Sie and Whitten Families Receive President’s Award, Katheleen Gardiner Receives Scientific Award at National Down Syndrome Congress Convention
Governor Hickenlooper Addresses 1,500 Attendees at July 20 Award Banquet
DENVER (July 25, 2013) – The National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) convened its annual convention in Denver this year, attracting over 3,000 attendees, making it the largest in the convention’s 41-year history. At the Awards Banquet held at the Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center on July 20, the organization presented its prestigious President’s Award to Anna and John J. Sie, and their daughter Michelle Sie Whitten, her husband, Tom, and their two children, Sophia and Patrick. Sophia happens to have Down syndrome.
Also honored was Katheleen Gardiner, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and a researcher at the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome. Dr. Gardiner, who is an integral part of the Crnic Institute the Sies and Whittens helped launch, received the NDSC’s Theodore D. Tjossem Research Award. Past recipients include the Linda Crnic Institute, Roger Reeves, Wayne Silverman, Sue Buckley, George Capone and Dennis McGuire.
“The Sies are unique in that they not only give of their wealth, they give of their time, their invaluable intellect and from their hearts,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. “Beyond the generosity of the $22 million the Sies have invested in the Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, they are making a huge impact by highlighting to the world what people with Down syndrome are capable of and what barriers still exist for their equality.”
“Michelle has been a great force for good in the Down syndrome community. The organization she heads, Global Down Syndrome Foundation, fills a much needed void in medical care and research, and her team is superbly focused and collaborative,” said David Tolleson, executive director of the NDSC. “Clearly the Crnic Institute is leading the way with research that is beneficial for people with Down syndrome and the Sie Center for Down Syndrome at Children’s Hospital Colorado is already educating the community with important best practices.”
“I am really pleased that Katheleen Gardiner won this award,” said Tom Blumenthal, executive director of the Crnic Institute. “The research she is doing is important, and central to the key questions involved in understanding the genetics and molecular biology of Down syndrome. This was exemplified in the outstanding talk she gave at the Global Research & Medical Care Roundtable. It is wonderful to see her getting the recognition she so richly deserves.”
The awards banquet attracted over 1,500 attendees and was the highlight of the weekend, which brought people from 20 different countries to Denver, including hundreds of self-advocates with Down syndrome. Other notables in attendance at the banquet included Deputy Mayor Cary Kennedy, and award winners:
• Maria Dellapina, Exceptional Meritorious Service Award
• Alberto Costa, Christian Pueschel Memorial Research Award
• Rachel Sibley and Tessa Marie Egan, Christian Pueschel Memorial Citizen Awards
• Tim Harris and his family, NDSC Service Award
• Adam’s Camp, Arc Thrift Stores, Colorado Springs Down Syndrome Association, Denver Adult Down Syndrome Clinic, Down Syndrome-Autism Connection, Global Down Syndrome Foundation, The Rise School of Denver and Rocky Mountain Down Syndrome Association, Convention Service Award
• Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida, National Parent Group Award
• George Capone, Heather Hancock and Claire Medlicott, Board Service Awards
• ESPN, National Media Award
• PEAK Parent Center, Education Award
• YMCA of the Prairie, Employer of the Year Award
• Asociacion Dominicana Sindrome de Down y Fundacion Quiereme Como Soy, President’s Award
In 2005, the Sies founded the Anna and John J. Sie Foundation, which supports the sharing of knowledge among peoples and cultures throughout the global community, with an emphasis on Down syndrome, international security and diplomacy, education, media, business and technology. The foundation has given $22 million in support of Down syndrome research, medical care, education and advocacy through the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, Crnic Institute and Anna & John J. Sie Center for Down Syndrome at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
The Sies’ daughter Michelle Whitten is co-founder and executive director of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. Formally established in 2009, the Foundation has the primary focus of supporting the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, the first academic home in the U.S. committed to research and medical care for people with the condition. Whitten and her husband, Tom, are the parents of two children, Patrick and Sophia. Sophia happens to have Down syndrome.
Gardiner’s current research focuses on protein expression in mouse and human model systems of Down syndrome, with the goal of identifying critical patterns in gene expression that underlie learning and memory deficits and to manipulate these with drug treatments to rescue cognitive deficits. She has organized that last two international conferences on Down syndrome and the biology of human chromosome 21 (in 2007 and 2004) in Washington, DC, and organized a conference titled “Cognition in Down syndrome: molecular, cellular and behavioral phenotypes and the promise of pharmacotherapeutics” in Washington, DC, on April 13-15, 2013.
About John J. Sie
John J. Sie is founder and former chairman of Starz Entertainment Group LLC. Founded in 1991, the Colorado-based company is owned by Liberty Media Corp. and is the parent to numerous premium movie networks, including Starz and Encore. John is a cable television pioneer and leader.
John, a native of China, came to the U.S. at the age of 14 in 1950. He received B.E.E. and M.E.E. degrees from Manhattan College and Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1957 and 1958, respectively. He began his professional career in 1958 when he joined the RCA Defense Electronics Division on advanced microwave solid state devices. In 1960, he co-founded and later became chairman and CEO of Micro State Electronics Corp, which later became a subsidiary of the Raytheon Co. In 1972, John joined Jerrold Electronics Corp, a subsidiary of General Instrument Co., as general manager and senior vice president of the Cable Television Division. In 1977, he joined Showtime Entertainment as senior vice president of sales and marketing.
