The National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations’ (NECO) presented its 2017 Ellis Island Medals of Honor on Sunday, May 13, 2017. Winn Claybaugh, author, keynote speaker, and dean/cofounder of the nationwide network of Paul Mitchell cosmetology schools, along with Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Governor John Kasich, PepsiCo chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi, and TV host and journalist Fareed Zakaria were among the 90 honorees.
A business owner for over 30 years with over 16,000 people in his organization, Claybaugh is the founder and co-owner of hair care giant Paul Mitchell’s school division, with more than 100 locations throughout the United States. Under his leadership, the schools’ annual “FUNraising” campaign has raised and donated over $18 million in support of many charitable causes: funds have built homes with Habitat for Humanity, fed thousands of African orphans, and supported the victims of AIDS, breast cancer, homelessness, abuse, and hundreds of other causes.
A popular seminar leader and keynote speaker, Claybaugh also travels extensively as an educator and consultant, helping thousands of businesses build their brands and create successful working cultures. He serves on the board of directors of the nonprofit organizations Bright Pink and the Andrew Gomez Dream Foundation. In 2004, he was the youngest person ever named to the North American Hairstyling Awards (NAHA) Hall of Leaders, In 2011, behindthechair.com honored Winn with the Hairdressers Unlocking Hope award, given to individuals in the professional beauty industry who serve as exemplary models of philanthropy, giving back to their communities and to the world with generosity and spirit. Recognizing his leadership of the Paul Mitchell Schools’ annual FUNraising campaign, Friendly House named Winn Humanitarian of the Year, he received Thirst Project’s Vision Award, and American Salon named him one of the top five “Industry Leaders Who Helped Revolutionize Education.”
“Our great country could not be what it is today without the contributions of immigrants,” Claybaugh said. “I am proud to come from a family of ancestors who sacrificed so much to be in America. My direct ‘roots’ come from beautiful parents who taught me hard work, the importance of family, and the determination to do and be whatever I desired. My upbringing gave me the confidence to come up with wild ideas for making a difference, but every idea needs people who say yes. I humbly acknowledge the wonderful people in my personal and business circles who say yes: without them, not one dollar would have been raised, not one life saved, not one iota of awareness created about what ails our planet, and I would not have been selected to receive this treasured award.”
The Ellis Island Medal of Honor ranks among the nation’s most renowned awards, recognizing individuals who have made it their mission to share their wealth of knowledge, indomitable courage, boundless compassion, unique talents, and selfless generosity with those less fortunate; all while maintaining the traditions of their ethnic heritage as they uphold the ideals and spirit of America.
Past recipients have included seven U.S. presidents; Secretaries of State Madeline Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Clinton; Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor; and other notables such as Nobel Prize recipient Elie Wiesel, artist Vladimir Prodanovich, Bob Hope, Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra, Gary Sinise, Rosa Parks, Lee Iacocca, and Quincy Jones, who have all distinguished themselves through their significant philanthropic and humanitarian contributions to this country.
The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have officially recognized the Ellis Island Medals of Honor as one of our nation’s most prestigious awards, and each year the recipients are listed in the Congressional Record.