2017 Honorees

Immigrant Entrepreneur Leadership Award Recipient: AKIRA MORI

Born in Japan, Akira Mori’s love of music was cultivated at a very young age when his mother brought home music from the library where she worked. He learned to play the flute and piano when he was a teenager and studied flute performance in college. He received his undergraduate degree in flute performance from New England Conservatory and his master’s degree in orchestral conducting from Indiana University. He also received a diploma in Orchestral Conducting from Wiener Meisterkurse in Austria. Currently, he is Director of Orchestral Studies and Associate Professor at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.


Immigrant Spirit Award Recipient: IEM PHRASANY

Iem Phrasany escaped from Laos during the Vietnamese War in 1980 with her husband and 8 children. The family moved from a refugee camp in Thailand to the Philippines and eventually found a Catholic church to sponsor their migration to the United States. Shortly before their departure, Iem was left a widow at age 36 when her husband passed away suddenly. She had to muster up all her strength and courage to move with her 8 children half way across the world to Portland, Maine in February of 1981. The following year, she moved her family to Iowa to be closer to her sister who lived in Nevada, Iowa. With little money or belongings, Iem had to take any and often multiple jobs to support her eight children. A devout Catholic, Iem, stressed the importance of faith and education to her children. She eventually sent six of her children to college and 4 of them went on to graduate. Today, all her children are doing well and have families of their own but she remains very involved in their lives to ensure that the next generation continues to thrive. She continues to help her 8 of children by taking care of all 13 grandchildren so their parents can focus on their businesses and careers.


Outstanding Immigrant Business Award Recipient: OASIS FALAFEL

Naftaly Stramer had a varied and successful career in Israel before moving to Boulder, Colorado with his wife and three children and eventually settled in Iowa City in 1991. Ofer Sivan migrated to Iowa City from Israel with his family in 1981 when he was just 3 years old and completed his K-12 and college education in Iowa City. In 2003, Ofer graduated from the University of Iowa with an engineering degree at the same time that Naftaly was between jobs and the two decided to become partners and open a Mediterranean restaurant after lamenting that Falafel was not available in Iowa City at that time. Oasis Falafel opened in the summer of 2004.


Karen L. Evans Award (Immigrant Champion Award) Recipient: AMBASSADOR TERRY BRANSTAD

The longest serving Governor in the United States when appointed to his current position as Ambassador of the United States to China, the Honorary Terry E. Branstad has been on the ballot 20 times and never lost an election. Born in Leland, Iowa to Rita and Edward Branstad, Ambassador Branstad grew up on his family farm and graduated from Forest City High School. An alumnus of the University of Iowa and Drake University Law School, he also served in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps for two years. His early political career included three two years terms in the Iowa House of Representative (1973-1979) and one four year term as Lieutenant Governor of Iowa (1979-1983) before beginning his first tenure as Governor of Iowa (1983-1999). After a decade away from public service, he decided to return to politics and was reelected in 2010 for a fifth term as governor of Iowa. It was during this second tenure (2011-2017) that he became the longest serving Governor in the United States in December of 2015.