Send-Off Salutes!

This summer, Vanderbilt University was the first to round up incoming freshmen, as well as some alums, for a send-off reception. Similar bonhomie followed, in turn, by the University of Pennsylvania and Southern Methodist University. In each case, welcomes abounded.


At the Vanderbilt gathering, “Brookies and pretzel buns at the Randwich line are a must” was one of the listed points of “Advice for the Class of 2021 from your Student Alumni Board” that was handed out to the new students. So was the encouragement to find commitments, to show appreciative acknowledgment of professors, and to branch out. Take risks, too.

These words from the Vandy wise were part of the welcome at the annual Vanderbilt Summer Send-Off Party that took place at the Windsor Court Hotel with graduates Brandon and Daphne Berger bannered as hosts. Serving as the honorary co-hosts were long-time VU board member/alumnus Darryl Berger and his wife, Louellen, who gave the party for more than three decades, starting in 1982. Additional honorary co-hosts were Darryl Berger Jr. and Corinne, both alums, and alumnus Ryan Berger and his wife, Amanda. Brandon, Darryl and Louellen all made rounds.

Vice Chancellor for Administration Eric Kopstain was hailed as a special guest. He addressed the exemplary academic achievements of current and former students at Vanderbilt, and “the amazing student experience.” Guests chatted about the ranking of VU, its highest ever at No.15, in U.S. News and World Report’s annual list of top universities in the country.

Within the gathering of local Vanderbilt alums, family and friends in Le Salon of the Windsor Court Hotel were Lisa and Karl Hoefer, parents of Margaux, class of 2018; alumna Aimee Bell and husband Michael, parents of graduates Leighton and Aggie; and Arlene and Arnold Cooper, whose alumni sons are Matt and Barrett. They enjoyed seeing familiar decorations of Vandy Commodore black and gold.

Mingling, too, and enjoying the refreshments and sweet treats were former New Orleans Vanderbilt Chapter Presidents Lee Adler, Michael Shlenker, Martha Curtis, Roland Waguespoack, Mike Bagot and Lisette Bayle. Active alums included Sabrina and Andrew Pilant, along with Tyler Andrews.

The incoming freshmen (and their parents) headed to the Nashville campus were Meredith Mentz with mom and dad Holly and Fred; Palmer Montalbano with Wanda and Ron Montalbano; Henry “Joshua” Sauviac with Brandi and Henry Sauviac; Baton Rouge resident Loveis Jackson with mom Valencia Jackson; and Bryant Johnson with Sherrie and Will Johnson. Bryan and his parents have recently moved to New Orleans from Texas. Palmer and Joshua just graduated from Jesuit High School, as Meredith did from Newman, where the above alumna Sabrina Pilant was her adviser.

One particularly significant point of advice resonated with the VU attendees and will certainly apply to incoming freshmen across the board at a slew of colleges and universities. It was “Call your parents! They are your No.1 fans and will always love you.”

Penn Pals

Pennblems were affixed to shirt collars and dresses as the University of Pennsylvania Alumni Club of Louisiana assembled at the home of alumna Lisa and Mark Heller, which was marked outside by a Penn flag. The little Pennblems celebrated Penn pride and the slogan “... For dear Pennsylvania We wear the Red and Blue.” Sure enough, those were the decorative colors and were found in the Penn buttons, pennants, key chains and pompoms sent from Philadelphia by the office of Alumni Relations. Napkins and red cups added more accents to the afternoon party that welcomed new students, as well as alums, who recently moved to the Crescent City.

Alumnus Dan Stein, who owns Stein’s Market and Deli, catered. Deli sandwiches, a sampling of craft beers and wines, and delicious chocolate chip cookies were among the buffet table enticements.

Four students from Louisiana will attend the Ivy League school located in Philadelphia, which claims alumni living all over the world. It is Philadelphia’s largest private employer. Two of the four were at the Hellers’: Alea Zone and Beatrice Zhang, who respectively graduated from Country Day and Lusher. They were accompanied by their parents, Gul and Robert Zone and Hong Du and Rubin Zhang.

Other notables were University of Pennsylvania Alumni Club of Louisiana President Austin Lavin with his wife, Beth, a fellow alum, and their little daughter, Amelia. (Possible class of ?) Also, New Orleans newcomer Talia Kayne and Brian Herst, and newcomer Lynn and Mark Workman — both Talia and Lynn are alumnae; Lisa Herman; JT Heffernan and Sally Baker; Maria Pabon and Bret Graham; Julian Feibelman; Leon Rittenberg III; Patrick Hernandez and Leopoldo Yanez; Mark Kahn; Sharree Walls; Jasmine Fournier; Melanie Sheen; and Seena Simon and Scott Griffin.

The Lavins, who were former home hosts, have just moved, but not too far away from their old house. Yet another significant event in their lives was the recent appearance of Austin’s uncle, Frank Lavin, who read from his new book, “Home Front to Battlefront: An Ohio Teenager in World War II,” at the National WWII Museum. The book is based on “personal letters, along with official military history, private papers and more” of Austin’s grandfather, Carl Lavin, who enlisted at age 18. According to Austin, the story echoes “similar stories told within millions of families” and “is a history that shapes the America and the world of today." Hosting the reading were the Penn Club of Louisiana and the Georgetown University Alumni Club of New Orleans.

Said Austin after the event at the WWII Museum, “It was a great event, and I was very happy to be able to help share my grandfather’s story with a local audience.”

Meeting the Mustangs

The stunning new Metairie home of Megan and William Nelson was the site for the night when Southern Methodist University held its send-off socializing. They are the parents of current students Callie and Connor. Additional hosts were Lesley and Al Poche, Kathryn and Jeff Scurlock, Cindy Weinmann (mom of student Bobby) and Anne and Sandy Villere. Lesley, Jeff and Sandy are alums of the Dallas-located university.

New students attending, the class of 2021, are Charlotte Friend, daughter of Ken and Nina Friend; Mary Grace Rosenberg, daughter of Barbara and Andrew Rosenberg; Carley Bohn, daughter of Ashley and Scott Bohn; Dieter Hugel Jr., son of Dieter and Anna Hugel, and accompanied by his mom; Margot Koch, daughter of alumna Claire and Josh Koch; and Maxwell Gremillion, son of Heidi and Adam Gremillion. Incoming junior Roshaun "Roe" Higgins, whose parents are Caprice and Ramon Myles, joined current students Connor Nelson, Joseph Eustis and Mary Nolan Brown. 

Additional guests were alums VM Wheeler, Robert Zetzmann (with Kathy), Connor Appel (with parents Carol and Conrad) and Jason Conway.

At 7:15 p.m., Jim Gambulos, director of development, whose family has had long-term ties to SMU, greeted new students, challenging them to think about what they would do after graduation. He emphasized their forthcoming school experience, saying, “SMU is a special place.”

After his talk, guests meandered to the dining room where Southwestern was the decorative touch and food followed suit, thanks to fajitas, brisket quesadillas and vegetable ceviche. The new student party favors were SMU socks with the Mustang mascot and pompoms in the school colors of red and blue. As souvenirs, the SMU set received cups, stickers and note pads with attached pens, all reminders of the 1911 founding and of the campus size of 234 acres.