The Indiana Historical Society (IHS) will honor Alpha Blackburn, SFC Sammy L. Davis, Rabbis Sandy and Dennis Sasso, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., and Dr. Carolyn Yau Yan Woo at the 2022 Indiana Living Legends Gala. This year’s class of Living Legends will be honored on Thursday, July 28, at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, 450 W. Ohio St. in Indianapolis.
Each year, IHS recognizes extraordinary Hoosiers for their local, statewide and national accomplishments in a variety of areas and disciplines. The gala is IHS’s signature fundraising event and helps IHS fulfill its mission to collect and preserve Indiana’s unique stories by supporting its statewide programs and services.
In addition to the generous corporate sponsorship of OneAmerica Financial Partners, Inc. and Lake City Bank, IHS welcomes individuals and companies to support the IHS by attending the event. Tables of 10 are available for Patrons ($3,500) or Event Benefactors ($5,000). Individual tickets are also available at the Patron ($350) and Event Benefactor ($500) level.
The black-tie gala will begin with a cocktail reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m. The program will begin at 8 p.m. It will be followed by coffee and desserts, during which time all attendees will have the opportunity to congratulate the honorees.
For additional information, or to purchase tickets to the 2022 Indiana Living Legends Gala, please call (317) 233-5658 or visit https://bit.ly/3Nj1CAA.
2022 Living Legends
A Lynchburg, Va., native and Distinguished Graduate of Howard University, Alpha Coles Blackburn has been a Hoosier for 58 years and believes Indiana is her true home. She strives to set an example that creativity is joyful and exciting — and that giving is its own reward.
Alpha has served on more than 60 boards, commissions and civic committees. While she doesn’t consider herself a “natural joiner,” she considers board and committee service to be a strategy to effect change, to be a part of something bigger than oneself and to serve the greater good. The setting allows her to amplify her impact, using her skills and talents in a collaborative effort to address issues and formulate policies.
Some of her most lauded work includes leadership of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission and the opportunity to lead the design team of The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati with her late husband Walter. Alpha served in the selection of the teams of architects to design the next five projects for The National Mall.
Alpha was the first Black woman to serve on the Board of Regents of The Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union — the first since its founding in 1858. Due to her involvement, there is now greater emphasis on telling the American story of enslaved Blacks to the millions who visit the home of the nation’s first president.
Alpha also supports education through the Walter and Alpha Blackburn Scholarship Fund, which is supported by an annual fundraising gala and fashion show. It provides scholarships for students to study architecture and the arts.
SFC Sammy L. Davis
Sergeant First Class (SFC) Sammy L. Davis is Indiana’s only living Congressional Medal of Honor recipient.
On November 18, 1967, then-Private First Class Davis’ artillery unit was hit by a massive enemy offensive. At 21 years old, he resolved to face the onslaught. Soon he would have a perforated kidney, crushed ribs, a broken vertebra, his flesh ripped by beehive darts, a bullet in his thigh, and burns all over his body. Ignoring his injuries, he manned a 2-ton Howitzer by himself, used an air mattress to cross a canal under heavy fire to rescue three wounded American soldiers and kept fighting until the enemy retreated.
In recognition of his extraordinary heroism, Sammy was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1968 for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. He was also recognized with the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. He was also named one of Newsweek’s 100 Unsung Heroes and received the Joe Foss Institute’s annual award, among many other distinctions. He’s also referred to as “the real Forrest Gump” — in the film, actor Tom Hanks’ face is superimposed on the footage of Sammy receiving his Medal of Honor from President Lyndon Johnson.
Sammy is also the author of “You Don’t Lose ’Til You Quit Trying: Lessons on Adversity and Victory from a Vietnam Veteran and Medal of Honor Recipient,” which chronicles how his childhood in the American Heartland prepared him for the worst night of his life. He now travels throughout the U.S. and abroad as a motivational speaker at schools, corporations and public events.
Rabbis Sandy and Dennis Sasso
Rabbis Sandy and Dennis Sasso are history makers both individually and collectively, serving their community with bountiful effort, energy and passion.
Sandy was the first woman ordained from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the first to serve a Conservative congregation together with her husband, Rabbi Dennis C. Sasso. Sandy and Dennis are the first practicing rabbinical couple in world Jewish history.
Dennis has been Senior Rabbi of Congregation Beth-El Zedeck since 1977. A native of the Republic of Panama, Rabbi Sasso descends from Spanish/Portuguese Sephardic families who settled in the Caribbean following the discovery of the Americas.
Dennis has served on many boards, including the Indiana Board of Rabbis, the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis, United Way of Central Indiana, the Immigrant Welcome Center, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School Board of Trustees and the Lake Family Institute Advisory Board.
