First International Citizen of the Year, 1985
A native of Lebanon and CEO of Long Electric Company, Riad Shaheen was a model of international leadership and the importance of the American Dream.
The year was 1985, and an international spirit was taking Indianapolis by storm. That year, The International Center hosted events and celebrations for dozens of global organizations. More and more businesses signed up for their cultural programs, and their newsletter featured non-stop meetings, activities and more.
In just 12 years, The International Center had seemingly achieved its mission, advancing and elevating Indianapolis on the global stage. At the forefront of this success was Riad Shaheen—the Center’s first International Citizen of the Year.
The International Citizen of the Year Award was established to honor people who have made an outstanding contribution to Indiana’s globalization efforts. Now, 37 years later, the award ceremony remains The International Center’s largest fundraiser and greatest honor.
Since its inception, the International Citizen of the Year Award has honored political leaders such as Senator Richard Lugar, entertainment moguls such as Jim Morris, and business leaders such as John Lechleiter.
The International Center’s first award recipient, Riad Shaheen, was a model of international leadership and the importance of the American Dream.
After migrating to the U.S. from Lebanon in 1949, Shaheen began his life’s work in electrical engineering. Shaheen worked with NASA and several global military operations before becoming the CEO of Long Electric Company, as well as three other corporations in the region.
Long Electric Company is headquartered in Indianapolis, but Shaheen’s business endeavors took him all across the world. Because he was fluent in Arabic, Shaheen often traveled through the Middle East, which led to his participation in the 1978 Arabuild—a trade exhibition in Bahrain.
On top of his leadership in the global market, Shaheen was a pillar of the Indianapolis community. He lent his project management talents to the Indianapolis City Market renovation, as well as the Caterpillar tractor plant in Lafayette.
Shaheen was also heavily involved in community organizations, such as the Indianapolis Growth Project, the National Association of Arab Americans, and the National Conference of Christians and Jews. From 1983 to 1985, Shaheen even served as President of The International Center’s Board of Directors.
Shaheen viewed himself as a true American and believed that Indianapolis was a “shining example of America.” In his acceptance speech on June 7, 1985, Shaheen proudly declared that he’d adopted America as his home, saying, “I [am] very thankful for the liberties and real opportunities America afforded [me].”
Above all else, Shaheen believed in global connectivity and cooperation. During his speech, he stated six different times: “We are the world! The world is you and I.” He discussed how international tragedies are global issues and called on America to be a force for global change, saying: “We must lead the world.”
Riad Shaheen was just 50 years old when he passed away in 1987, but his leadership lives on through The International Center. In the 35 years since then, The Center has worked tirelessly to achieve his dream. Because in his words, “Together, we can have the greatest international community in America. With your help, The Center will be a model for others to copy!”