Alumni Reconnect at UNESCO in Paris

Tom Campbell, Dean of the Haas School of Business, was the keynote speaker at the Paris event. Virginie Seghers and Frederic Geschwind, who met at I-House in 1991, are in the foreground. They were married last year.

The only thing better than traveling to Paris, the beautiful City of Light, is traveling to Paris to reconnect with I-House alumni. Last June, my wife, Donna, and I had the opportunity to visit this splendid city, if only for a few days, and the results were even more gratifying than I had hoped.

The purpose of the trip was to give European alumni the chance to reconnect with each other, to tell stories and enjoy each other's company, and also to share some of the opportunities presented by our upcoming 75th anniversary campaign. I-House will celebrate this milestone anniversary in 2005-'06. The time is right to make further long-term upgrades to our building and, with dramatic increases in student fees and tuition, to expand our financial aid program. The campaign will hopefully leave a legacy for future generations of Berkeley students to enjoy the culturally enriching, lifelong friendships engendered in our hallways.

Executive Director Joe Lurie, Martha Hertelendy, and Philipe Rouesse at the alumni gathering in Paris.

Our meeting was held, appropriately, in the UNESCO building, thanks to Susie Sam-Vargas, the head of UNESCO's Latin American division and her sister, I-House Board member Martha Hertelendy. Our keynote speaker was Tom Campbell, Dean of Berkeley's Haas School of Business and Chairman of the World Affairs Council of Northern California. Tom spoke eloquently about the challenges of decision making in a transnational world. After his address, Board members Arthur Strock, Jay Paxton, and I shared our dreams with alumni and asked for their feedback.

As always, I received far more than funding ideas. Philipe Rouessé, an I-House alumnus from the early 1960s, learned that we were in town and invited us out to dinner. It was heart warming to feel his great affection for I-House and to learn that he has maintained a lifelong friendship with Dr. Kwei Ü, a current Board member whom he met at the House while they were both residents.

We were also lucky enough to make contact with Frederic Geschwind, an economics student from the early 1990s who met his wife, Virginie, in the I-House dining room when he returned for a visit. Both of them are busy switching their careers from the world of finance to the world of performing arts, but they still made time to accompany us on a boat ride on the Seine and catch up with the latest news from Berkeley.

Maria Chavez Goettsch, Christian Goettsch, and Niloufar Niayesh, who lived at I-House in the early 1990s, chatted at the event.

Finally, I learned that Manuel Tercic and Thi Nhu An Pham, who worked in the Program Office two years ago, have been busy with festivals in Paris, including the mayor's "Open All Night" event, which saw major landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and Louvre open to the public until dawn. We were joined for dinner by alumna Michele Lagorio who was our coordinator for alumni attending the event.

With friends like these situated around the world, the 75th anniversary campaign is much more than a fundraiser; it's an opportunity to reconnect and discover anew the adventures and life stories that international friendships can provide. Helping to ensure that these traditions will continue for the next generation of residents is a challenge I embrace with pride.

Executive Director

Online edition of the alumnus newsletter of International House
© 2003 International House