By Madeline Orton
“We hope every year…that we’re inspiring people,” says New Jersey Hall of Fame Foundation Board President Steve Edwards. “Everyone has what Plato refers to as ‘an arête.’ It means to actualize your highest sense of self…So our inductees are, I think, a reminder that if you…dare to dream, if you work hard and never give up, anything is possible.”
There’s plenty to be inspired by. Fifteen accomplished New Jerseyans are being honored this year, including six greats in the arts and entertainment. Among them are sculptor and founder of Grounds for Sculpture J. Seward Johnson Jr., Joe Piscopo of Saturday Night Live fame, Grammy-winning singer Dionne Warwick and her cousin, the late, great Whitney Houston.
“I’m proud for her,” shares Warwick of Houston’s induction into the Hall of Fame. “Because I know if she was standing here talking to you, she would say exactly the same thing — how proud she is.”
These artists are by no means strangers to award ceremonies, but something makes this honor extra special.
“I’m from New Jersey, I love New Jersey, I live in New Jersey,” says Warwick, “and to think New Jersey thinks that much of me — what else can I say?”
“This is better than the Academy Awards!” Joe Piscopo shares with the audience. “This is about Jersey, baby.”
Also about New Jersey, is the Hall of Fame’s new Mobile Museum launched this past June. It educates visitors about contributions made by members of the Hall of Fame, and is designed by member of the class of 2010, iconic architect Michael Graves.
“It’s going to schools, it’s going to community events,” says Edwards. “And the best part is it is a field trip that goes out to the students. They don’t have to come to the museum.”
The goal of the Mobile Museum is to instill in students that, like its honorees, they too have the “Garden State DNA” to succeed in whatever field they choose. Which begs the question: just what is it about the Garden State?
“Bruce Springsteen…questioned that as well, and I think his suggestion was that we just have a chip on our shoulder. We’ve got something that we’ve got to prove,” says Edwards.
“I think it’s the work ethic. I really do,” Piscopo says.
“We have wonderful parents. Families are very important to us,” Warwick suggests.
Whatever the reason, the Hall of Fame is dedicated to making sure New Jersey is known for the incredible achievements of our residents and is never at a loss for inspirational individuals to celebrate in the years to come.