Berj A. Shakarian, Architect
As a young man, Berj A. Shakarian arrived in the United States in 1961. He came with his parents from an Armenian community in Bucharest, Romania. Berj completed his high school education at the former West High School in Cleveland, and earned a scholarship to the Adelbert College of Western Reserve School of Architecture (currently Case Western Reserve University).
Following graduation, Berj worked as a designer in the City of Cleveland's Division of Design and Construction. In 1975 he opened his own architectural office, and was offered a commission to do the Restoration of Lakeside Court House. In turn, that opportunity flourished into his appointment as Cuyahoga County Architect, a position that he held from 1978 until he retired in 2010 - and having completed more that $1 billion of construction over that time.
However, retirement never really happened to Berj. He accepted a position at John Carroll University as Architect/Project Manager, and he contributed mightily to that school, from which three of his for children graduated. His award-winning restoration of Pacelli Hall and his superb design of the St. Ignatius Plaza are testament to his work there.
Even today, as his son told us, "My father, Berj stands out the most, because his vision goes beyond the Armenian community. As an architect, he has proudly served both the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County for several decades, especially with his restoration work on Playhouse Square, the Cuyahoga County Courthouse, and the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument on Public Square.
He has worked with many prominent Clevelanders over the years, including mayors Carl B. Stokes and George V. Voinovich (especially when Voinovich was one of the county commissioners). Moreover, he has designed churches for other ethnic communities, for example, St. Nicholas Byzantine Croatian Church on Superior.
He not only designed the Armenian Cultural Garden, but he also served on the board of the CCGF, and he is now designing the Centennial Plaza. He is not only a man committed to highlighting Cleveland as an international city, but he also has a deep knowledge and sensitivity to Cleveland history, and specifically to the history of the Cultural Gardens and the vision of Leo Weidenthal."
Berj has been married for almost 49 year to his wife, Carol, whom he met on the Rapid Transit while commuting to school. They have four grown children, each of whom they are very proud.
As you know, Covid-19 forced the always sold out induction ceremonies to be cancelled in 2020 and 2021 so some of the Class was inducted virtually. Berj Shakarian was inducted at the Centennial Plaza he designed by Paul Burik and Dr. Wael Khoury from the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation.
The video below includes Paul Burik and Dr. Wael Khoury's remarks as well as berj Shakarian's story and acceptance speech.
Berj was virtually inducted by Paul Burik and Dr. Wael Khoury
Berj Shakarian Inducted on June 7, 2022
On the evening of June 7, 2022 Berj finally was honored in person and was inducted by 2019 CIHF inductee Paul Burik who is a delegate for the Czech Cultural Garden and past president of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation. Paul is currently also serving as President of Sokol Cleveland and the historic Bohemian National Hall.
Watch the video of Berj Shakarian being inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame by Paul Burik.
May J. Chen
May J. Chen, is co-founder and executive director emeritus of Asian Services in Action, Inc., whose mission is to empower and advocate for Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders(AAPIs); and to provide AAPIs access to quality, culturally, and linguistically appropriate information and services, has changed the lives of thousands in the Asian American Pacific Islander community, and others, through her advocacy for parity in social, health, and educational services as well as community advancement; and
Mrs. Chen, a native of Hong Kong, China, has spent her professional life creating opportunities out of obstacles, educating mainstream providers and funders and mobilizing Asian Pacific Islander communities building their capacity in Akron and the Greater Cleveland area, developing and implementing projects for Asian American Pacific Islander communities to improve quality of life; she launched Asian Services In Action’s best practice award Asian American Youth Against Tobacco Training Manual to Shanghai, China and she has served as a volunteer on 25 advisory committees, Boards of Trustees and Panel members and has developed and implemented 23 community based programs . Her most recent project is Jin Huo Community Senior Center for Asian immigrant and other limited English speaking elders in Summit County in partnership with Asian Services In Action, Inc..
A licensed professional clinical counselor and licensed independent marriage and family therapist, Mrs. Chen, who received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Vanderbilt University and her Master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from The University of Akron in 1988, has been recognized for her outstanding service with numerous honors, including the 2000 Woman of the Year Award from the Cleveland Chinese Woman’s Association, the 2001 Summit County YWCA 100 Women for Community Contribution Award, named as one of five Women of the Year in 2002 by the Summit County YWCA, 2003 Ohio Commission on Minority Health Chairman Award; 2004 Asian Pacific Partnership Empowerment and Leadership Summit Organizational Leadership Award; 2008 Civic Ventures Encore Purpose Prize Fellow; 2013 Alumni Honor Award and 2020 Elizabeth Buchtel Award from University of Akron, City of Akron Resolution 267 honoring May J. Chen community service to Akron, Ohio and 2020 Daughter of American Revolution for Americanism Medal given to naturalized citizen demonstrating outstanding characteristics of integrity, trustworthiness and patriotism.
