On September 14, 2018, the National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation (NFCA) has announced that the second nationwide search for nominations for “40 Under 40” Croatian Americans has begun. The NFCA is looking for Croatian American activists and rising stars within their field of expertise and of course, role models with pride in their Croatian heritage.
The NFCA, also announced that the first “40 Under 40” selected and approved candidate for this newly announced second program is Marija Krpan Kuren, from the Steelton PA area, who recently was the Guest Conductor for the Croatian Fraternal Union’s 52nd Annual Junior Tamburitza festival held this past summer. This 2018 tour and festival in Zagreb brought over 450 Croatian American children to Croatia for a wonderful experience and a chance to perform.
Marija directing the Croatian Fraternal Union’s Junior Festival in Zagreb, July 2018
Marija describes her experience as Guest Conductor in Lisinski Hall as ”neopisivo” (indescribable) and unforgettable just as it was for Croatia to make it to the Finals in the World Cup which she got to experience with family and friends this past July. Marija actually shared the stage on Saturday, June 30th at the prestigious Lisinski Hall with her son Ante, who is a member of the Sv. Lovro Junior Tamburitzans.
This was a great tribute for Marija who is an active lawyer and proud mother of four. She continues to be an active member and a teacher with the St. Lawrence CFU Lodge 13 in Steelton, PA, sharing her love for Croatian heritage with the next generation. Marija joined the St. Lawence Junior Tamburitzans in 1986 under the direction of the late George Murlin and the late Geraldine Scrbacic. Marija truly found a passion in Croatian folklore and joined the kolo club “Marian” which is one of the oldest folk ensembles in the USA! Marija has continued her involvement to this day, collaborating with Director Rick Vukmanic. This commitment with St. Lovro Junior Tamburitzans and the kolo club “Marian” allowed her to travel the USA as she was preserving and embracing her Croatian heritage over the years.
Marija was the class valedictorian of Steelton-Highspire High School in 1997. She chose to attend college nearby at Penn State University of Harrisburg and then she went on to graduate from the Widener University of School of Law earning a J.D.cum laude degree. Marija was previously employed as Corporate Counsel for Piedmont Airlines, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of American Airlines, Inc.; she currently serves as Assistant Counsel in the Pennsylvania Governor’s Office of Chief Counsel in Harrisburg, PA.
Petar Krpan, Mate Krpan, Ilija Kuren, Marija Krpan Kuren, Alojz Kuren, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, Ante Kuren, Scott Kuren, Magdalena Kuren, Kata Krpan, Frane Krpan
In 2006, Marija married Scott Kuren and he’s a former member of St. Lawrence Junior Tamburitzans. Marija stays quite busy raising four children: Ante, Illija, Alojz, and Magdelena! However, she still finds time for her love for teaching Croatian music and dance.
Her parents, Frane and Kata Krpan, from an early age, fostered her love for Croatian folk music and dance. They taught her and her siblings Manda, Mate and Petar the same, and not to forget where their family is from. Marija is proudly a “Hrvatica” and a “Ličanka” and all the family is proud to originate from the Lika area of Croatia.
Andrea Novak Neumann, a NFCA “40 Under 40” Committee member from Minnesota says proudly, “We will be looking for thirty-nine more Croatian Americans nationwide who are truly role models, professionally successful in unique ways and who showcase their pride in their Croatian heritage. The deadline for nominations is November 15, 2018. The forty winners will all be announced in mid-February of 2019.
The NFCA salutes Sister Marija Krpan Kuren and all her accomplishments and her devotion to Croatian folklore. This “40 Under 40” initiative was embraced and launched to celebrate and promote younger Croatian American leaders like Marija who have excelled and can be recognized as role models for our community. There will be several events in 2019 to honor these winners and the major event is planned to be in Cleveland in mid-September 2019 as part of the annual Association of Croatian American Professionals conference.
Lastly, the NFCA encourages all its members and any Croatian Fraternal Union members and NFCA affiliate groups to consider nominating someone who fits this described “40 Under 40” profile. You can send a one page letter about this candidate highlighting their qualities, achievements and Croatian connections or go to the NFCA Cultural Foundation web page. Please look for the “40 Under 40” heading and there’s a nomination form to access and to utilize for any nomination.
The NFCA will contact the nominated candidate directly to see if they are interested in the program and want to be considered. We will ask all candidates to send in a mini-biography or answer a few questions about their career and about their Croatian heritage. The NFCA is excited about celebrating and promoting this next generation of Croatian American role models through this second ever nationwide NFCA initiative. Please contact Steve Rukavina with any immediate questions to email: [email protected]