Sandy is Rabbi Emerita of Congregation Beth-El Zedeck, where she served for 36 years. In 2014, she became the director of the Spirituality, Religion and the Arts Initiative, now at IUPUI Arts and Humanities. Sandy is active in the arts, civic and interfaith communities and has written and lectured on women, spirituality, and children’s religious imagination. She is also the author of nationally-acclaimed children’s books, winning National Jewish Book and Indiana Authors Awards.
Sandy is cofounder of Women4Change Indiana and served as President of Gleaners Food Bank and Chair of the Spirit and Place Festival. She serves on the boards of Indiana Humanities, Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, Advisory Board of IUPUI and Environmental Resilience Initiative.
Sandy and Dennis are recipients of the “Hoosier Jewish Legends” award from the Indiana Jewish Historical Society and the “Interfaith Ambassador of the Year” award from the Center for Interfaith Cooperation as well as the Sagamore of the Wabash for Distinguished Citizen Award from the Governor of the State of Indiana.
Dennis obtained his B.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University, an M.A. in religion from Temple University, and was ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1974. He holds a Doctor of Ministry in theology from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, where he is Affiliate Professor of Jewish Studies. He is the recipient of various Doctor of Divinity Honorary degrees.
Sandy received her B.A. Magna Cum Laude and M.A. from Temple University. She was ordained from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1974 and received a Doctor of Ministry from Christian Theological Seminary. Sandy is a recipient of the Heritage Keepers, Spirit of the Prairie and Torchbearer awards.
They are the parents of David (Naomi) and Debbie (Brad) and grandparents of Darwin, Raven, Ari and Levi.
Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R.
A prominent figure in the worldwide Catholic Church, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin has served his fellow believers through love, words and actions. He served as the Sixth Archbishop of Indianapolis from 2012 to 2016.
Cardinal Tobin was ordained to both the diaconate and the priesthood in 1978. He served as associate pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish (Detroit), where he engaged in both pastoral ministry to the Hispanic community and youth ministry. He was later named pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish and served in a number of diocesan assignments within the Archdiocese of Detroit. He later served as pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish in Chicago and served as a Provincial Consultor, General Consultor of the Community in Rome and as Superior General of the Redemptorists in Rome.
In 2010, Cardinal Tobin was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to the Roman Curia post of Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSA), and titular Archbishop of Obba. Following his work in Indianapolis, Pope Francis named him to the College of Cardinals in 2016 and appointed him to serve as the Sixth Archbishop of Newark.
Cardinal Tobin is a member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Synod of Bishops, Congregation for Catholic Education, Pontifical Council for Culture, Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Council for the Economy and Congregation for Bishops.
Cardinal Tobin speaks English, Spanish, Italian, French and Portuguese, and reads several other languages. He graduated from St. Joseph’s Prep College (Edgerton, Wis.) and received his bachelor’s degree in philosophy at Holy Redeemer College (Waterford, Wis.) and master’s degrees in religious education and divinity from Mount Saint Alphonsus Seminary (Esopus, N.Y.).
Dr. Carolyn Yau Yan Woo
In 2013, Dr. Carolyn Yau Yan Woo was cited by Foreign Policy as one of the 500 Most Powerful People on the Planet and one of only 33 in the category “A force for good.”
Carolyn Woo received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from Purdue University. She served as assistant, associate and professor of strategic management at the Krannert School of Management and then moved into academic administration — first as director of the master’s programs in industrial administration and management and as associate executive vice president for academic affairs. Today she continues to serve the university as President’s Distinguished Fellow for International Development.
Carolyn later served as dean of the Mendoza College at the University of Notre Dame and zeroed in on the quality of teaching, curricula innovations, placement of students and embedding ethics in all business disciplines. She was elected the first female chair of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International and led the launch of the Principles for Responsible Management program with the United Nations.
Carolyn served Catholic Relief Services (CRS) as CEO from 2012 to 2016. CRS undertakes humanitarian relief and sustainable development in more than 100 countries serving more than 100 million people each year, designing and implementing more than 1,000 programs annually to reduce poverty, diminish risk and foster prosperity in the several areas.
Dr. Carolyn Woo coordinated and facilitated the Vatican Dialogues for Energy Transition in 2018, 2019 and 2021. She currently serves on the corporate boards of AON (UK), Arabesque (Germany) and on the International Advisory Group of Equinor (Norway). Former corporate board service includes five publicly-traded companies in utilities, community banking, pharmaceutical distribution, electronic retail and automotive manufacturing. Nonprofit boards, past and present, have included universities, K-12 education, a large health system, faith-based media and a leadership development institute. She is the recipient of close to 30 honorary doctorates.