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Lady Sassoon Golden Heart 42nd award winner and the unveiling of the “Go red for women dress”
By Ingrid Sears
Feb 14, 2010 - 5:50:32 PM

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R. E. Barnes Chairman of the Sir Victor Sassoon Bahamas Heart Foundation, and Dr. Donald Gerace.

Nassau, Bahamas - It was an evening like none other. The Annual Heart Ball, held at Sheraton Nassau, Cable Beach, was the site for two special announcements.  Dr. Donald Gerace of the Gerace Research Centre won the 42nd Lady Sassoon Golden Heart Award. The applause of the audience was overwhelming. Additionally, for the first time ever, the “God Red for Women” dress was unveiled. The dress was designed by local designer Indira Moss, replicating the “God red for Women” pins, which celebrate the lives of women, particularly in the fight against heart disease.

Dr. Gerace has gained fame in the Bahamas for his work in San Salvador at the Gerace Research Centre located there since 1971. He has worked closely with the College of the Bahamas to make the Research Centre one of the premier research centers in the Caribbean region.  His work on marine biology, archeology and the environment of the Bahamas has brought great recognition for the Centre in San Salvador and for the Bahamas. 

R.E. Barnes, Chairman of the Sassoon Heart Foundation stated in his presentation remarks that even though Dr Gerace should be rightfully credited for his academic work here, he was not being recognized for that alone.

The Golden Heart Award winner is someone who gives of themselves to our community, to make it a better place for all of us. Mr. Barnes noted that over the years, Dr. Gerace has shown over and over again how much he loves the Bahamas by his actions to help his fellow man.

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Dr. Donald Gerace

Dr. Gerace arrived in San Salvador in 1971 and took over an abandoned United States Navel Base located there with the goal of turning it into an educational and scientific research institution. It took a lot of work to transform the faltering buildings that he found into a suitable academic environment.  But with the aid of students and many of the local islanders, he did just that.

Dr Gerace noted that he was amazed at how the people of San Salvador readily accepted him and his goals for the facility.  He said he would never forget them for how they welcomed him to their community.  The people of San Salvador will not soon forget him either.

When Hurricane Francis struck there, Dr Gerace helped get needed supplies and materials to the island to help people start to rebuild. His connections from the States brought in supplies quickly to help. In the days when there was no bank there, he assisted by taking care of the costs to get things to the island rapidly.

Dr Gerace helped to form a local Boy Scout troop for San Salvador. He was critical in the formation of Troop 1492 and was a leader of this group who were famous for their smart looking uniforms with red berets.

Dr Gerace and his wife Kathy are active members of the community at St Augustine’s Anglican Church.  He also has been an active Kiwanis Club member and a charter director.

One of Dr Gerace’s most significant gifts to the Bahamas has been the number of students who have profited from the scholarships he helped to arrange. He set up full tuition scholarships for Bahamian students to attend colleges and universities in the U.S.A.

Dr Gerace and his wife helped form the Donald T. and Kathy D. Gerace Foundation in the early 1990’s for the purpose of supporting COB students studying at the Gerace Research Centre, as well as for supporting the research of the Centre. Furthermore, it is not uncommon to see Bahamian students staying at his home in Punta Gorda, Florida while they pursue their studies in the U.S.

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As the Bahamas moved toward the quincentennial of the Columbus landing in 1992, the Gerace Research Centre was the center of research and dissemination of information on Columbus and his first landfall in the new world. Archeologists from the Gerace Research Centre found many artifacts confirming the landfall of Columbus at San Salvador and the trading the Spanish did with the Indians.  They hosted a major conference held in San Salvador in 1986 and the results were published as a major work on Columbus and His World.

Every year since 1982 the Gerace Research centre has sponsored a conference on either the geology or the natural history of the Bahamas. The Centre has also sponsored several conferences and workshops in the field of archaeology and hosts field trips and workshops from the U.S., Europe and the Bahamas.

The research from the Gerace Research Centre has become part of the knowledge of the local people, where it is used by tour operators and those interested in preserving the natural history and environment of San Salvador. He has helped to preserve and enrich the Bahamas by adding to our knowledge about these special islands.

In 2003, Dr. Gerace formed a non-profit foundation in Florida called the Bahamas Education, Culture and Science Foundation, Inc.  The purpose of this company is to raise tax-free donations in the United States for the support of tertiary education in the Bahamas, such as the College of the Bahamas. Funds are being raised to assist Bahamians to attend college and grants are being submitted to raise funds for equipment for COB and the Gerace Research Centre.

In his presentation to Dr. Gerace, Heart Foundation Chairman, R.E. Barnes said, “Through his efforts at the Gerace Research Centre he has contributed to the greater wealth of understanding of the biology, archaeology, geology, marine sciences and history of the Bahamas.  He has enriched the Bahamas with a greater appreciation of all the things around us and made our world a richer place for his presence in our world.”

Barnes went on to further say. “ It is clear that when the Bahamians of San Salvador opened up their doors to Donald Gerace, they found a true friend.”  “He in kind has opened up so many doors for Bahamians, that he is truly a man with a golden heart.” “One that will keep giving to the Bahamas for years to come”.

The Heart Ball is the major fundraiser for The Sir Victor Sassoon (Bahamas) Heart Foundation, which provides support for children. Additionally, the Foundation works in conjunction with The Bahamas Heart Association to educate and inform Bahamians about heart care and healthy heart lifestyles in hopes of deterring Bahamians from having heart problems.

The Lady Sassoon Golden Heart Award is named in honour of the late Lady Evelyn Sassoon, who established The Foundation in memory of her late husband, Sir Victor Sassoon. The deadline for nominations is normally the third Monday in January of each year.


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