More than 500 guests filled the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton Riverside at the invitation of the board of directors of the Catholic Foundation Archdiocese of New Orleans. Many adhered to the “black tie preferred” dress request and hied to the Hilton for the annual Foundation Dinner and the opportunity to congratulate Sharon Ryan Rodi, recipient of the 2017 Saint John Paul II Award. Cocktails started at 6 p.m., followed an hour later by the seated dinner. Once again, Patricia T. “Patsy” Hotard chaired the dinner committee with assistance from Co-Chairwomen Anne Dardis, an award co-recipient with husband Jack in 2015, and Cindy Nolan.
Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond chairs the foundation board, which has Ralph C. Cox Jr. as president and Jamie G. Lassere, August “Gus” Kuntz and James M. Adams as officers.
Foundation executive director Cory J. Howat (attending with wife Molly) opened the program with words of welcome, which were followed by the invocation by the Rev. Ronald L. Calkins, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena, and the Pledge of Allegiance led by the Junior ROTC Color Guard of Brother Martin High School. Attendees then enjoyed a three-course meal of a salad of spring greens, braised boneless short ribs and apple cobbler. Federico’s Family Florist provided impressive basket centerpieces filled with deep red roses accented by purple statice and greenery. A much larger arrangement was placed on the stage.
Among the many breaking bread were Mark Rodi, Sharon’s husband of 52 years, and their daughters, Shannon Rodi Nash and Erin Rodi Rotolo with their respective husbands, Michael and Brian. And, Mary Matalin, Jane Nalty, Archbishop Emeritus Alfred C. Hughes, Stacy and Jim Pellerin, Darlene and Mark Robert, Pat and Gregory Kahn, Betty Lauricella (the 2009 awardee), Sue and Bill Finegan, Bette and Alan Arnold, Connie and Tom Kitchen, and general counsel for the Archdiocese of New Orleans Wendy Vitter and her husband, former U.S. Sen. David Vitter.
A video detailing Catholic Foundation’s communitywide impact premiered at the dinner and featured commentary by Archbishop Aymond, Superintendent of Catholic Schools RaeNell Houston, Ph.D., Project Lazarus Executive Director Steve Rivera and Monsignor Christopher Nalty. The latter, the pastor of Good Shepherd Parish, is the son of the above Jane Nalty and the late Deacon Paul Nalty. In 2001, they received the Saint John Paul II Award. Last year, the honor befell Marilyn Quirk.
In the tribute to Sharon Rodi — whose resume includes former teacher, ACCESS volunteer, former director of Catholic Charities Refugee Social Services program, and retired lawyer — the foundation recognized her lifetime of advocacy for those who cannot advocate for themselves. When she spoke, she expressed gratitude and humility, saying “God wants us to give back. I am very blessed and I feel like I can never do enough.”
Laussat and Bienville are two names that resonate in our city’s history. Thus, The Historic New Orleans Collection uses both of them for prestigious giving groups. The former, the Laussat Society, is named for Pierre Clement de Laussat, who served as Napoleon’s representative in the historic transfer of Louisiana to the United States. The donor level is $1,000 to $4,999. Named after Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville, the three-time governor of Louisiana who founded New Orleans in 1718, the Bienville Circle ($5,000 or more) plays a leading role in THNOC’s many educational initiatives.
Circling in, the 2017 Bienville Circle and Laussat Society Gala presented by THNOC took place at the elegant Metairie home of Penny and Jack Bryant. Cocktails were followed by a buffet dinner. Each year, The Collection recognizes these donors for their support and reveals the latest project they will fund. It is slated to be the restoration of the Brulator courtyard staircase, a subject widely depicted by painters, photographers and other artists during the years of the New Orleans Arts and Crafts Club.
Drew Jardine, THNOC board president, opened the formalities, thanked attendees and introduced E. Alexandra Stafford, Laussat Society chairwoman and a THNOC board member. After she spoke, she introduced THNOC deputy director Daniel Hammer, who addressed some of The Collection’s programs to commemorate the city’s 300th anniversary and called the new exhibition center (which includes the staircase) an “unprecedented expansion” for the 51-year-old museum.
Joel Catering provided fine food fare, and Joey Landry of Arbor Hours Floral, the floral arrangements. For the musical entertainment, Jenna McSwain, Mike Smith and Nathan Lambertson performed their own arrangements, those of jazz, on the back patio. Guests flowed socially on the home’s first floor, the pool area, the rear patio and the lawn, which was lit with hanging light bulbs and candles on the tables.
Among those reveling in the Circle and Society pleasures were the Bryants, Penny and Alvin Baumer, Michael Valentino, St. Denis “Sandy” Villere, Susan and Jimmy Gundlach, Carol Lise and Dr. Irving Rosen, Andree Keil Moss, Christine and Price LeBlanc, John Bullard, Catherine Burns Tremaine and about 160 others. From THNOC came executive director Priscilla Lawrence and director of museum programs John Lawrence, board President Drew and Julie Jardine, Vice President John Kallenborn and the above Alexandra Stafford (with husband Raymond Rathle) and Daniel Hammer. Most made tracks to the dessert spread, which included chocolate Madeleines and raspberry Napoleons, that were served on the kitchen island.
Lucy Thomas, Holley Haag, Heather Rittenberg and Holly Hanford teamed to chair the Autumn Affair of Friends of Jefferson the Beautiful at the handsome Metairie home of Jackie and M.J. Wolfe, the patron party hosts. Funds raised are used to beautify and landscape public greenspaces in Jefferson Parish.
Among the mainlining Friends were President Sheila Sparacio with Salvador, Vice President Lucy Thomas, Secretary Joe Baucum with Cindy, and Treasurer Marianne Arata with David. They rubbed shoulders with such gala committee members as Ashley Price Swanson, Mary Fay Legnon, Nora Vaden Holmes, Dessa Giffin with David, Bobbie Gattuso, Michael Whealdon with Mary, the above Heather Rittenberg with Leon, Lee Stanberry, Ed Marshall, and Mike Cotter with Kathy, who donated a beautiful painting to the auction. Everyone reveled in the bidding of original artwork, sporting event tickets, and an autographed Archie Manning jersey.
Making rounds, too, as they enjoyed culinary and libation treats (thanks to Bravo, Green Fork and Martin Wine Cellar) were Arnold and Cecile Lupin, Marla Garvey, Ninette and Perry Eastman, Dr. Donald and Mary Kay Faust, Anne Gauthier, Mimi and Claude Schlesinger, Megan and William “Willie” Nelson, Mary Beth Rittiner, Jennifer Rabalais, Albert and Elesha Kelleher, Susan Price, Wayne Nocito, and Sabrina and Marion Phillips. They also relished DardaNeaux’s gourmet cheesecakes.
Correction: In the Sat., Oct. 28, column, "Presidential Plaudits," the last name of Dana Douglas was misspelled.