Gioia Marconi Braga
Founder, Marconi International Fellowship Foundation
To commemorate the centennial of the birth of Guglielmo Marconi, his daughter Gioia Marconi Braga founded the Marconi International Fellowship Foundation in 1974. Known as the Father of Modern Communications, Guglielmo Marconi received the Nobel Prize in 1909 for pioneering wireless transmissions.
In establishing the Foundation, Mrs. Braga wrote, "The Marconi International Fellowship commemorates Guglielmo Marconi's genius, his invention, his audacity, his perseverance. The Fellowship recognizes that the highest and most significant recognition Marconi can receive from future generations is for the intellectual and spiritual forces of their minds to be directed toward the creation of a better world in which to live. Ingenium Pro Bono Humanitatis."
Mrs. Braga was born in London on April 10, 1916, the younger daughter of Guglielmo Marconi and his first wife, Beatrice O'Brien Marconi, an Irish noblewoman and daughter of the 14th Lord Inchiquin.
After growing up in London, Rome and Naples, Mrs. Braga attended the Poggio Imperiale College in Florence. At the outbreak of World War II she earned a Certificate of Merit for her services as a volunteer nurse in the Italian army. After the war, she worked as a radio and television producer and announcer on current affairs and educational programs for Italian radio (RAI).
In 1952, Mrs.Braga moved to New York to join the National Broadcasting Company, where during her two-year career she hosted her own radio program and interviewed such celebrities as famed diver Jacques Cousteau and artist Salvador Dali.
In 1954 she married George Atkinson Braga, chairman of Czarnikow-Rionda, a company with sugar and ranching properties in Cuba. During her frequent travels to Cuba, Mrs. Braga trained plantation workers to acquire alternative skills in design, ceramics, and related arts and crafts. With her encouragement, the Italian designer Emilio Pucci and Italian sculptor Andrea Spadini established workshops in Cuba. This activity came to a halt when the Cuban government seized American properties in 1960.
After founding the Marconi International Fellowship Foundation, Mrs. Braga devoted the rest of her life to developing support for the fellowships and building the organization's international reputation.
During her lifetime she actively promoted scientific and cultural relations between the United States and Italy. Mrs. Braga served as a director of the Institute of International Education and of the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds. She was on the boards of Brooklyn Polytechnic University and the Center for Italian Studies at Columbia University; served as a director of the American Council for Drug Education; and was an honorary member of the Society of Wireless Pioneers and of the Veteran Wireless Operators Association.
Mrs. Braga received an honorary doctorate from the Memorial University of Newfoundland in October 1981. In that year, in recognition of her efforts to promote close scientific and cultural relations between Italy and the United States, she was appointed Commander of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy.
Gioia Marconi Braga died at age 80 on July 15, 1996, and is survived by her son, Michael, a daughter, Allegra, and two grandchildren.