As you know, Covid-19 forced the always sold out induction ceremonies to be cancelled in 2020 and 2021 so some of the Class was inducted virtually. May Chen was inducted in the office of her longtime friend Margaret Wong who was an inductee in the inaugural class of the Cleveland International Hall of Fame in 2010.
Michael Byun, her successor as CEO of ASIA Inc., sent his congratulations from Seattle and then May Chen gave her inspiring acceptance speech as seen in the video below.
May Chen Inducted on June 7, 2022
On the evening of June 7, 2022 May was finally honored in person and was again inducted by Margaret Wong.
Watch the video of May Chen being inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame by Margaret Wong.
Ramesh Shah’s humanitarian work in health and education illustrates what happens when someone is passionate and ever-focused on lifting others up.
Over the past 20 years, he has organized teams of physicians and volunteers for medical missions in underdeveloped countries around the world. His project is known as Medical YATRA (Pilgrimage).- AIPNO. These trips have served people in need in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico, Ecuador, Guyana, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi and India. The goal of each trip has been to address suffering by increasing access to medical care, education, and equipment. Ramesh has raised funds for countless life-changing surgeries and prosthetic limbs for people who would otherwise not be able to access them. He has also raised funds for mobile medical vans for work in rural areas, machines that make sanitary pads, water treatment plants, and playground equipment for children in schools. All of this work is a joint effort with his wife, Dr. Jaya Shah, a pediatrician who was herself inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame in 2012.
In addition, Ramesh has been a dedicated volunteer with groups that teach entrepreneurship and professional skills to kids in the Cleveland area. Most notably in the area of youth development, he has been a volunteer teacher through Junior Achievement of Greater Cleveland over the past four decades. In the past three years alone, he has worked in nearly 80 classrooms in Cuyahoga and Lake Counties, sharing fundamental lessons and global perspectives about entrepreneurship and business with students. With the entrepreneurship program, E CITY, Ramesh coaches students on business plans and has served as a judge for pitch competitions. Finally, with Youth Opportunities Unlimited, Ramesh guides students living in economically distressed areas in Northeast Ohio towards developing a professional resume they can use to seek work. He draws energy from his students, frequently telling them, “You are my pumping station. You pump energy, vitality and hope into my life.”
Ramesh has been a proud member of the Cleveland Rotary for more than ten years, and is deeply appreciative or their support of his initiatives through their global grants. Lot of sustainable projects done in India is because of Rotary Cubs and Rotary International. He has also directly addressed hunger through hours of volunteer work making, packing, and serving food in food pantries around the world. He is an active member of Federation of India Community associations, Gujarati Samaj, and an honorary member of Association of Indian Physicians of Northern Ohio.
All of this compassion is rooted in perspective gained through the tremendous change he has experienced in his lifetime. Born in a small village in Gujarat, India he lost his father and mother at the age of seven. He took a loan to come to the United States to take advantage of the unique work opportunities here, and immediately put his entrepreneurial energy into work in a variety of real estate and mortgage industries. Deeply grateful for the tremendous increase in standard of living that he has enjoyed, he is always thinking about what he can do to share and help others make the same leaps.
As you know, Covid-19 forced the always sold out induction ceremonies to be cancelled in 2020 and 2021 so some of the Class was inducted virtually. Ramesh Shah was inducted by Federation of India Community Associations Board Chairman Sudarshan Sathe and welcomed to the Hall by Inaugural CIHF inductee Paramjit Singh.
At the virtual induction, Ramesh Shah told his fascinating story. Watch the video below of the induction and Ramesh Shah giving his acceptance speech – all under the watchful eye of Mahtama Gandhi.
Ramesh was inducted by Sudarshan Sathe and Paramjit Singh
Ramesh Shah Inducted on June 7, 2022
On the evening of June 7, 2022 Ramesh finally was honored in person and was inducted by Sudarshan Sathe.
With his induction Ramesh and his wife Dr. Jaya Shah became the only married couple to both be inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame.
