Following up on last week’s blog, we are now moving into our first gallery of Road to Berlin: European Theater Galleries–the Briefing Room.
Briefing Room Rendering
The Briefing Room will take you through the big picture of the European-Mediterranean Theater of war. Upon entering this gallery you will face portraits and descriptions of the five leaders of the war in Europe: Hitler, Mussolini, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin. A map will depict Axis territorial gains during the war’s early stages.
Rendering of the Road to Berlin Briefing Room
Set in an abandoned room in North Africa, this room will recreate the immense pressures faced by Allied strategists and cover the events and status of the war as of November 1942, including the strategic choices that the Allied war effort faced in early 1942 and the landings in North Africa later that year. You will learn the rationale behind the decision to go to “Germany first,” and be introduced to the issues faced in deciding to invade North Africa before Europe. A European/Mediterranean Theater of War digital map will provide an overview of the campaign and the exhibit will employ state-of-the-art technology.
DONOR SPOTLIGHT: Mr. and Mrs. H. Mortimer “Tim” Favrot, Jr.
Mr. H. Mortimer “Tim” Favrot, Jr. is a board member and great advocate of the Museum. He and his wife, Kay, are dedicated capital campaign donors who have supported the Road to Victory capital campaign with a significant donation to sponsor the Briefing Room.
Their interest in the project came not only from their knowledge of WWII history, but also their belief that the Museum’s expansion would be a great asset to New Orleans. Mr. Favrot’s family has deep roots in New Orleans dating back to 1715 and he has a history of remarkable service to the city. Tim Favrot was in fifth grade and attending the New Orleans Academy when the United States entered World War II. He was playing touch football on Sunday, December 7, 1941, at his grandfather’s home when one of his cousins suddenly burst out the front door and yelled, “We are at war!” Favrot learned that evening that American forces had been bombed at Pearl Harbor, he was not sure where Pearl Harbor was, or what this meant for the fate of our country.
He began to build models to track and identify military aircraft and studied maps, highlighting where American advances were being made. Eleven-year-old Tim was disappointed that he was not able to go off to war himself, but he was determined to learn all he could about America’s Arsenal of Democracy while remaining at home.
After completing two years at Jesuit High School in New Orleans, he attended Culver Military Academy in his mother’s native Indiana. His military career began at the age of 18 when he joined the Air Force ROTC at Tulane. He later spent two years in the Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico, the location where the first atomic bomb test took place. Even after he was discharged from the service, his appreciation for the contributions of our armed forces continued to grow.
Many years later, his wife Kay introduced Tim to the late David Voelker, past Museum Chairman of the Board of Trustees, who invited him to join the Museum’s board. He accepted the Trustee role in 2004, and in that same year Tim and Kay made a significant gift to the Museum to complete Discovery Hall. This included the Mr. and Mrs. H. Mortimer Favrot, Jr. Orientation center, so named to recognize their philanthropy. Tim serves on several WWII board committees and his leadership was crucial in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when he chaired the Museum’s Facilities Committee, which oversaw storm-related damage repairs. It was during this period that the Museum launched the Road to Victory capital campaign. He felt great joy at the completion of the first phase of construction in 2009.
Kay and H. Mortimer “Tim” Favrot, Jr. at the premiere of The Monuments Men film at The National WWII Museum
Tim would like to be remembered as a “loyal supporter and advocate for the city of New Orleans.” His dedication to the Museum has distinguished him as such a leader. We extend our sincere thanks to Kay and Tim Favrot. Their support of our capital campaign allows us to fulfill our mission of telling the story of the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today. We would not be where we are today on the Road to Victory without their leadership.
Up next in the Road to Berlin, The Desert War- North Africa gallery
Post by Lauren Bevis, Donor Relations Manager, and Ashley Nash, Prospect Coordinator.
Rendering of The Desert War-North Africa gallery with the Road to Berlin
We are proud to present to you the Road to Berlin, the first floor European Theater galleries within our newest pavilion, Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters. These galleries are a major component of the Museum’s capital expansion and are essential to fulfilling the Museum’s mission to tell the story of the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today.
All design for these galleries is now complete and construction of the exhibits has begun, ensuring that we will be ready for the Road to Berlin’s Grand Opening in December of this year!
