Notable Ethiopian Americans of 2009

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Tadias Magazine is proud to present our list of people of the year for 2009. The list includes researchers, social entrepreneurs, authors, filmmakers, artists and musicians, whose inspiring work has made an impact far beyond their individual accomplishments.

Below is our top ten list of Ethiopian-Americans. As always, we welcome your additional suggestions.

Dr. Gebisa Ejeta

The 2009 World Food Prize, considered by many to be the Nobel Prize of agriculture, was awarded to Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, a Purdue University Professor, whose sorghum hybrids resistant to drought and the devastating Striga weed have dramatically increased the production and availability of one of the world’s five principal grains and enhanced the food supply of hundreds of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa. We congratulate Dr. Ejeta on his accomplishments.

Dr. Yared Tekabe

Dr. Yared Tekabe’s groundbreaking work on non-invasive atherosclerosis detection and molecular imaging was published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation, along with an editorial citing its clinical implications. Tekabe, who runs studies in cardiovascular disease detection and prevention at Columbia University, has helped his laboratory, headed by Dr Lynne Johnson, to receive another $1.6 million four-year grant from the National Institute of Health to continue his research. Tekabe hopes that in a few years time his work can similarly help heart disease prevention efforts and early detection of atherosclerosis in humans. We extend our heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Tekabe for his his continued scientific efforts.

Judge Nina Ashenafi

Nina Ashenafi Richardson, who was elected to the Leon County bench in Florida on November 4th, 2008 and received the oath of office from Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court Peggy A. Quince on Friday, January 30, 2009, is the first Ethiopian-American judge. Born in Ethiopia, Nina came to the U.S. as a young girl and was raised by her late father Professor Ashenafi Kebede, the renowned Ethiopian composer and musicologist, who was the Founder and first Director of the National Saint Yared School of Music in Ethiopia. Judge Nina, a mother of two, was also the the first African-American woman to head the Tallahassee Bar Association and the first African-American to lead the Tallahassee Women Lawyers (TWL). Tadias congratulates Judge Nina Ashenafi Richardson on her accomplishments!

Marcus Samuelsson

In a rare gesture by the White House, chef Marcus Samuelsson was invited to prepare the Obamas’ first State Dinner honoring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. First Lady Michelle Obama called Marcus “one of the finest chefs in the country.” And as Politico reported: “The importance was not lost on Samuelsson. Waking up on Wednesday morning, after about three hours of sleep, he had not yet come down from his high. ‘It was the biggest dinner I cooked in my life — in terms of the occasion,’ said the chef, born in Ethiopia, raised by a Swedish couple in Sweden and now a naturalized American.” We extend our congratulations and wish Marcus Samuelsson continued success!

Dr. Mehret Mandefro

Mehret Mandefro was named by President Obama as one of the 2009/2010 White House Fellows. Mandefro is a Primary Care Physician and HIV prevention researcher. She was a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania and a Senior Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. Her research addresses the intersection of violence prevention and HIV prevention and the application of digital media in translating research. She completed a Primary Care internal medicine residency at Montefiore Hospital where she founded a nonprofit called TruthAIDS that is focused on health literacy efforts among vulnerable populations. She received a BA cum laude in Anthropology and a Medical Doctorate from Harvard University, and a Masters of Science in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine as a Fulbright Scholar. We congratulate Dr. Mehret Mandefro on her accomplishments!

Dr. Abraham Verghese

Dr. Abraham Verghese is the author of the well received Cutting for Stone, an epic novel about a young man’s coming of age in Ethiopia and America. From fascinating social and political portraits of Ethiopia in upheaval, Cutting for Stone zooms into a territory where few have gone before: the drama of the operating theater and the mysteries inside the human body. There can be no doubt that Verghese is one of the most seasoned writers of his generation. Verghese’s own career as a physician in the United States has taken him from his grueling days as a foreign medical graduate (recounted in The New Yorker article, The Cowpath to America) to becoming the voice of empathetic medicine. As Founding Director of Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics at the University of Texas and in his current role as a Professor at Stanford University, Dr. Verghese is a champion in the field of Medical Humanities.

Haile Gerima

Haile Gerima, the internationally acclaimed director of Teza, Sankofa, Adwa, Bush Mama and other feature films and documentaries, sparked a healthy discussion among the Ethiopian American community this year about the tumultuous years of the Mengistu era as depicted in his latest film Teza as told by an idealistic Ethiopian doctor who recounts dreams and nightmares. The film made its U.S. premiere in Washington D.C. this past fall.

