees at a ceremony at NJ Pac.  In order to be considered as an inductee for the New Jersey Hall of Fame, one needs to have lived in New Jersey for at least five years.

 There are five categories—Historical, Enterprise, Arts & Entertainment, Sports
and the General category.  The Historical category is open for deceased New Jerseyans whose contributions transcend any one particular category.  Clara Barton, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein were picked in this category.   The Enterprise Category is open to scientists, business leaders, inventors, leaders in medicine, entrepreneurs and philanthropists.  Buzz Aldrin, Malcolm Forbes and Robert Wood Johnson were picked in this category.   The Arts & Entertainment Category includes musicians, singers, songwriters, actors & actresses, artists, dancers and those who work in the related fields. Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen and Meryl Streep were inducted in this category.  

The Sports Category is open not only to athletes, but also to coaches and others in the field of sports.  Yogi Berra, Bill Bradley and Vince Lombardi were the sport’s inductees.
The General Category encompasses  educators, military leaders, writers, poets, scholars, religious leaders, civil servants, politicians and others not specifically falling into the other categories. Toni Morrison, General Norman Schwarzkopf and Harriet Tubman were the inductees of this category

Don Smith, the executive director of the New Jersey Hall of Fame, was instrumental in helping to create the organization.  “The New Jersey Hall of Fame will honor our citizens who have made invaluable contributions to society and the world beyond. The Hall of Fame will send a message to children that they can and should strive for excellence in any endeavor of their choosing. By presenting such significant role models, we believe that the Hall of Fame will become a source of learning, inspiration and hope for all

New Jersey children.”

One of the programs that the New Jersey Hall of Fame has developed that helps to promote

New Jersey is an essay contest for schools.  For the past two years, thousands of school children in New Jersey have sent in essays to the New Jersey Hall of Fame. 2007, the first year the essay program was announced, was won by two New Jersey students. The students are asked to pick someone from New Jersey (living or dead) that they admire greatly, and to write an essay on why that person should be considered for the Hall of Fame.  One of the winners was Brandon Cedeno from Memorial High School in West New York. 

The New Jersey Hall of Fame  invites  prominent individuals and organizations in New Jersey  to help promote the Hall of Fame and to take part in selecting the inductees.  Everyday citizens can also vote for a person they believe is worthy to be a Hall of Fame member.

 Don Smith is now busy looking for the right place to house the NJ Hall of Fame. As of now, there is only a website.  But Smith, and other members of the board, are looking at all options when it comes to finding the most suitable place. They are hoping to have a main museum and numerous satellite locations around the state. The New Jersey Hall of Fame office is located in the Meadowlands.  And, there is talk of possibly having the Hall of Fame located at Xanadu, the new entertainment complex located in the Meadowlands slated to open in November. “It seems that

North Jersey might be the best place for the Hall of Fame. With the density of population, and easy access to many of the towns in North Jersey, it seems that it would be a good fit for the Hall of Fame,” Smith said.  Smith is hoping to make a decision soon on a possible location. 

At the induction ceremony on May 4th, only two of the inductees could not make it: Meryl Streep, the actress, and Bill Bradley, basketball great and ex-senator. Ms. Streep was so overwhelmed by the honor, that she plans to visit New Jersey, (when she finds the time between her very busy schedule) to receive the award in person.

At the ceremony, baseball great, Yogi Berra, was asked what the induction meant to him.  “The Hall of Fame is a wonderful idea to teach kids and I am honored to be included in such an impressive group of individuals.  My wife and I have lived in

New Jersey for more than fifty years so we truly consider this our home.”

Smith believes that there will never be a shortage of great people to fill the NJ Hall of Fame. “I believe we will never run out of candidates for the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

New Jersey is a great place to nurture people.” And as for the New Jersey jokes that people have been making about our state for decades, will the NJ Hall of Fame help change that? “We certainly hope so,” Smith acknowledged.

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