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NEW JERSEY HALL OF FAME | Induction Ceremony | Convention Hall | 7 May 2017

Asbury Park, New Jersey — The New Jersey Hall of Fame will induct 15 new honorees at this year’s Induction Ceremony on May 7, 2017, at historic Convention Hall on the Asbury Park Boardwalk.
The distinguished Class of 2016 includes:
  • ARTS & LETTERS: Author Carol Higgins Clark and news anchor Connie Chung.
  • ENTERPRISE: Businessman Alfred Koeppe and founder of NY Waterway Arthur Imperatore, Sr.
  • PERFORMING ARTS: Singer, composer, actress, entertainer, and publisher Connie Francis, actress and TV personality Kelly Ripa, actor Ray Liotta, pop-rock musician Tommy James, and rapper Wyclef Jean of The Fugees.
  • PUBLIC SERVICE: Non-denominational spiritual teacher and activist Peace Pilgrim and United States Army officer Philip Kearny.
  • SPORTS: Professional soccer midfielder Carli Lloyd, former President and General Manager of the WNBA New York Liberty Carol Blazejowski, heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner, and NFL Pro-bowler Rosey Grier.
  • UNSUNG HERO: To be announced.
All living inductees are expected to attend the 2016 Induction Ceremony; a friend or family member will represent inductees who are no longer with us. The New Jersey Hall of Fame may select additional inductees based on their availability for the ceremony.
“Induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame is the highest civilian honor that our State can bestow on someone,” said John Keegan, Chairman Emeritus of the NJHOF Foundation Board. “It’s a celebration of New Jersey and its greatest achievers, and a recognition of role models for our next generation. This is New Jersey’s version of the Academy Awards, so attendees can expect some surprise celebrity appearances.”
The official 2016 Public Vote ballot contained 50 nominees – 10 in each of five categories: Arts & Letters, Enterprise, Performance Arts, Public Service and Sports. The public voting, along with input from the Hall of Fame’s Board of Commissioners, determined this year’s class. More information about the selection process and the “Recommend a Nominee” is on our website.
The recipients of the second annual Arête Scholarship will also be recognized at the Induction Ceremony. Named for the Greek concept of “Arête” meaning the realization of one’s highest potential, these $5,000 scholarships are awarded to New Jersey high school seniors to help them achieve their potential. Students can apply for scholarships online at before the deadline on March 17, 2017. The Arête Scholarship is provided in partnership with the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA).
For information on sponsorship and ticket packages, please contact Brenda De Santis at
Raised in Washington Township, Bergen County, NJ, Clark began her career as a mystery author re-typing mother Mary Higgins Clark’s manuscripts. The author of the popular Regan Reilly series, she has also co-authored a best-selling holiday-themed suspense series with her mother.
CONNIE CHUNG, Middletown, NJ
This longtime Middletown, NJ, resident is a renowned journalist who has hosted 20/20 and the CBS Evening News. In 1993, she became the first woman to co-anchor CBS Evening News, as well as the first Asian and the second woman to anchor one of America’s major network newscasts. She has been an anchor and reporter on NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, and MSNBC.
Educated at Rutgers-Newark and Seton Hall Law School, Koeppe was President and COO of Bell Atlantic and PSE&G. He served as President of the Newark Alliance and formerly chaired the State Economic Development Administration and the New Jersey Schools Development Authority. He was the recipient of the 2013 Steven J. Diner Ethical Leadership Award.
This Italian-American businessman is best known for being the founder and president of the NY Waterway. Imperatore began his business career in 1947, founding what would become the fourth largest trucking company in the U.S. In 1981, he purchased a 2.5-mile length of waterfront in Weehawken and West New York from the Penn Central Railroad. In 1986 this land was used to begin the NY Waterway ferry service between Weehawken and Manhattan. The Arthur E. Imperatore School of Sciences and Arts of Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey, is named in his honor.
Singer, composer, actress, entertainer, and publisher Connie Francis was born in Newark, NJ, and educated at Arts High School, Newark. She has toured the US, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Europe, owned publishing companies, and has made many records from the 1950s onward including hits like “Who’s Sorry Now” and “Stupid Cupid.”
KELLY RIPA, Stratford, NJ
Born in Stratford, NJ, Ripa has co-hosted syndicated talk show for 15 years: Live! With Kelly, previously Live! With Kelly and Michael and Live! with Regis and Kelly. She spent 12 years playing Hayley Vaughan Santos on the soap opera All my Children, for which she won three Daytime Emmy Awards.
This native of Newark, NJ, is known for his portrayals of Henry Hill in the crime-drama Goodfellas and Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams. He won an Emmy Award and was nominated for Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards. He won his Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his role on the medical drama ER.
TOMMY JAMES, Cedar Grove, NJ
American pop-rock musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer, Tommy James is most widely known as the leader of the 1960s rock band Tommy James and the Shondells. The group first recorded at a local radio station in 1964, and became best known for their hits “Hanky Panky” and “I Think We’re Alone Now.” James eventually went solo and recorded two Billboard Hot 100 top 20 chart hits, along with eleven other Hot 100 hits.