Ted Alemayuhu

Ted Alemayuhu, founder & CEO of U.S. Doctors for Africa, a California based non-profit organization, played host to the first-ever African First Ladies U.S.-based health summit on Monday, April 20, 2009 in Los Angeles. The event, which included a performance by Natalie Cole and a luncheon hosted by California first lady Maria Shriver, engaged the First Ladies in identifying top priorities for the coming year related to maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS and Education. We congratulate Mr. Alemayuhu on his continued innovative approach to bettering the lives of millions of Africans!

Julie Mehretu

Ethiopian American artist Julie Mehretu was a subject of a PBS documentary that aired on October 28, 2009. Mehretu has exhibited in some noteworthy venues – The Museum of Modern Art in New York (the only Ethiopian artist whose work is represented in MoMA’s permanent collection), The Whitney Biennial, The Istanbul Biennial, The Busan Biennale in Korea, The Walker Art Center, and her work is currently on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego.

Thomas T. Gobena

Tommy T, bass player for the New York-based multi-ethnic gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello, released his first solo album entitled The Prestor John Sessions this year. The album includes collaborations with Gigi, Tommy T’s brother & bassist Henock Temesgen, members of the Abyssinnia Roots Collective, and a bonus remix including Gogol Bordello bandmates Eugene Hütz and Pedro Erazo. Tommy describes The Prestor John Sessions as “an aural travelogue that rages freely through the music and culture of Ethiopia.” Most importantly, the title of his album has inspired scholars to research the true identity of Prestor John. We congratulate Tommy on his album!

34 Responses to “Notable Ethiopian Americans of 2009”

  1. 1 Pat Ortman Dec 4th, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    A very impressive group!

  2. 2 syoum gebregziabher Dec 4th, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    How about the New York Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi?

  3. 3 Abera Dec 4th, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    I am proud of all of them. I would suggest Alfa Demmellash (CNN Hero).

  4. 4 Manny Lakew Dec 5th, 2009 at 4:03 am

    Dynamic list! Among all the negative news we hear about Ethiopia, it is refreshing to read about these remarkable people. I am 60 years old and I could probably be a father to most of these honorable individuals! This news gives me hope, sunlight (Tsega) for my children.

  5. 5 bini Dec 5th, 2009 at 8:58 am

    nicly done

  6. 6 mulugeta Dec 5th, 2009 at 10:17 am

    I am so proud of them but what about zeresenay (scientist)?

  7. 7 Mimi Dec 5th, 2009 at 12:55 pm


    This is a much stronger list than you had in 2008. I know you can’t include everyone, but how come Daniel Yohannes Nominated for CEO, Millennium Challenge Corporation, did not make the cut? Next year, you can make your 2010 even stronger if you divide the list by categories such as Health, Art, businesses, Entertainment, politics, sports, etc.

  8. 8 Dama Dec 5th, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    I actually love this list. I second the idea of adding more categories in the future to include up and coming artists, musicians, and other professionals who would otherwise not receive recognition. I also like the criteria of selecting people “whose inspiring work has made an impact far beyond their individual accomplishments.” I especially like Dr. Ejetta, he is my hero! If on the other hand, you were following the concept of “Person of the Year” and the criteria that the Editors of Time Magazine used in 1927 : “The person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year, for better or for worse.” In my opinion, that person would have been the young Judge in Florida! I remember being so truly happy for her when I first read the news at the beginning of the year. I feel that the under-told story about her is the fact that the first Ethiopian American Judge is a “WOMAN”. I think that’s great!! By the way Tadiasoch, your list is also a wonderful review of 2009 Abeshas in the news. Keep up the good work my people!

  9. 9 Life Dec 5th, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    Tadias Staff,

    I applaud you for making our Ethio Americans achievers visible to the Ethiopinan community at large – an inspiration to our youth.

    There is a much stronger list of achievers that did not make your list.

    What is your selection process and criteria ?

    And I agree with Mimi’s suggestion above : divide the list by categories. It will enable you to expand your list.

  10. 10 Alefe Dec 6th, 2009 at 4:13 am

    A very amazing role models for all of us!

  11. 11 Bogale Dec 6th, 2009 at 6:49 am

    Thank you, Tadias. Please continue to write about the positive achievements of our brothers and sisters.

  12. 12 koster Dec 6th, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    I hope one day all the listed and unlisted Ethiopians will join their forces to free Ethiopia from tyranny and poverty.