As we count down to the Grand Opening of one of the most anticipated exhibit spaces in the entire capital expansion, we want to give you a sneak peek of the galleries and spotlight the generous donors who have made the construction of these exhibits possible.
Rendering of the Battle of the Bulge gallery with the Road to Berlin
We will debut this series of blog posts with an overview of the Road to Berlin. This collection of galleries features the European-Mediterranean Theater, which spanned several years and engaged hundreds of thousands of people in the air, at sea, underwater, on the beaches, and in the mountains and the desert. Through eight galleries, Road to Berlin will present a comprehensive narrative of the fascinating stories and events in Europe, helping visitors to understand and appreciate what proceeded D-Day in June 1944—the challenges, strategies, and operations that secured the path to Normandy, as well as the bloody battles that followed. The Road to Berlin will come alive through images, oral histories, artifacts, and stunning displays that mimic the environments of the battle scenes.
Rendering of the Into the German Homeland gallery with the Road to Berlin
The Road to Berlin will focus on the American path to victory that led to the capitulation of Germany at the end of the Second World War. These galleries will paint the entire American picture in Europe, so that our visitors will understand the amount and scope of sacrifice that led to our victory over Germany in WWII.
Visitors will begin in a Briefing Room that orients them to the big picture of the war in Europe. Then visitors continue on to the first stop of the journey alongside Allied forces: The Desert War –North Africa, where the Allies struggled but ultimately defeated German and Italian forces. Next, visitors will follow the Allies into Sicily, or the so-called “soft underbelly” of Europe, where they won glory with the first liberation of a major European city, Palermo. The journey then continues through the long, bloody Italian Campaign up the peninsula.
Visitors are then transported to a Nissen hut, like those used in England during the war, to learn about air power in Europe – from the infamous German Luftwaffe to the relentless American airstrikes across Europe. This serves as the launching point for visitors to join the Allies as they invade Nazi–occupied France on the history-making D-Day at Normandy. Visitors will then travel all over France, before entering the Ardennes Forest for the historic Battle of the Bulge. Finally, visitors break through the Siegfried Line for the final push into Germany.
Up next, the first stop in Road to Berlin: The Briefing Room
Post by Lauren Bevis, Donor Relations Manager, and Ashley Nash, Prospect Coordinator.
From Left to Right: John Goodman and Robert M. Edsel
Robert M. Edsel is the No. 1 New York Times Bestselling author of the non-fiction books, Rescuing Da Vinci; The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History; and Saving Italy: the Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis. He is the co-producer of the award-winning documentary film, The Rape of Europa, Founder and Chairman of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, and a member of the Board of Trustees of The National WWII Museum. Mr. Edsel began his business career in oil and gas exploration. His company, Gemini Exploration, pioneered the use of horizontal drilling technology throughout the early 1990s. Mr. Edsel has dedicated the last thirteen years of his life to telling the story of the Monuments Men, the unsung heroes who saved many of the world’s greatest art and cultural treasures during WWII. In January 2012 Academy Award winner George Clooney announced he would write, direct and star in the film version of Mr. Edsel’s book, The Monuments Men. The extraordinary film opened this month and stars A list actors including George Clooney, John Goodman, Matt Damon, and Cate Blanchett. We deeply appreciate his support of the Road to Victory capital campaign as he brings this story to life for millions of people across the world and for the Museum’s visitors.
Q: How did your interest in the Monuments Men get started?
I was living in Florence, Italy in 1996. I had sold my business to create time to learn about new things. This is a story that I stumbled upon quite by accident while walking across the Ponte Vecchio one day, the only bridge in Florence not destroyed by the Nazis when they fled the city in August 1944. I wondered how in the face of the most destructive conflict in history that so many of these cultural works of art survived. I wasn’t embarrassed that I didn’t know the answer, but I was hugely embarrassed that it had never occurred to me to ask the question.
I started asking the people with whom I had become friends in Florence and they all said, “That’s a great question, what’s the answer?” I started with the most innocent of curiosity and it was shocking to me that in the most documented, photographed event of modern time, this was an unknown story. I was not as interested in the bad guys. I was interested in the good guys. What would motivate middle aged men and women, who had established careers, families, most with children, to walk away and put on a military uniform? Over time I learned that they believed they, too, had an important contribution to make towards the winning of the war. That was a story that interested me.
