What do the inventor of the heart pump, the chief executive of Del Monte Produce and the founder of Farouk Systems hair products have in common? They are each Arab American. So too are Tony Shalhoub, the actor who appeared on the TV show Monk, and Doug Flutie, the former American football player and a contestant this year on the TV show Dancing with the Stars.
More than 3.5 million Americans can trace their roots to an Arab country. They include doctors, teachers, bankers, scientists and entrepreneurs who have made important contributions to the growth of the United States.
Meet some other famous Arab Americans who have made their mark in fields from chemistry and physics to entertainment.
Famous for her acting career and activism, Salma Hayek is of Lebanese ancestry on her father’s side. Nominated for an Academy Award in 2002 for her role as Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in Frida, Hayek actively campaigns against domestic violence in the United States and around the world. “If you want to stop violence in the world it has to start in the home,” Hayek says.
Born in Oklahoma and raised in Virginia and West Virginia, Egyptian American Hoda Kotb is an award-winning television anchor known best as a co-host of the nationally broadcast television show Today. Kotb is proud of her Egyptian heritage and loves hearing from Egyptians across America. “I’ll get voicemails sometimes from people I don’t know saying, ‘We’re so proud of you! We’re Egyptian!'” says the Virginia Tech graduate.
Egyptian-American scientist Ahmed Zewail won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1999 and is known as the “father of femtochemistry.” Zewail, who became a U.S. citizen in 1982, has served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and is the Linus Pauling professor of chemistry and a professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology.
Donna Shalala is the first Lebanese American to serve in a U.S. government Cabinet post. President Bill Clinton appointed her secretary of health and human services, a post she held for eight years. The Washington Post described her as “one of the most successful government managers of modern times.” Today, she serves as president and chief executive officer of the Clinton Foundation.
Dr. Elias Zerhouni emigrated to the United States from Algeria at the age of 24. Zerhouni, a renowned researcher and radiologist, became the first immigrant to head the National Institutes of Health (NIH) when appointed in 2002. Zerhouni left his NIH post in 2008, and in 2009 President Obama appointed him a presidential science envoy with a focus on the Muslim world.