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From the executive director: A tribute to IRIS president, Bob Anderson

November 18, 2009

IRIS president and founder Bob Anderson accepts the 2009 Immigrant Champion Award at the second annual Immigrant Entrepreneur Summit from Joe Folsom, executive director of Small Business Administration

I recently had the pleasure of attending the second annual Immigrant Entrepreneur Summit in Des Moines, Iowa. The Summit brings businesses of diverse backgrounds together to share, learn and celebrate the immigrant entrepreneurship experience and contribution to Iowa.

I listened to many success stories of immigrant entrepreneurs and saw the great benefits different ethnic groups have brought to the business communities in our state.

A special treat for me was the awards ceremony and having the opportunity to congratulate IRIS founder and president Bob Anderson as he received the 2009 Immigrant Champion Award. This award is given to a non-immigrant who, through their personal and professional commitment, is making a positive impact on the immigrant community. I can’t think of anyone more deserving than Bob Anderson to receive this award.

Bob started his involvement with international visitors and the immigrant population in Iowa long before his time as Lieutenant Governor of Iowa. In 1975, he answered Governor Robert Ray’s call for Iowans to welcome the Thai Dam refugee community from Southeast Asia. Eight refugees lived with Bob and his wife for 3 weeks in their home near Newton and later, with the help of a local church, fifteen more Tai Dam refugees were sponsored by members of the community. Bob helped to create the Society of Tai Dam-American Friendship and over the years, has celebrated births, graduations, weddings and deaths of those first immigrant friends.

In 1993, Bob created the International Center for Community Journalism, which brought to Iowa journalists from the former Soviet Union so they could learn about our free press and the power of the media. Groups of journalists from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Mongolia and other parts of the world all traveled to Iowa as part of this program. In 1996, the organization became know as Iowa Resource for International Service (IRIS). More than 1,100 participants from 21 different countries have been involved in IRIS programs.

While Bob no longer spend his days in the IRIS office, he is still very active on our Board and has never stopped helping immigrant populations in Iowa. Just this year, Bob established the Iraqi Refugee Support Project to help these refugees adjust to life in Iowa while still retaining their cultural heritage.

Congratulations Bob for all of the work you have done and continue to do for all our global citizens. Thank you also for always being the first to put out the “Iowa welcome mat” to any and all international guests who visit our great state! Iowa and the world are a better place for it!

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 16, 2009 1:12 AM

    Our congratulations with this well deserved award

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