Q: How did you first become involved with The National WWII Museum?
Dr. Gordon “Nick” Mueller had a chance to read an advance copy of my second book, The Monuments Men, and called me to tell me that it was not only a terrific 1943 book, but a hugely important story largely overlooked by historians. This led to our first meeting several months later, and his all-important question: “What’s your best idea?” I told him, “We should create a permanent exhibition to honor these heroes of civilization; let’s recreate a salt mine and let visitors get a sense of the challenges these men overcame.” He loved the idea from the start. It’s worth writing that making the Monuments Men gallery a permanent part of the Museum’s campus was not a reaction to the film, but rather is an idea endorsed years early—a great example of the leadership that is a common hallmark of this great institution.
Q: Who are the Monuments Men?
The remarkable story of the Monuments Men and Women is one that many do not know about. Middle-aged men and women, museum curators, art historians, and artists themselves who volunteered their service during WWII to be a new kind of soldier, one charged with saving rather than destroying. These “soldier scholars” were not in a remote office advising, but rather on the front lines with the troops. In fact, two were killed during combat.
There were not many Monuments Men officers, which makes their achievement that much greater. It began with an army of one, a classics professor at Harvard who was sent by plane to Sicily two weeks after the Allied invasion had begun because President Roosevelt realized that the United States needed someone over there. By the end of 1943, there were only about a dozen Monuments officers in Italy.
In Northern Europe, there were about a dozen Monuments officers on the ground within a month or so of the Normandy landings. By the end of the war in Northern Europe, there were only about 60 or 70 Monuments officers with about a dozen on the front lines. It is their story that I’ve written about in my book, and that you will see depicted in The Monuments Men film.
In the final months of the war, the Monuments Men began discovering salt mines, caves, and castles filled with tens of thousands of cultural objects. When the troops started returning home, the work of the Monuments Men was just beginning as they then had to sort through everything that they had saved. They stayed in Europe until 1951, overseeing the return of these objects to the countries from which they were taken. By the time the objects were returned home, the Monuments Men had overseen the return of some 5 million cultural objects.
There are six Monuments officers living today, one woman and five men. I have interviewed 18 over the course of my career. There is also a lot of optimism about more of the missing objects surfacing, particularly in the next 5-10 years, as we put to rest the WWII generation and we see this massive turnover of private property.
A rendering of the Monuments Men gallery within the future Liberation Pavilion
Q: What will the Monuments Men gallery be like?
The Monuments Men gallery will be part of the future Liberation Pavilion, which will not only tell what took place in the closing weeks and months of the war, but also educate visitors on the impact the war had on the United States in the years following.
Recreation of the Salt Mine is a way to tell a story to audiences young and old alike. Visitors will have the chance to come and sense what it was like for these men and women to enter into these caves not knowing if they were booby trapped, whether there would be enemy soldiers inside, or whether or not these works of art could be saved. The gallery will be a dramatic and interactive way for people to become engaged, and will be one of the largest exhibit spaces on the Museum’s campus.
It is right and appropriate that the Monuments Men story be told at The National WWII Museum because there are still hundreds of thousands of works of art and cultural documents missing to this day.
Q: Why did you decide to donate to the Road to Victory Capital campaign?
It has been an exciting and very meaningful opportunity for me to be able to tell the Monuments Men story through my books. Knowing that their story and legacy will be a part of The National WWII Museum, alongside the stories about the troops who fought in this important war, is an indescribable honor me for me, and more importantly these heroes.
Support for this gallery is crucial as it will allow us to pose important questions to our visitors. One of the questions that I find most compelling: “Is art worth a life?”
It is a very emotional and very important part of WWII and we live with the altered cultural legacy today of things that are still missing. It is a great testament to this Museum in their effort to tell the comprehensive story that they are including this huge story. President Roosevelt had the vision to understand why that was important. General Eisenhower endorsed this and issued a historic directive on two occasions that made saving cultural treasures a responsibility of all commanders and troops – to make it a priority. It is hard to imagine the world we would be living in now without those efforts.
