Catena chosen for NFF Gold Medal

IRVING, Texas – The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame recently announced that Dr. Tom G. Catena and George M. Weiss have been named the co-recipients of the 2014 NFF Gold Medal.

Catena, an Amsterdam native, is a world-renowned doctor, global humanitarian and a former All-American football player from Brown University.

Weiss is an accomplished venture capitalist who has devoted more than four decades to helping guide the NFF, will be honored during the 57th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 9 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.

“In selecting Tom Catena and George Weiss, the NFF Awards Committee and its chairman Jack Ford have identified two exceptional individuals who have made significant contributions to society and the sport of football,” NFF President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Hatchell said in a news release. “Tom Catena symbolizes everything that our organization represents. He was powerhouse as a football player who distinguished himself as an exceptional leader at Brown. He took those same skills and turned himself into a doctor, helping the less fortunate in the war-torn region of the Sudan. Many of us dream of making the world a better place. Tom Catena has given up all his earthly possession to do that every day of his life. He is off the charts in making the world a better place.

“And George Weiss clearly ranks among the most influential board members in the history of the National Football Foundation. His passion for our mission began more than four decades ago, and his efforts have made a critical impact on our ability to inspire the millions of young people who play our great game each year.”

The highest and most prestigious award presented by the National Football Foundation, the Gold Medal recognizes an outstanding American who has demonstrated integrity and honesty, achieved significant career success, and has reflected the basic values of those who have excelled in amateur sport, particularly football.

“We are thrilled to recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of these two great leaders with our highest honor,” NFF Chairman Archie Manning said in the release. “A truly remarkable individual, Tom Catena stands as an inspiration to us all, having created a powerful path for making a difference in one of the bleakest places on earth. His role in the Sudan in providing medical care has become so critical that it has taken us more than a year to arrange to bring him back for the event, and this December marks the first Christmas in 13 years that he will be able to spend with his family in America. As for George Weiss, he simply has provided top-level counsel to every president and chairman of the National Football Foundation since the 1960s and his countless contributions have made a lasting impact that will benefit the future of our sport for many years to come.”

Originally presented to President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the NFF Annual Awards Dinner in 1958, the Gold Medal boasts an impressive list of past recipients, including seven presidents, four generals, three admirals, one Supreme Court Justice, 29 corporate CEOs and chairmen, actor John Wayne and baseball immortal Jackie Robinson. Catena and Weiss will become the 60th and 61st recipients of the NFF Gold Medal.

Born and raised in Amsterdam in a family of seven children, Catena attended Brown University, studying mechanical engineering. He excelled both in the classroom and on the football field, winning honors as an honorable mention All-American and All-Ivy League nose guard while becoming a Rhodes Scholar candidate.

Upon graduation, Catena decided to pursue a medical career, and he enrolled at the Duke University School of Medicine in 1988 on a U.S. Navy scholarship. He entered the United States Navy in 1992, becoming a Naval Flight Surgeon. After fulfilling his Navy obligation, he completed a residency in family medicine at Union Hospital in Terre Haute, Ind. During his residency, he began his medical foray into the developing world with mission trips to Guyana and Honduras. In 1999, he began his service as a missionary doctor, becoming a volunteer physician with the Catholic Medical Mission Board at hospitals in Mutomo and Nairobi, Kenya.

In 2007, Catena became the medical director and sole physician at Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountain region of the Sudan, a country where civil war has been raging for years. He established the facility with Bishop Macram Gassis, and on opening day in 2008, he treated more than 200 patients. Since then, he has continued at a relentless pace, dealing with everything from malaria and leprosy to brain surgery. His intense and unyielding responsibilities extend to training nurses and hospital administration.

In 2011, the civil war escalated and conditions at the hospital became more intense. In addition to those wounded by the fighting, many of them children, Catena and his staff faced a particularly severe malaria outbreak. He was given the choice to evacuate, but he refused, stating, “As the only doctor in the only hospital in the region, I could not leave in good conscience.”

Catena was named a Catholic Hero by Catholic Digest in 2010, and he has been quoted in numerous international publications, reporting on the ongoing civil war in the Sudan. Catena’s many accolades include the 2013 Brown Alumni Association Williams Rogers Award and being recognized as a 2013 Ivy Football Association Honoree.

Catena and Weiss will be honored at the 57th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 9 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. They will be honored alongside the recipients of the other NFF Major Awards, including Jim Host (Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football Award), Duke Athletics Director Kevin White (John L. Toner Award for excellence in athletics administration), Frank Beckmann (Chris Schenkel Award for excellence in broadcasting) and the yet-to-be-announced recipient of the NFF Distinguished American Award.

In addition to the presentation of the NFF Major Awards, the 57th NFF Annual Awards Dinner will provide the stage for the induction of the 2014 College Football Hall of Fame Class; the presentation of the 2014 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards, presented by Fidelity Investments; and the bestowing of the 25th NFF William V. Campbell Trophy to the nation’s top scholar-athlete.

This year’s College Football Hall of Fame Class includes: Dre Bly (North Carolina), Tony Boselli (Southern California), Dave Butz (Purdue), Shane Conlan (Penn State), Joe Hamilton (Georgia Tech), John Huard (Maine) Darrin Nelson (Stanford), Willie Roaf (Louisiana Tech), John Sciarra (UCLA), Sterling Sharpe (South Carolina), Leonard Smith (McNeese State), Derrick Thomas (Alabama), LaDainian Tomlinson (TCU), Wesley Walls (Mississippi) and coaches Mike Bellotti (Chico State [Calif.], Oregon) and Jerry Moore (North Texas, Texas Tech and Appalachian State).