John Mariani, proprietor of leading US wine importer Banfi Vintners and the premier Tuscan vineyard estate Castello Banfi, has been named the Sons of Italy Foundation's "Man of The Year." The National Education And Leadership Award will be presented to Mr. Mariani at a special ceremony on May 24th in Washington D.C., recognizing his dedication to higher education. Banfi's success under the direction of Mr. Mariani, whose father founded the firm in 1919, has allowed it to play a broad philanthropic role, such as providing seed money to help Catholic Relief Services build a technical school, an orphanage and a housing project in Potenza, Italy, for 6,000 people who had been left homeless by that country's tragic earthquake in 1980. The Banfi Vintners Foundation also endows two academic chairs: one at Cornell University School of Hotel Administration to promote greater knowledge of fine wines and the other in Economics at Colgate University focusing on the American economy and the importance of the free enterprise system. Through the Foundation, the Mariani family also provides grants to the Culinary Institute of America, Johnson & Wales University, The University of Nevada at Las Vegas, The University of Houston, the University of Denver, Penn State University, Truman State University in Missouri, and the Hotel School in Shannon, Ireland. "John Mariani's academic excellence, professional achievement and generosity epitomizes the original thinking behind this award" said Philip R. Piccigallo, Ph.D., National Executive Director of The Sons of Italy Foundation. "He has risen to the top of his field and is a superior role model who also helps provide the means for others to achieve great success." Banfi Vintners represents three of the top ten imported brands in the US (#1 Concha y Toro of Chile, #2 Riunite of Italy and #8 Walnut Crest of Chile), and Castello Banfi, a 7,100-acre vineyard estate located in Montalcino, Tuscany, has been awarded the prestigious Premio Gran VinItaly an unprecedented four times as International Winery of the Year. Past recipients of the Sons of Italy Foundation National Education and Leadership Award (NELA) include racing legend Mario Andretti, Former FBI Director Louis Freeh, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. This year's ceremony will also recognize Robert Georgine, Chairman of Union Labor Life Insurance Company, Inc. with the annual Humanitarian Award, and television personality Regis Philbin with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Larry King will serve as the Master of Ceremonies. The Sons of Italy Foundation was founded in 1959 as a private operating and grant-making institution with the purpose of sponsoring programs that support educational excellence, cultural preservation and advancement, medical research, and disaster relief. The Foundation has contributed more than $30 million to scholarships for young people since 1968. The scholarships are part of a merit-based grant competition that attracts the best students from across the country.