Donor Spotlight- 2013 Whitney Bank Victory Ball Co-chairs John Hairston and Suzanne Mestayer
On Friday, June 14th the Museum welcomed nearly 400 patrons at the 2013 Whitney Bank Victory Ball, which provides essential funding for the Museum’s educational programs. Through these efforts, we teach future generations about the American experience in World War II, exploring why the war was fought, how it was won and what it means today. Thanks to the event co-chairs – Ann and John Hairston and Suzanne and Michael Mestayer – the 2013 Whitney Bank Victory Ball was a huge success.
Hairston grew up in nearby Gulfport, Mississippi. After graduating from Mississippi State in chemical engineering with a plan to work in the petrochemical industry, a friend suggested he try the consulting business with the company now known as Accenture. In the midst of the financial crisis of the late 1980s, he joined the financial services consulting group and became an important figure in the industry.
Hairston’s career path has led him to his current role as the CEO and chief operating officer of Whitney Bank. Joe Exnicios, Whitney Bank President, knew about Hairston’s passion for World War II history and for honoring the war’s veterans, so he suggested Hairston get involved with the Museum. Since then, Hairston has joined the Museum’s Board of Trustees and has served in several key leadership roles. His fondest experiences with the Museum thus far have included spending time with the WWII veterans who volunteer and hearing their stories. You will find below a picture of Hairston and his family taken with Bert Stolier, a beloved Museum volunteer who served with the Marines in World War II. The family recently visited the Museum so that Reagan, Hairston’s daughter, could interview Bert for a school project.
Hairston’s father, Mitch Hairston, served aboard the destroyer USS Fletcher during World War II. Like most veterans, he thought those who did not return were the real heroes and spoke sparingly about his own role. It was only after his father passed that John learned of the courage he displayed in the heat of battle. John says that the best way he knows to honor his father’s service is to assist the Museum in sharing the story of America’s “greatest generation” with those generations who follow.
When I asked Hairston how he would like to be recognized for his support for the Museum’s mission, John Hairston responded humbly that he does not need to be remembered, but rather “the veterans who served, especially those who did not return, should be the ones who are remembered.”
Hairston’s fellow Museum Trustee and Whitney Bank Victory Ball Co-chair, Suzanne Mestayer, is a prominent figure in the New Orleans community as an adviser and owner of ThirtyNorth Investments, LLC. Her career path began as she set off from her native New Iberia for LSU to study finance and accounting, preparing her for impressive leadership in the Louisiana banking industry.
As a longtime New Orleanian, Mestayer was well aware of the beginnings of The National WWII Museum and its role in the revitalization of the city. She began supporting the Museum as a brick donor and a charter member before the Museum opened in 2000, and joined the Museum’s Board of Trustees in 2012. As her role in supporting the mission of the Museum has evolved, she continues to be inspired by the work of the Museum staff under the leadership of President and CEO Nick Mueller, a former longtime history professor.
Mestayer and her husband Mike were delighted to be invited to serve as Whitney Bank Victory Ball co-chairs alongside Ann and John Hairston, and immediately embraced the role. She understood the importance of this key fundraising event and was pleased to help make this year’s Victory Ball the best yet.
Mestayer fondly remembers accompanying her parents to the Grand Opening events in when the Museum opened its doors as The National D-Day Museum on June 6, 2000. She was moved by the tremendous gratitude expressed to the veterans for their service. Like so many, her father, who was in the Battle of the Bulge and received a Purple Heart, reconnected with his military experience later in life and even participated in reunions of his division. The creation of The National WWII Museum meant a great deal to her father and mother, who during the war was the “girl back home.” Mestayer knows that her parents would be thrilled with the Museum’s tremendous success and continuing development.
Mestayer has a passion for keeping alive the stories of courage, determination, ingenuity, patriotism and sacrifice for future generations. She feels that these stories “continue to strengthen our country and demonstrate our character. The lessons are timeless, and The National WWII Museum is filling a critical role in teaching these lessons in creative and relevant ways.”
We extend our sincere thanks to John Hairston and Suzanne Mestayer. With their guidance and support, this year’s Whitney Bank Victory Ball was a tremendous success, raising more than $400,000! Their leadership as Whitney Bank Victory Ball co-chairs, their dedication as Museum Trustees, and their contributions allow us to advance our essential mission.
Post by Lauren Bevis, Donor Relations Manager