Peace Islands Institute (PII) held its ninth annual awards dinner June 2 at the Hilton Hotel in Hasbrouck Heights, paying tribute to New Jersey residents whose noteworthy lives and careers have made a positive impact in the Garden State.

Ercan Tozan, executive director of PII’s New Jersey chapter, welcomed attendees and thanked them for their support. He also praised the award winners for their many accomplishments.

Individuals honored at the June 2 gathering included Dr. Chris Rodriguez, Director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (NJOHSP), who received the PII “Community Service Award”; Dr. Angus Kress Gillespie, Director of New Jersey Folk Festival , who received the “Diversity Award”; Dr. Paul B. Winkler, Executive Director of NJ Commission on Holocaust Education, who accepted the “Education Award”; Michele Siekerka, President of New Jersey Business and Industry Association (NJBIA), who garnered the “Business Award”.

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi R-River Dale delivered the keynote speech for the awards night. She was first elected to the New Jersey General Assembly in November 2011 representing the 39th Legislative District.

Thomas G. Masters, master of ceremonies for the awards dinner, offered his greeting to those assembled. Masters is retired deputy supervisory Air Marshal in Charge.

According to its mission statement, PII (website:, as part of the international Hizmet movement, promotes tolerance, education, interfaith dialogue and harmony. It looks to create “islands of peace” in a diverse society.

The event concluded with acknowledging the Art and Essay Contest 2016 winners. The winners of the contest received their certificate of honors. We thank all the students, parents, and teachers who have attended.

The list of the winners is announced on the contest website,

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