America marked Women’s History Month in March, but on Feb. 18, Casa Italia held a celebration of its own, honoring renowned NBC5 anchor Allison Rosati as Woman of the Year. The event was a huge success, with nearly 500 well-wishers turning out to support Rosati as well as the Casa’s mission of “preserving Italian heritage and sharing Italian culture.” Behind the scenes, another woman was making an impact. Her name is Kimberly Palmisano, chair of the 2012 gala.
Palmisano is an attorney in Chicago with areas of concentration in international, corporate and real estate law. After completing her undergraduate degree in political science and communications at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and her law degree at DePaul University Law School, she moved to Italy for a year, where she worked for a law firm in Rome.
Palmisano’s involvement in philanthropy is a tribute to her grandmother, Mary Ann Palmisano (maiden name “Latoria”). “She was a very strong and independent-minded woman, and she always taught me to follow my passion and individuality. It was her words of encouragement that sparked my non-profit involvement,” she says.
As she has grown and developed professionally, philanthropy has allowed Palmisano to explore and express her creative side. She has gravitated toward the arts in her philanthropic projects, and most of her volunteer endeavors have a strong cultural component.
She serves on the Ambassadors for Vision Committee of the Illinois Eye Bank, producing a fashion show for the IEB’s Aviator’s Night for Sight fundraiser. She also serves on the Union League Club of Chicago’s Civic and Arts Foundation, which provides scholarships to children and young adults in visual arts, dance, creative writing and music.
In March 2012, she completed her third stint as producer of the Union League Club’s annual fashion show, and she recently became involved with the Lyric Young Professionals, a group of younger opera lovers dedicated to building a new generation of support for the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
“I genuinely like to be connected to other people,” says Palmisano. Back in 2007, that desire for connection drew her to Casa Italia. She found the Casa while doing genealogical research on her family’s roots in Sicily and Bari. One thing led to another, and she began conducting tours of the Italian Cultural Center. Her dedication and enthusiasm came to the attention of the Casa board of directors, and she was invited to become a member.
Fast forward to September of 2011, when Palmisano once again rose to the occasion and began planning and executing the Casa’s annual Person of the Year fundraiser. The choice of honorees was a natural for Palmisano. “Allison Rosati is an inspiration to me,” she explains. “I felt that Allison was deserving of the Woman of the Year honor because she represents the modern Italian-American woman.”
A mother of four with laudable professional credentials and a host of philanthropic involvements, Rosati was the ideal honoree in Palmisano’s eyes. “It was very important to me that we honor a woman who is a professional, philanthropist, and mother,” she says. “She is incredibly well-rounded, charismatic and genuine.”
Palmisano brought her experience on the other boards to bear on the Casa’s gala and her organizational skills were crucial to its success. In addition to promoting and planning the event, she oversaw all revenue streams, including admission and raffle ticket sales, a commemorative ad book, and corporation sponsorships that included Turano Bakery, Rex Carton Company, Wintrust Commercial Banking, Calabresi in America Organization, Midway Dodge, IACC Midwest, The Strive Group, Speed-O-Lite Printing Center and Law Offices of Palmisano and Moltz. On the night of the event, Palmisano was resplendent in a black satin and lace floor-length dress designed by one of her clients, Hector Monarrez from the fashion label, the MonArrez Collection (http://monarrezcollection.com).
Along the way, the Casa board became like family to her. “The board of directors, and especially Tony and Ron Turano, were very supportive and encouraging,” she says. “Even though I was the youngest member on the board, they gave me the freedom to put my own stamp and personality on the event.”
While she was working on the gala, Palmisano was planning a special event of her own. On Oct. 20, 2011, she and Wulf Alexander Kaal were married by the Rev. August Feccia in the Sacred Heart Chapel of Casa Italia.
Italy holds a special place in Palmisano’s heart, and she travels there on business and for pleasure several times a year. Palmisano and her husband also have a home in Berlin, which they visit often, and she is currently studying the German language to compliment her fluency in English and Italian.
As she moves forward along her professional and philanthropic paths, Palmisano will always carry with her fond memories of Allison Rosati and Casa Italia and all that they both represent to past, present and current generations of Italian Americans.