One of the great ways to preserve the legacy of the Monuments Men is to tell their story here for the half million visitors this Museum welcomes each year. That number will only grow and grow. Also, this helps to bring visibility to the importance of reestablishing the high bar for protecting cultural treasures in future conflicts by educating people, by entertaining them, by giving them moving experiences, and by making the public aware of how many pieces of art are missing and getting them engaged in finding them. This is a Museum and gallery that needed to be built. It is long overdue
I also want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Robert Tucker Hayes and Deborah G. Lindsay, who have been early supporters of the Monuments Men gallery and exhibits. (Robert Tucker Hayes and Deborah G. Lindsay are Museum Trustees.)
Dr. Mueller stated in a recent press conference that “the movie and The Monuments Men book are spectacular warm-ups for a spectacular exhibit … Robert’s story was unknown at the time we started collaborating, but once he got it out there, people have started to learn about the Monuments Men, just as they have with the story of Andrew Higgins, which was unknown 20 years ago. We are glad to be a part of telling this story, to have Robert on our board, and for him to be part of the development of this gallery.”
We are thankful for Robert M. Edsel’s commitment to telling the story of the Monuments Men and other WWII heroes. His involvement allows us to fully explore the American experience in the war that changed the world.
From Left to Right: Museum Trustees Robert M. Edsel and Paul Hilliard
Post written by Lauren Bevis, Donor Relations Manager
World War II Veteran Ben A. Martinez, Jr. has shared his passion for telling the story of World War II through his generous contribution of 7 named theater seats within the Solomon Victory Theater, which honor the legacy and service of his loved ones.
Ben, a pharmacist with a BS Degree, enlisted as an Army Air Corp Cadet, but opted to go to the Medical Administrative OCS (MAC) and then “Battalion Surgeon Assistant School.” Assigned to the 88th Infantry Division, he replaced one of two doctors in a Battalion Aid Station and he feels that he and the army found a “niche” in one another.
Since 2009 he has generously donated named theater seats in honor of himself, his remarkable brothers, John, José and Urban “U.B.”, who all served in WWII, as well as family members William G. Wegmann and John W. Waters. He most recently named a seat in 2013 in honor of life-long friend and P-51 pilot Frank Roark, whom Ben considered his “protégé.” Ben says that he “picked up the habit” of being generous from his father, who had a strong sense of family life and was “always giving.” Ben also supports the Museum through his continued Patriot Circle membership, sponsorship of our annual Victory Ball fundraiser and support of the Museum’s education programs. He enjoys attending the live shows at the Stage Door Canteen, and is a regular at the Victory Belles performances.
You too can play a role by honoring your hero in the Solomon Victory Theater. This year marks the 5-year anniversary of the opening of the Solomon Victory Theater, with more than 900,000 visitors viewing the 4-D Beyond All Boundaries since opening in 2009. Available nowhere else in the world, this unique, multi-sensory cinematic experience has appealed to the broadest possible audience and has changed the way that people learn about the war.
Please contact Lauren Bevis, Donor Relations Manager, at 504.528.1944, ext. 316 or email@example.com for more information. There are only 142 seats left, so be sure to order your special tribute today!
From Left to Right: Students and Louisiana History Day Participants Jayden Gibbs, Nichole Feagin, Jordan Gibbs, and Cole Conrad
Long-time donor The Selley Foundation is featured in this month’s donor spotlight! We spoke with Denis McDonald, Chairman of The Selley Foundation’s Board of Trustees, to learn more about why they have generously given in support of our mission for nearly a decade. Read on to find out how The Selleys wound up in New Orleans after growing up in Budapest, and why they enthusiastically support National History Day.
Q: How did The Selley Foundation get started? Where did the foundation’s history begin?
The seeds for the foundation were planted in the 1930s in Budapest, Hungary. Paul Selley was a young lawyer and his wife, Elizabeth, was a PhD in anthropology. In 1937, they saw the coming dangers in Europe and immigrated to New York City where they lived until after World War II.
