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D.C. Mini-Reunion!

REPORT ON YALE ‘58 WASHINGTON MINI-REUNION MAY 2016

PHOTO GALLERY HERE (Click on any photo to start viewing them. Click the left or right arrow to proceed through the gallery.)

GENESIS

Harvey Sloane and David Ehrlich met in February 2015 and agreed to be "co-chairs." They were joined by Joe Sears who, very sadly, passed away midway through the planning, and Joe's wife Margaret. It helped that David had been to the previous event in New Orleans, and had a sense of what was needed.

Our very first collective act was the best thing we ever did: to hire Josie Schiavone, whose true-blue credentials and professional event-planning skills, made it easy to have her confirmed by the central authorities. We chose Noodles on 17th Street as our meeting place, and scheduled noontime hour-long sessions (occasionally supplanted by phone talks).

We began by drawing up a giant laundry list of possible ideas for activities, ranging from long field trips (Civil War battlefields) to closer-in dinner venues (country club, embassies, restaurants, etc.), and gradually pared it down to workable strength. Harvey chose to concentrate on assembling a list of Yale alumni speakers, and to supervise the Brookings Institution luncheon and the closing Saturday night dinner. David agreed to develop a plan for the opening Thursday gala, and Margaret to work throughout with Josie to develop the logistics.

PARTICIPATION

We knew that New Orleans, in October 2014, had attracted some sixty people (35 plus 25 wives), but little else. Given that we were looking eighteen months later in a more accessible and possibly more exciting locale, we thought in terms of perhaps eighty, but were heartened by consultation with the class of 1987, which completed (in October 2015) a most successful event for 100, so we pitched our aim at that number. Initially, we planned a preliminary mailing for September, but delayed it until just after the first of the new year. A full mailing, personalized by hand, went out to some nine hundred-plus (including widows), augmented by an electronic blast to those with working e-mail. Response came right from the start; so we increased booking at our chosen hotel (see below) from thirty to fifty rooms. On the first of April, we sent an electronic mailing to Washington-area mates, offering somewhat reduced rates for reduced events. That produced a few more, so that by the time we reached the last couple of days, the total enrollment had swelled to a near-record 105. Here follows the roster of miscreants:

John and Marila Beatty
Peter and Judith Bensinger
Larry Bensky
Art and Nancy Bober
David Brant
Sherman and Peg Bull
Rory and Demi Cross
Bob and Wendy Cushman
Alan and Susan Davidson
James and Joan Derby
Mort Downey
David and Barbara Ehrlich
Lucinda Embersits and Joan Embersits-Salomone
George and Judith Farr
Mark Feinknopf and Cynthia Moe
Alfred and Ann Ferguson
Bill Fitzgerald and Sandra Krause
Joe Gastwirth
Gordon Gerson and Cye Hoffman
Roger Healey
Robert and Danielle Hendricks
Pudge and Sally Henkel
Tim Hogen, Sally Cole
Malcolm and Ann Holderness
Woody and Marilyn Howe
Tom and Amy Kwei
Bibb Latane and Jacqueline Beecher
Irving and Gwen Lerner
Ron and Silvia-Regina Levin
Harvey Lipsher
David Elisa Lindskog
William and Colleen Lund
King and Penny Mallory
Bob and Cecilia Morgan
Phil and Susan Ness
Ken Neuberger
Bob and Lucy O'Mara
Chuck Palmer
John Pierce, Merilee Pierce
Morgan Porter and Sherryanne de la Boise
Colin and Merlyna Radford
Jeff and Christa Sammons
Joel Schiavone
Margaret Sears and Phyllis McLeod
Richard Segil
Ted Silberstein and Jackie Mack
Richard and Bonnie Simonds
Harvey and Cathy Sloane
Hoyt and Margot Spelman
John and June Stubbs
Bill and Jane Stubenbord
Scott Sullivan
Peter Taft
Jon Turner and Mary Ann Munro
David and Ruth Waterbury

CHOICE OF HOTEL

After significant vetting for both price and suitability, we chose the ninety-year-old Fairfax, on Massachusetts Avenue, just up from Dupont Circle, which was initially delighted to handle us, and settled in early July.

