Celebrating Immigrant Entrepreneurs in the Science Center’s 2017 Innovators Walk of Fame

Article by Alessandra Testa, GPA Ambassador

What does a biotech company have in common with an Israeli restaurant, Kevlar vests, The Wilma Theater, two pharmaceutical companies, and the Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechonlogy? The answer was found at The Science Center’s third annual Innovators Walk of Fame, which honored the immigrant entrepreneurs behind these ventures on Thursday, September 17. This ceremony is dedicated to raising awareness of the important contributions immigrants have made—and continue to make—within the Greater Philadelphia Region.

This year’s six Innovators hail from nearly every region of the world, and their groundbreaking contributions in the art, social, scientific, engineering, and technology fields withstand the test of time. Some nominees, like the French-born Éleuthère Irénée du Pont, arrived to Philadelphia in the early 1800’s. What began as building gunpowder mills on the banks of the Brandywine River in Delaware later led to the founding of DuPont, one of the nation’s leading industrial enterprises whose technological advancements include Nylon, Teflon, Corian, and Kevlar.

Others, like Hubert J.P. Schoemaker, Blanka Zizka, or Krishna Singh, are luminaries in their respective fields. When Schoemaker, originally from the Netherlands, co-founded Centocor in 1970, he not only launched one of the United States’ first biotech centers in Philadelphia, but also paved the way for the creation of Remicade, a drug used to relieve suffering from auto-immune diseases. Blanka Zizka, who left Czechosolovakia for Philadelphia during the Cold War, grew The Wilma Theater from a small, experimental troupe into a theater renowned for its contemporary international selections. India-born Krishna Singh’s company Holtec International has developed systems and equipment used by other 120 nuclear plants around the world—many based on Singh’s own patents. Singh’s 50-acre Technology Campus is located in Camden, New Jersey—intentionally placed to provide economic opportunities for the struggling city.

Osagie Imasogie is in a category all of his own. This “Nigerian by birth but American by choice” is the founder and co-founder of 4 different companies, chairs two pharmaceutical companies, and is a Trustee of the University of Pennsylvania, and is behind several successful ventures. His passion for entrepreneurship and innovation can be seen through his roles as a “serial entrepreneur, investor, attorney, pharma exec, and civic leader”.

And let’s not forget about Michael Solomonov. The owner of Zahav, a wildly popular Israeli restaurant on St. James’s Place, hails from Israel, and has established several other restaurants in Philadelphia, including Federal Donuts and Percy Street Barbecue. More recently, he formed the Rooster Soup Company, which provides meals, counseling, and medical and legal aid to Philadelphia’s homeless and food-deprived communities through a partnership with Federal Donuts and Broad Street Ministry’s Hospitality Collective.

As Stephen S. Tang, the Science Center’s President and CEO puts it, “These honorees represent the power, potential and impact of the immigrant community…and the 2017 Innovators Walk of Fame honorees celebrate ideas that have changed the world, the jobs they’ve created, and the legacies that have paved the way for future immigrants and innovators.”

For more information on the Class of 2017, visit the Science Center’s website.