This year, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor awardees include Dr. Parveen Chopra, a New York based community activist and professor, who was the first Asian to be chairperson of the Commission of Human Rights of Nassau County, New York. The other outstanding achievers this year include: Actor, director and producer Penny Marshall; Seeds of Peace president Aaron David Miller; U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao; NASA scientist Dr. Firouz Michael Naderi; football legend, business leader and broadcaster Nick Buoniconti; and Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, chairman of the American Red Cross.
Dr. Chopra has excelled in academics by attaining five graduate degrees with honors and top ranks from prestigious universities and an MBA, and a Ph.D. in Business Administration from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. He has taught over seven thousand BBA, MBA, and doctoral students at quality oriented Hofstra, LIU, Fordham, Rutgers, Kean and Stevens’ Institute of Technology. He has authored several books and articles in the field of Management in Business Administration and has been a member of the Academy of Management since 1976.
Dr. Chopra is an outstanding leader in civil rights in the Asian and American community and he has provided excellent leadership as the first Asian-American in the State of New York as Commissioner of Human Rights in Nassau County for the past seventeen years, as vice chairman since 1996 and currently as acting chairperson since 2004. He has done a lot to mitigate discrimination in employment, housing and public matters. Dr. Chopra was also the first Asian to work as Commissioner of Planning from 1996 to 2002 and served it with great distinction and improved the quality of life of 1.4 million Americans in one of the richest places, Nassau County, New York in terms of land use, zoning, density, environment, transportation, population dynamics, urban planning and economy. Dr. Chopra was part of the team that prepared a master plan for the development of Nassau County for the next two decades based on his vision, experiences and input from citizenry based on hundreds of town hall meetings. Dr. Chopra also represented on the Decentralization Board of the Office of Cultural Development (1990-2002) promoting cultural heritage of many communities in New York and appeared before county legislature and state bodies for promotion of arts and culture in the state.
Dr. Chopra has provided effective and dynamic leadership to many Asian Indian, and American, Federations and Associations, at local, regional and national level details of which are embedded in hundreds of pages of newspaper coverage in both Indian as well as American press. Dr. Chopra was Marshal of India Day Parade which he helped to organize in 1987-88 and succeeding years as President of the Federation of Indian Associations for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. He also organized many functions in major cities of USA as General Secretary of National Federation of Indian American Associations (1992-94) to preserve and enhance Asian Indian cultural heritage and promote the causes that strengthen the relationships between two strongest democracies of the world India and USA. Since then he has frequently acted as a liaison with many elected officials in the region and the White House in Washington, D.C.
Over the years, Dr. Chopra has fought prejudice and discrimination against the Indian, Asian, and American communities. In 1987-88 he spearheaded a movement in Jersey City, New Jersey and in New York City, organizing community protests against the Police Departments and local government officials. He also participated directly in a debate at Columbia University with the Chief of Police of New Jersey. He led the delegation to meet the Attorney General in Washington, D.C. and also organized seminars at the Crystal City Inn to fight discrimination. In 1989-90 he took an active role in organizing demonstrations in Jackson Heights, Queens when Indian merchants and customers became targets of violence. Through his and others efforts with both the Police Department, Mayor and the Borough President’s Office the situations were resolved.
Recently Dr. Chopra, became the first Asian to be honored with the prestigious Dr. Martin Luther King Award for 2005 at the Grand Ballroom of Marriott Hotel in New York, along with the current Police Commissioner Jim Lawrence. He was also the first Asian to be honored by The One Hundred Black Men Inc. at the Grand Ballroom of Crest Hollow Country Club, New York in 2003 for his distinction in community service and efforts to promote understanding and relations between the two communities. He also worked with the Hispanic leadership on English Plus campaign successfully. He has received many prestigious awards from the highest elected officials like the Prime Minister of India, U.S.Congressmen, N.Y. state senators, county executives, presiding supervisor of legislator, town boards and mayors and many prestigious associations and organizations in Indian and American community like Federation of Indian Associations, Sri Chinmoi Mission at the United Nations, H.H.H.Pramukh Swamy Maharaj of B.A.P.S., News India Times Group Inc., Nargis Dutt Memorial Foundation Inc., Jackson Heights Merchants’ Association, World Business Forum Inc., Shiromani Punjabi Puraskar-2002 by the International Council of Punjab, etc. His leadership and community activism has been covered by American newspapers like The New York Times, Newsday, The Herald, The Citizen etc. several times.
Dr. Chopra is the founder of Jackson Heights Merchants’ Associations, and Flushing Merchants’ Association, which are the business hubs of Indian community in New York City and worked for several years to improve the neighborhood conditions for merchants, customers and citizenry. Dr. Chopra is also the founder of Asian American Coalition USA Inc. representing interests of thirteen Asian countries since 1987. Dr. Chopra is also the life long trustee of Hindu Center/Temple, Flushing, N.Y.
Dr. Chopra has organized over thirty fund raisers to help elect officials like county executive, congressmen, senators, judges for supreme court, county court, family court and district courts, town supervisors, mayors, legislators and councilmen. This has greatly helped not only Indian community to assimilate in America but also benefited countless number of causes in mainstream America. Dr. Chopra has also represented New York City Mayor and Comptroller and the two county executives on Long Island at over three hundred functions over the past two decades welcoming such visitors as the Prime Minister of India, Federal Ministers, industrialists, ambassadors, consul generals, bishops, movie stars, and outstanding men and women of significant achievements by presenting them with a key to the city, a flag of Nassau County, a citation or a proclamation to mark various events, achievements and celebrations.
Dr. Chopra had also raised over five thousand dollars in 1984 for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island under the leadership of Mr. Lee. A. Iacocca, which was covered on the front page of Long Island Section of The New York Times.
Dr. Chopra has been profiled and honored by America’s oldest and prestigious biographer Marquis’ (since 1894) Who’s Who In Amerrica, Who’s Who In Finance And Industry In America, And Who’s Who In The World for his distinguished and singular achievements spanning over twenty-five years.
Dr. Chopra has lived in United States for 35 years with his wife Usha who is a clinical social worker. They live with their two sons Samir and Dr. Sachin and his wife Dr. Rupal Chopra. Usha and Parveen have graduated from Western Himalayan Mountaineering Institute Manali.