EVENING CELEBRATIONS

Initially, the Fairfax expressed delight in hosting our opening-night gala dinner on Thursday. We chose the Post's classical music critic Anne Midgette, Y '86, as our featured speaker, and were all set to go with that when in January, we learned they had discontinued banquet services. As it proved, though, this was one of the extremely lucky breaks to come our way. As they felt somewhat guilty and still in our debt, they helped arrange the next-door Larz Anderson House, the museum home of the Society of the Cincinnati, as an alternative venue. Anderson, a supremely glorious setting, enabled us to plan the program, embellished by a brief musical interlude, with David and Larry Bensky, augmented by a pair of non-Yale musicians, taking part.

For Friday night, we decided on a less formal dinner event, and the Botanic Garden in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, appeared an elegant and logical choice. That required permission from a sitting Congressman, which our own Eleanor Holmes Norton was glad to provide. With respect to entertainment, we tried initially to get as a speaker our own Alex Purves, retired professor from Yale Architecture, but he wasn't available. So, as we felt that neither the acoustics nor the setting would dictate an unrelated speaker; and therefore we chose to rely on the sheer beauty of the venue to provide sufficient excitement.

The Saturday dinner came together differently, a result of the felicitous presence of classmate Peter Taft. The University Club, founded by his grandfather, (our 27th president), was one of Harvey's associations, and was most happy to act as our host. In this as in the other two, all food preparation was carried out under the auspices of Josie's favorite caterer, with menus selected through consultations between Josie and Margaret. Peter Taft was the natural choice for keynote speaker, and we settled on non-Yale Peter Hart for his insights into the raging political situation. The evening ended with a boisterous rendition of "Bright College Years" on a slightly out-of-tune upright piano, but nobody cared.

DAYTIME EVENTS

There was a strong feeling that we ought to accommodate the earliest arrivals on Thursday, so it became fairly easy to arrange a brief visit to the Diplomatic rooms at the State Department for that afternoon. Twenty-odd of us joined a tour professionally run by State and the art of 18th and 19th was extraordinary.

Friday was the day we scheduled the obligatory monument of our nation's capital. Three buses were scheduled to drive us to a series of memorial stops: Lincoln/ Vietnam/ Korea; MLK and FDR; and Iwo Jima. Funny things happened, though: the buses arrived late and everything was further complicated by pouring rain that refused to let up. But that became a second lucky break. Nobody got off the buses, and each of the three took similar (if not identical) routes through a broad area of downtown, passing and identifying all manner of points of interest through the windows. Best of all, Josie was not fully satisfied with the services of the bus company, and was able to wangle a $2700 refund of part of the price!

The subsequent plan was for the buses to drop us at the Brookings Institution for lunch and a sort of seminar conducted by Yale alumni who had played a role in municipal history. Strobe Talbott, '68, president of Brookings, led off, followed by Anthony Williams, '79, former D.C. Mayor; Howard Riker, '86, successful developer of a recent project called the City Center; and two of our classmates Harvey Sloane, health czar under Marion Barry, and Mort Downey, newly retired board chair of Metro. Once we'd dried off, lunch was fully catered, and the event much enjoyed.

The weather on Saturday did not begin promisingly, but improved dramatically as the day went on. Yet a third lucky break facilitated our start for the cruise down the Potomac to Mount Vernon: the rain had been so heavy that, combined with the tide, the river was too high, and our boat the Miss Mallory would not have been able to travel under the bridges from Georgetown. The result was a change in embarkation point to Southwest, right in the shadow of the Nationals Stadium. The cruise proved delightful as the air freshened, and most of the troops were able to spend time on deck.

The tour of the mansion worked nicely, as did the walks through the grounds and gardens, and we all converged at the bus stop end of the estate for the trip back to town. At that point, we divided, with half of us heading for Fort McNair in Southwest, and the rest to the Lincoln Cottage up North Capitol Street. The McNair group then subdivided, with halves alternately visiting the National War College and Grant Hall, site of the 1865 Lincoln assassination trial. Upon the conclusion of those visits, the buses returned to the Fairfax.

Sunday morning, those who had not already left for home reassembled at the Fairfax for a memorial session, each of us recalling departed classmates, declared the entire affair highly successful and vowed to meet the next time, and then hit the road.

OTHER MATTERS

We added a few special twists. One was a favor --- blue "logo" napkins for use in singing "Bright College Years." Another was hiring a photographer whose job was to follow every step of the affair, recording events great and small for posterity. We were responsive to at least one of our number who claimed poverty; happily, we received a donation aimed at dealing with same. Not everything was perfect; three of the mates experienced minor medical issues, which resulted in short-term hospital visits, but they were decidedly short-term!

BOOLA-BOOLA!