Philip Pumerantz, PhD, founding president of Western University of Health Sciences, has been named a recipient of the 2011 Ellis Island Medal of Honor by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO) Foundation.

The medal will be presented to Dr. Pumerantz on May 7 during a dinner ceremony at the restored Great Hall on Ellis Island in New York Harbor. The dinner will be followed by a fireworks display as dinner attendees sail from the island back to the Battery in New York City.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the award, which according to NECO is bestowed up U.S citizens who:

• Exemplify lives life dedicated to the American way of hard work, self-improvement and community service.

• Preserve the history, traditions, and values of his or her ancestry.

• Dedicate themselves to supporting and defending the values of American life.

• Build bridges between ethnic, racial, and religious groups in the U.S. and/or abroad.

• Reinforce the bonds between an American heritage group and its land(s) of origin.

• Nurture the life of a particular ethnic or heritage group, enabling that group to participate more fully in American society.

• Share their personal and professional gifts with the local, national, or international community.

• Contribute distinguished service to humanity in any field, profession, or occupation.


“I am honored to receive the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and am grateful to the NECO Foundation for considering me for it,” Dr. Pumerantz said. “I look forward to participating in the awards dinner and sharing the honor with this year’s other medalists.”

Dr. Pumerantz was nominated for the medal by Vincent Naimoli, a member of the WesternU Board of Trustees and himself a past Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipient. The list of past Medal recipients reads like a who’s who of American cultural, political and educational life, including President George H.W. Bush, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Dr. Constantine Papadakis, Madeleine Albright, Muhammad Ali, Anthony Quinn, Deepak Chopra, and Joe DiMaggio.

Dr. Pumerantz led the way in establishing the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific in Pomona, Calif., in September 1977. The first class of 36 osteopathic medical students was admitted in August 1978 and graduated in 1982, when COMP also received accreditation. Since then, the school – renamed Western University of Health Sciences in 1996 – has added eight more health professions colleges, expanded the main campus facility, created multiple centers of excellence, and increased its student population to nearly 3,000. WesternU also will open a campus in Lebanon, Oregon, in July of this year, admitting 100 osteopathic medical students to COMP-Northwest, the state’s first new medical campus in more than 100 years. COMP-Northwest is expected to grow to 400 students by fall 2014.