It’s goodbye to the departing college or university freshmen and hello to their new campuses. Rites of collegiate passages. And prior to packing their bags, area students at the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown and Southern Methodist University socialized.

Penn-ing a Party

Established in 1740, and claiming Warren Buffet as one of its many illustrious alumni, the University of Pennsylvania, a private, Ivy League school, boasts red and blue as its colors. Benjamin Franklin founded it and “the university’s coat of arms features a dolphin on a red chief” from the coat of arms of the Franklin family.

Of course, red and blue were the chosen colors for the get-together of the University of Pennsylvania Alumni Club of Louisiana – which is run by Austin Lavin — at the home of alumna Lisa (class of 1979) and Mark Heller, parents of Becky, who graduated in 2011. The annual Send Off/Welcome event assembles Louisiana high school grads heading to Penn in the “fall” and welcomes recent (and not-so-recent) Penn graduates who are moving to Louisiana. Penn alums also rub shoulders.

The Penn flag outside the Heller home indicated the party site for which Stein’s Deli, owned by Dan Stein (class of 1994), purveyed. To add thematic ambiance, the office of Alumni Relations sent Penn glasses, buttons, pennants and pompoms to add school spirit. Even the napkins incorporated the coat of arms (with the dolphin on the upper red chief flanked by open books) and the colors: blue (the word Penn) and red (the word Alumni).

In addition to Lavin and the hosting Hellers, the party principals included Austin’s infanticipating wife, Beth Lavin (both she and Austin are the class of 2006), and about 43 others. Included were recent high school graduates Gabrielle Stone (Newman) and Jack Doherty (Jesuit), who are two of the six students from Louisiana matriculating this fall. Accompanying Gabrielle were her parents, Nicole and Bob. Newcomers to the city included Ciara Stein, Manola Gonzalez, Lili McKinley and Kristin Johnson, all of the class of 2015 and current members of the Fox Fellowship Program. It’s a full-year, post-graduate residential fellowship in the Crescent City.

Mingling as they made tracks to the sumptuous food — everyone loved the big chocolate chip cookies – were alums Elissa Bluth, Dennis Hart, Nicole Dillard, Robin McDowell, Alison Schmitt, Leon Rittenberg, Amy Stelly with husband Phil, Allie Fuchs, Andrew Brown, Dr. Louis Shenk, Sharree Walls, Cate Swinburn, Jasmine Fournier, Seena Siman with husband Scott Griffin, and Rachel Shepherd with parents Kathy and Hal.

Some of the conversation touched on an upcoming evening lecture and reception hosted by the Penn Club of Louisiana in conjunction with Tulane University Law School. John F. Hollway, author of “Killing Time: An 18-Year Odyssey from Death Row to Freedom,” which covered the case of John Thompson, a Louisiana Death Row inmate. After 18 years in prison he was exonerated and freed. Open to Penn alumni and friends (with a modest monetary request of $10), the event will be held on Sept. 29 in the Tulane Law School-John Giffen Weinmann Hall. The 6 p.m. pre-reception, “a Penn exclusive” with professor Hollway will include the book’s Thompson.

Hi, Hoyas

A porcelain bulldog was one of the several focal points at the home of Robert “Rob” and Missy Couhig for the 2015 New Student Send Off reception for Georgetown University. Rob’s an alumnus. The parents of a student provided the bulldog to welcome all the guests and remind them of Georgetown’s mascot, Jack the Bulldog.

Located in Washington, D.C., and founded in 1789, Georgetown is the nation’s oldest Catholic University. Now the university also has campuses in Italy, Turkey and Qatar. Among its alumni are former President Bill Clinton (who visited New Orleans on Aug. 29), seven other former heads of state, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. One of its most noted undergraduate colleges is the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

The Georgetown Hoyas are the athletic teams that officially represent the university in college sports.

All that was discussed at the Couhigs’ “Send Off” at which three new students from the Greater New Orleans area were present. Welcomes targeted James Laborde Jr., who was joined by parents James “Bo” and Stephanie Laborde; Connor Lu and parents Peter and Zoila Lu; and Julia Vitter and parents Sen. David and Wendy Vitter.

Catching up, as well, were Georgetown Club President Matt Payne with Melissa Montelaro, board member Sara Lewis, Avery Pardee, J. Kelly and Carmen Duncan, Kevin Laborde, Ted and Mary Merle Laborde, Mason and Jennifer Couvillon, Michael Ciaccio, Elizabeth Rainey, Patrick and Mary Willis, and Marshall Fitz.


Another very recent visitor to New Orleans was Laura Bush, who, with her husband, former President George W. Bush, formed part of a top-tier contingent in town for the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Years ago, she was a student at Southern Methodist University, which was chartered in Dallas in 1911 by the five Annual Conferences in Texas of the United Methodist Church and counts among other important graduates a number of U.S. ambassadors. The colors are SMU red and SMU blue.

Balloons of those colors decorated the home of Cindy and Robert Weinmann (of the family of the above Weinmann Hall), who co-hosted the SMU Send Off Party with Kathryn and alumnus Jeff Scurlock (class of 1980). Weinmann daughter Nicole is slated to graduate in 2016 and son Bobby in 2019.

As guests arrived at the Weinmanns’, they cast an eye immediately on the SMU banner that hung on the front of the house to welcome students. Within, they partook of a slew of taste treats, such as gingered duck salad, Creole crab cakes, a Tuscan artichoke platter, chicken and mango kabobs, Joan Farrell cookies in Mustang pony shapes, and Lolli’s Chocolates goodies drizzled in red and blue.

Jim C. Gambulos, director of development for SMU, welcomed the students to the university and encouraged them to take advantage of every opportunity available during “the next four years.”

Listening to him, and mingling with college pals, were students Margaret and Mary Nolan Brown, Eugenie Whealdon with parents Michael and Mary, Shelby White with mom and dad Virginia and Michael, Addy Peyton with mom Tiffany Adler, Conner Appel with dad state Sen. Conrad Appel, Callie Nelson with parents Megan and Willie Nelson, Conner Kirkpatrick (at the SMU Taos campus) with parents Jamie and Tim, Walt Marcus with mom Rini, Philip Clark with parents Michele and Drew, and James Roussel with parents Jimmy and Joy.

Also, Lewis Ploche, president of the local SMU alumni chapter; Sheldon Lykes; and Alexis Tripplehorn.

A great cause for celebration is the centennial of SMU’s opening this year, 2015. Whereas, 1911 was the date of the school’s charter, classes, which were planned to start in 1913, were postponed until 1915. And so, happy 100!

Around and About

“Fabulous at Every Age Celebration” titled a recent event scripted in the August issue of Harper’s Bazaar magazine. Bazaar’s annual Fabulous at Every Age Contest, sponsored by Estee Lauder, spotlighted five readers of different ages “who are living their lives with great style, grace, and confidence.” Held at New York’s Le Bernadin Prive, the awards luncheon included within the five, Juley Le of New Orleans. The youngest of the honorees (at 29), Juley, an entrepreneur, accepted the grand prize of $10,000.