  13. 13 Vivian Dec 7th, 2009 at 5:59 am

    Very impressive group indeed!

  14. 14 DJ Dec 8th, 2009 at 12:53 am

    Loving it and digging it!!

  15. 15 Surafeal Dec 8th, 2009 at 6:33 am

    I am sure Tadias staff have done a tremendous job in getting us the best of talents for the year. I would have liked to have Dr. Zeresenay Alemseged included in the list; unfortunately, the list is restricted only to Ethiopian-Americans, to which he doesn’t belong.


  16. 16 Emu Dec 8th, 2009 at 8:34 pm


    Thanks, these are the real people who keep me going!!!!!

  17. 17 Mike Dec 9th, 2009 at 12:49 am

    It is amazing to me how in the past five years Ethiopian Americans have come long ways and seem be on the fast track. It is just a matter of time before we become like the Indian Americans, Cuban Americans, Jewish Americans, Italian Americans, Korean Americans, Vietnamese Americans with elected officials here in the states and real positive impact back home both in economic and political terms. Keep it up!

  18. 18 david Dec 9th, 2009 at 1:13 am

    Great job Tadias! How about Tadias hosting a get together event for these people and our community at large? That would be nice.

  19. 19 germa Dec 23rd, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Yegermal ekoo,Gobez!!!

  20. 20 YW Dec 24th, 2009 at 3:01 am


    Thanks so much for shading bright light on our sisters and brothers!

    What is more inspiring and urgent than becoming hope for our children. Though all achievers in your list deserve recognition, I am for Dr Gebisa Ejeta.

  21. 21 Biruk Dec 24th, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    I am proud that there are notably great Ethiopians who I hope do something to our motherland. Thumbs up

  22. 22 Abera Dec 25th, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    Hi! Tadias,

    I am proud of your efforts based on fact or truth specially to encourage Ethiopians, pls don’t forget Alpha, Nina Ashenafi (judge), our heroes.

    Thanks so much!!!

  23. 23 Queenshebba Jan 2nd, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    As a young person I’m inspired to make my own future possible and this top heroes inspire me to work hard and achieve the imposiisble in life. If they can do it I can also achieve it. Thank U TADIAS for your efforts in bringging postive Ethiopians who make history. Very inspiring group.

  24. 24 Hiwot Jan 6th, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Tadiasoch, thank you for sharing the stories of these positive raw models in the diaspora. It’s re-affirming the fact that the sky is the limit for us. God bless.

  25. 25 Dave Jan 18th, 2010 at 4:49 am

    They made me feel
    I could be big.
    They raised my spirit.
    Iconic people.
    Proud of them

  26. 26 assefa Jan 22nd, 2010 at 8:29 pm


    Next round I will like to see the “best scientist” category. Keep up the good job, TADIAS.

    Thank you,

  27. 27 mimi Jan 25th, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    im so proud of them!! Yes We Can!!!!

  28. 28 koster Jan 29th, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    (Why not measure contributions to the Ethiopian poor?) I wish Dr Gebissa would follow the footsteps of Professor Yunus of Bangladesh and serve the Ethiopian people for the rest of his life. I know the danger involved because of the state terrorism in Ethiopia. We have lost one brilliant agriculturist and man of the people – Dr Dagnatchew Yirgou/Minister of Agriculture during the DERG regime who was also a graduate of Purdue as Dr Gebisa Ejeta.

  29. 29 Derege Mar 6th, 2010 at 11:04 am


    Great choice! I like the fact that you pick several young blood. In the future I hope Tadias will do research and find role models behind media spot light.

    Love Tadias!

  30. 30 Dubaya Lekemisha Mar 20th, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    It feels so good! Ethiopia has never been short of producing fine sons and daughters. And we thank you for bringing these great achievers to the public eyes. They loved doing what they had been doing for the past and still are doing at the present, and of course will do in the future thrugout their lives.

  31. 31 Maki Mar 24th, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    Word up ! I would like to congagulate all of them. I like the representation in the different professional backgrounds.

  32. 32 Hailemariam Jul 22nd, 2010 at 8:21 am

    I am really happy to hear about these Ethiopian heroes.They are role-models.

  1. 1 Thomas ‘Tommy T’ Gobena is a man of the world at Tadias Magazine Pingback on Jan 2nd, 2010 at 8:39 pm
  2. 2 Notable Ethiopian Americans of 2009 at Tadias Magazine | Breakings New Pingback on Jan 18th, 2010 at 1:14 pm
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