Wyclef Jeanelle Jean is a Haitian rapper, musician, and actor. At the age of nine Jean moved to the United States with his family where he spent much of his life. Jean graduated from Vailsburg High School in Newark, NJ. He first achieved fame as a member of the acclaimed New Jersey hip-hop group The Fugees. Jean won three Grammy Awards for his musical work.
PEACE PILGRIM, Egg Harbor City, NJ
Born Mildred Lisette Norman in Egg Harbor City, NJ, Ms. Pilgrim was an American non-denominational spiritual teacher, mystic, pacifist, vegetarian activist, and peace activist. In 1952 she became the first woman to walk the entire length of the Appalachian Trail in one season. Ms. Pilgrim also walked across the United States at least eight times—likely more than 20 times. Starting on January 1, 1953, in Pasadena, CA, she adopted the name “Peace Pilgrim” and walked across the United States for 28 years.
Kearny served as a United States Army officer and was notable for his leadership in the Mexican-American War and American Civil War, during which he commanded the First New Jersey Brigade. He was killed in action in the 1862 Battle of Chantilly. The town of Kearny, NJ, where he had his estate, is named in his honor.
CARLI LLOYD, Mount Laurel, NJ
Lloyd is an American professional soccer midfielder who currently plays for the Houston Dash in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and the United States women’s national soccer team. She is a FIFA Women’s World Cup winner and two-time Olympic gold medalist. Lloyd scored the gold medal-winning goals in the finals of the 2008 Summer Olympics, the 2012 Summer Olympics, and the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. She represented the United States at three FIFA Women’s World Cup tournaments: the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, in which she helped the U.S. win bronze; the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, in which the U.S. won silver; and the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, where Lloyd scored a hat trick in the final, captaining the U.S. to its third title. Ms. Lloyd is a native of Delran Township and now lives in Mount Laurel, NJ.
Blazejowski is the former Olympian and Basketball Hall of Famer, and three-time All-American at Montclair State (1976-1978). She won the inaugural Wade Trophy as the nation’s finest collegiate female player in 1978 and led the nation in scoring with 33.5 points per game in 1976-77 and 38.6 points per game in 1977-78. She was Captain of the 1980 women’s Olympic basketball team, and member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. She worked in the front office of NBA and currently is Associate VP at Montclair State University.
Known as the “Bayonne Brawler” and the “Bayonne Bleeder,” the heavyweight boxer was a heavy underdog when he went fifteen rounds with world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali in a 1975 title fight. Wepner claimed that he was the inspiration for the movie Rocky.
Grier played in NFL for the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams from 1955–1966, and was honored as a two-time Pro Bowler. As an actor, Grier has appeared in numerous films and TV shows. He has also written several inspirational books and is an inspirational speaker. Grier spent his high school years in NJ and played high school football at Abraham Clark High School in Roselle, NJ.
Find information on all of our past inductees at
The New Jersey Hall of Fame (NJHOF) is a non-profit organization with two boards working collaboratively – the NJHOF Board of Commissioners and the NJHOF Foundation Board of Trustees. The NJHOF honors citizens who have made invaluable contributions to society, the State of New Jersey, and the world beyond. Since 2008, more than 100 notable individuals and groups have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. The NJ Hall of Fame endeavors to present school children with significant role models to show that they can and should strive for excellence. Outreach through the New Jersey Hall of Fame Mobile Museum, and the NJ HOF Curriculum Guide for educators focuses on the importance of voting, the qualities of effective leadership, and inductee research. For more information on the NJHOF, its mission and inductees, go to To view past induction ceremonies, visit the NJ Hall of Fame YouTube channel at
Valerie Milano is the well-connected Senior Editor and Entertainment Critic at, a website that aggregates showbiz news curated for, and written by, insiders of the entertainment industry. (@HwoodTimes @TheHollywood.Times) Milano, whose extraordinary talents for networking in the famously tight-clad enclave of Hollywood have placed her at the center of the industry’s top red carpets and events since 1984, heads daily operations of a uniquely accessible, yet carefully targeted publication. For years, Milano sat on the board and tour coordinator of the Television Critics Association’s press tours. She has written for Communications Daily, Discover Hollywood, Hollywood Today, Television International, and Video Age International, and contributed to countless other magazines and digests. Valerie works closely with the Human Rights Campaign as a distinguished Fed Club Council Member. She also works with GLSEN, GLAAD, Outfest, NCLR, LAMBDA Legal, and DAP Health, in addition to donating both time and finances to high-profile nonprofits. She has been a member of the Los Angeles Press Club for a couple of years and looks forward to the possibility of contributing to the future success of its endeavors. Milano’s passion for meeting people extends from Los Feliz to her favorite getaway, Palm Springs. There, she is a member of the Palm Springs Museum of Art and a prominent Old Las Palmas-area patron.