In 1984, John and his family moved to Colorado to join Tele-Communications Inc. (now Comcast and Liberty Media) as senior vice president in charge of strategic planning, programming, marketing, technology and government relations. Many people consider John the father of digital television – in 1989 he submitted the very first white paper on digital High Definition Television (HDTV) to Congress and the FCC that would dramatically change the landscape of television in the United States and the world. He is a member of the Cable Television Hall of Fame.
John and his wife have received numerous awards: “Man and Woman of the Year” by The Villager in 2009, the prestigious Community Cultural Enrichment Award from the Mizel Museum in 2010, and the Woodrow Wilson Public Service Award in 2013.
About Anna Sie
Anna, a native of Italy, immigrated to the United States in 1955 and grew up in New Jersey. Her passion for the welfare of children was forged through her own experience in coming to America. Anna is involved in many Italian-related endeavors in Colorado, including endowing the Anna Maglione-Sie Chair in Italian Language and Culture — the first endowment in languages at the University of Denver — and establishing the Maria and Tommaso Maglione Italian Filmmaker Award at the Starz Denver Film Festival.
Anna and her husband have received numerous awards: “Man and Woman of the Year” by The Villager in 2009, the prestigious Community Cultural Enrichment Award from the Mizel Museum in 2010, and the Woodrow Wilson Public Service Award in 2013.
About Michelle Sie Whitten
For her Down syndrome-related work, Michelle has received several awards, including the 2011 inaugural National Football Foundation Community Outreach Award, five prestigious ICON awards for the Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show, the 2010 Rainbow of Hope Award from Keshet of the Rockies, the 2009 Developmental Pathways Frances Owens Family Involvement award, the 2007 Arc Thrift Community Leadership Award, and the 2007 National Down Syndrome Congress’ Exceptional Meritorious Service Award.
Prior to her career in the nonprofit sector, Michelle was president and CEO of Encore International Inc., then the China arm of Liberty Media Corp. She worked in the cable industry from 1993 until 2005 and is considered a pioneer in the China media industry. For her work during that time, she received the 40 Under 40 Achievement Award, the Real Women: Outstanding Entrepreneur Award and the Women in Cable & Telecommunications Walk of Fame Award.
Michelle sits on the boards of ARC Thrift of Colorado, Challenge Day Denver, and the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Regional Studies – East Asia and a Graduate Certificate in Business Administration, both from Harvard University. She studied Mandarin Chinese at Peking University and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Asian Studies from Tufts University.
About Katheleen Gardiner
Katheleen Gardiner is a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome. Gardiner received a B.S. degree in Honors Physics from McGill University in Montreal. She then spent two and a half years teaching high school general science and physics in Kanye, Botswana. She received a PhD from the Department of Biophysics and Genetics at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, for studies on RNA processing in bacteria, work that subsequently was awarded a Nobel Prize.
During a postdoctoral fellowship at the Eleanor Roosevelt Institute in Denver, Gardiner began working on Down syndrome, initially mapping genes on human chromosome 21 at the start of the human genome project. This work led to her chairing an international committee on genomic sequence annotation when the complete DNA sequence of human chromosome 21 was generated and published in 2000. Gardiner has continued to focus her research on human chromosome 21 and Down syndrome at the Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, then at the University of Denver. She moved to the University of Colorado in 2007 and joined the Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome in 2012.
About the Global Down Syndrome Foundation
The Global Down Syndrome Foundation is a public nonprofit 501(c)(3) dedicated to significantly improving the lives of people with Down syndrome through research, medical care, education and advocacy. Formally established in 2009, the Foundation has the primary focus of supporting the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, the first academic home in the U.S. committed to research and medical care for people with the condition. Fundraising and government advocacy that corrects the alarming disparity of national funding for people with Down syndrome is a major short-term goal. The Foundation organizes the Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show — the single-largest annual fundraiser benefiting people with Down syndrome. Programmatically, the Foundation organizes and funds many programs and conferences, including the Dare to Play Football Camp, the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders Dare to Cheer Camp, the Dare to Play Soccer Camps, and the Global Down Syndrome Educational Series. The Foundation is an inclusive organization without political or religious affiliation or intention.
About the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome
The Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome is the first medical and research institute with the mission to provide the best clinical care to people with Down syndrome, and to eradicate the medical and cognitive ill effects associated with the condition. Established in 2008, the Crnic Institute is a partnership between the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Children’s Hospital Colorado. Headquartered on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, the Crnic Institute includes the Anna and John J. Sie Center for Down Syndrome at Children’s Hospital Colorado. It partners both locally and globally to provide life-changing research and medical care for individuals with Down syndrome. The Crnic Institute is made possible by the generous support of the Anna and John J. Sie Foundation, and relies on the Global Down Syndrome Foundation for fundraising, education, awareness and government advocacy. It is a research and medical-based organization without political or religious affiliation or intention.