Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations
OFFICERS Elected 2022
President: Basil M. Russo
Hon. Basil M. Russo holds the unique distinction of serving as National President of two of the largest and most influential Italian American organizations in the United States, the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO.org), and the Italian Sons and Daughters of America (OrderISDA.org).
In his capacity as COPOMIAO’s president, he serves as national spokesperson for 58 of the largest and most influential cultural, charitable, fraternal, educational, and anti-defamation Italian American organizations in the United States. As president, he initiated 3 national Italian American summit meetings that created a heretofore absent spirit of national unity among the 400 participating organizations. Those meetings resulted in the creation of 6 national committees to address issues of mutual concern to all Italian Americans.
He next initiated a precedent-setting reception for Italian American leaders with the Italian ambassador in Washington, D.C. to establish meaningful ties between Italian Americans and the Italian government. And he recently led a delegation of Italian American leaders to Rome to meet with prominent leaders at the highest levels of the Italian government, and the Vatican, to further enhance a strategic relationship that will promote joint efforts to preserve our culture, while enhancing commercial ties between the U.S. and Italy. The trip concluded with an audience with His Holiness, Pope Francis.
In 2014, Basil was elected national president of both the Italian Sons and Daughters of America (ISDA), and its affiliate, ISDA Financial Life. As ISDA president he developed the largest Italian American social media platform in the country, which currently has more than 725,000 followers. And, as the ISDA Financial Life president, he directs the largest Italian American insurance, IRA, and annuity company in the country with over $370 million in assets. Additionally, in 2017, Basil, his wife Patricia (Gallupoli) and their children created the Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum, which provides grants to aspiring filmmakers who depict the Italian American experience in a positive way. To date, 48 films have been awarded $400,000 in grants with several of the films being aired and acclaimed in prominent film festivals throughout the U.S. and Italy. Additionally, from 2016 to 2021, he served on the executive committee of the National Italian American Foundation in Washington, D.C.
Another great program Basil co-founded is the Italian American Future Leaders Conference (IAfuture.org). The purpose of this program is to bring young Italian American leaders together from throughout the country and inspire them to embrace their Italian heritage, and assume leadership positions within our community to help preserve that heritage. The first of these annual events was held at the FLA Live Arena in Ft. Lauderdale in January 2023, and it was hugely successful.
Basil has chosen to devote much of his life to preserving and promoting his heritage through various Italian American organizations and causes, stating, “my primary motivation is to pay respect and honor to the memory of my parents and grandparents who are no longer with me.”
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Basil was the founding and managing partner of the law firm Russo, Rosalina & Co. until his retirement in 2014. He served as judge of the Ohio Court of Appeals, judge of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court (for which he received an Excellent Judicial Service Award from the Ohio Supreme Court) and majority leader of the Cleveland City Council.
In addition to the leadership positions specified above, he became the driving force behind the Bishop Anthony Pilla Italian American Studies Program at his alma mater, John Carroll University. He has spent 25 years serving as president of the Justinian Forum, an Italian American bar association representing attorneys and judges of Italian American descent. He is one of the founding members and current chairman of the Cleveland Italian Film Festival and has served as chairman of the Greater Cleveland Columbus Day Parade since 2004. Basil was also a founding member and officer of the NOIA Foundation, an Italian American organization that has raised more than $4 million for charitable purposes.
Basil and Patricia have immersed themselves in family and faith. Among other important undertakings, he and Patricia have served as chairpersons of the advisory committee to the Department of Marriage and Family Ministry of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese. They also served as co-chairs of their diocese’s Pre-Cana program for 15 years.
They are the proud parents of four children: Their daughter Gabriella is an attorney and the managing partner of Russo, Rosalina & Co. Their daughter Angela is President of Creative at AGBO Studios in Hollywood, who has taught at Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Institute of Art. And their two sons, Anthony and Joseph, are successful directors, writers and producers of film and television, who hold the distinction of having directed the second highest-grossing film in box office history, Avengers: Endgame.
Basil and Patricia happily spend all their free time with their 13 beautiful grandchildren.
Vice President: John M. Viola
John M. Viola is affectionately known to all as the “professional Italian American.” He is president of the Italian American Podcast, and creator and co-host of The Italian Power Hour. John also serves as the NYC district vice president of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America (ISDA). Additionally, he is the chief administrator of the National Columbus Education Foundation where he serves as executive director.
John also serves on the Board of Directors at the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in Chicago, La Scuola d’Italia in New York City, and the American Initiative for Italian Culture (AIFIC) in Washington, D.C.
John previously served as president and chief operating officer of the National Italian American Foundation where he served with energy and passion from 2012 to 2018, as the youngest president in NIAF’s history. John is a Knight of Merit with Star of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St. George.
John and his wife, Nicole, are the parents of a beautiful young daughter, Giovanna Teresa.
TREASURER: Prof. Santi Buscemi
Santi Buscemi, current professor of English at Middlesex County College in Edison, N.J. He is a member of the Italian American Legal Defense Fund. He is also a translator of Italian/Sicilian literature.
Hon. Dominic R. Massaro
Paul S. Polo
Rosemary DeLuca – Secretary
George Bochetto – National Counsel
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