Watch the video of Ramesh Shah being inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame by Sudarshan Sathe
Covid-19 forced the always sold out (500+ people) induction ceremonies to be cancelled in 2020 and 2021 so the Class is being inducted virtually.
Watch Cleveland International Hall of Fame (CIHF) co-founder Dan Hanson explain the CIHF and the virtual induction. Dan says that the Indian community is the only group to have an inductee in the CIHF every year. Ramesh Shah carries on that tradition.
Ramesh Shah was inducted by Federation of India Community Associations (FICA Cleveland) Board Chairman Sudarshan Sathe who congratulated Ramesh for his work on medical yatras with Association of Indian Physicians of Northern Ohio (AIPNO) and his work with the Indian and broader community.
See some of Ramesh Shah's humanitarian work with the Medical Yatras.
Inaugural CIHF inductee Paramjit Singh then welcomed Ramesh to the Hall of Fame and gave him his CIHF lapel pin.
Ramesh’s wife and CIHF inductee Dr. Jaya Shah spoke next followed by their son Baiju Shah.
Then Ramesh Shah told his fascinating story. Watch the video below of the induction and Ramesh Shah giving his acceptance speech - all under the watchful eye of Mahtama Gandhi.
Congratulations Ramesh Shah for your well-deserved induction into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame.
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Sree N. Sreenath, Ph.D., MNO
Sree N. Sreenath, Ph.D., MNO, is a tenured full professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. He is the Director of Case GEMNI (Graduate Engineering & Management National and International) Program. His research and educational interests are in complexity, with applications in Systems Biology (leukemia, prostate cancer and hydrocephalus), Global Issues, and, Sustainable Development. He served the Co-Director of UNESCO GENIe Program - an international network of educational institutions (1996-2006), and as the Director of the Complex Systems Biology Center (2007-2016) at Case. He consults with many developing countries on issues of water, energy, and policy development.
He has received many scholarships and awards including the Best Undergraduate Teaching Award, Who’s Who Among Teachers in America, and the NIH Research Career Award. He published a technical treatise on Global Warming in 1990 and was a member of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in the 1990’s. He served as a scenario panel member of the World Water Commission (1998-2000); a member on the UN World Water Assessment Program; and many National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) committees. He has lectured in 25 countries, and has organized more than 40 workshops, symposia, and conferences.
Outside of higher education, Sreenath is active in the social service field and has served as an officer in cultural and community organizations in Northeast Ohio as well as nationally. In particular, he served Kasturi Kannada Association of Northeast Ohio; Sri Venkateshwara Temple, Richfield, OH; and Federation of India Community Association (FICA), Cleveland, OH. Since 2009, he is the President of Sewa International (www.sewausa.org), a Hindu faith-based charitable nonprofit working in the areas of disaster recovery, education, and, development. Sewa has 43 Chapters across the USA and serves regardless of race, color, religion, sex, age, disability or national origin. He is also the Executive Committee member of NAVIKA - a national cultural organization.
Professor Sreenath is a practitioner of Vedic Math – ancient Indian Math for over 30 years and has developed a curriculum to educate children. He lives with his wife Shobha in Solon, Ohio, and has two adult children Apurwa and Abhijit.
About Sewa International
Sewa International (www.sewausa.org), a Hindu faith-based charitable nonprofit working in the areas of disaster recovery, education and development. Sewa has 43 Chapters across the USA and serves regardless of race, color, religion, sex, age, disability or national origin.
Sewa International has served in rescue, relief and rehabilitation in 25 disasters in the US and overseas, and particularly in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria, and the recent California Camp Fire. Sewa provides tutoring services in Euclid High School and Garfield High School through its National program ASPIRE (Achieving Student Progress, Instilling, Resilience and Excellence). Sewa runs Family Services for the South Asian community nationally. Sewa provides education access to underprivileged children in Colombia, India, Kenya, Nepal, and Pakistan, through building schools, providing scholarships, and, building toilets for the girl child.
The Sewa movement works with communities in need and is active in 22 countries including USA, Canada, Caribbean, India, Australia, and the UK.
Sree was inducted by Ramesh Shah (Association of Indian Physicians of Northern Ohio)
Click on the white arrow to watch the video as Master of Ceremonies Chris Tanaka, news anchor of Channel 19, introduced Ramesh Shah of the Association of Indian Physicians of Northern Ohio who inducted Sree Sreenath PhD, the President of Sewa International, into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame.
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