Elizabeth’s brother, Steve Danos, had immigrated to New Orleans for the shrimp business, and in the late 1940s he convinced Paul and Elizabeth to come to New Orleans and help them with the business. By 1970, Southland Canning, the name of their company, was the largest shrimp and oyster canner in the United States. Shortly thereafter, it was sold to PET FOODS for about 7 million dollars. Paul retained his PET FOODS stock, which was worth about $3.5 million, and low and behold a few years later PET FOODS was bought out by IC Industries for double the price. Paul now had $7 million in cash. He invested it wisely and by the time he died in 1995 he left $13 million to fund The Selley Foundation.
Since his death, the foundation has given away over $5 million and its net worth is close to $20 million.
Q: How did The Selley Foundation first become involved with The National WWII Museum?
Shortly after The Selley Foundation was started in 1989, Paul served with Louis Freeman on the board for the New Orleans Museum of Art. He recognized Louis’s ability with investments, so Paul asked me if I would solicit Louis to become a Selley board member. It was the easiest selling job I ever had. Louis agreed immediately and has served ever since. One might say that it was Louis Freeman who made The Selley Foundation board aware of the mission of The National WWII Museum, since he has also served on the Museum’s board for quite some time.
Q: The Selley Foundation has sponsored a range of Museum initiatives, including Louisiana History Day, an endowment for collections and exhibits, and our Road to Victory Capital Campaign. What about The National WWII Museum’s work helps fulfill The Selley Foundation’s mission?
The Selley Foundation’s stated mission is to assist in the areas of education, arts, and culture. There is no question that Paul and Elizabeth were most interested in Europe, their homeland, and the role that D-Day played in securing liberty and freedom in many countries of Europe and eventually Hungary. The Museum fits the bill. The Selley Foundation’s sponsorship of National History Day is a double whammy. Paul and Elizabeth would be most proud to see the history projects of these young, inquisitive minds. Their results on the national stage are outstanding.
Q: On behalf of The Selley Foundation, what are the ways that you have seen the foundation’s investment lived out through the Louisiana History Day competition?
Paul and Elizabeth left some notes to future Trustees and it is clearly stated that their interest is to influence young minds to achieve excellent education and knowledge. I have witnessed several of the projects and talked with some of the young and knowledgeable researchers. National History Day clearly fits the mission of the vision that the Selleys had.
Q: Can you share with me any of the interactions that you have had with some of the participants and beneficiaries in the competition?
The young Aiden Edler from Chalmette, Louisiana. I was extremely impressed with him. I vividly remember Aiden and his exhibit on the Berlin Wall and how it changed history. I was impressed that he was only a 6th grade student at the time of competition, the lowest grade level allowed to compete. His age was overshadowed by his expertise.
Q: How does it feel to know that with The Selley Foundation’s support this program has grown from 189 participants in 2011 to over 1,200 in 2013, including 70 national qualifiers?
The regional growth in the number of participants and the large number of national qualifiers is amazing. Paul and Elizabeth would be very proud of this sponsorship. Our Board of Trustees is also pleased.
Q: How does The Selley Foundation want to be remembered?
The Selleys and their foundation would be honored to be remembered as having encouraged and assisted young students in becoming curious, educated, thoughtful, and responsible adults. When Paul wanted to compliment someone he would say that he or she was a good citizen. That was his way of giving the ultimate compliment. He would be proud to have assisted so many good citizens.
We are thankful for The Selley Foundation’s commitment to the Museum’s programs. Their generous support ensures that we can advance our mission to tell the full story of the American experience in the war that changed the world.
From Left to Right: Paul Candies, Rita Candies, Nicki Candies, Ryan Candies, Kelly Candies, Otto Candies, III, Otto Candies, Jr.
The National WWII Museum was honored in April 2010 when the Candies Family decided to become an annual sponsor of the Victory Ball after-party, the Otto Candies, LLC How Sweet It Is! Dancing and Dessert Soirée. In 2013, thanks to the Candies, the party was sweeter than ever, with a live band and a stunning variety of desserts. In this blog, we’ll tell you all about the family that made this possible, especially third-generation family business executive Nicki Candies.
Otto Candies Sr. resided in Des Allemands, Louisiana, where he founded the marine transportation company and now third-generation family business Otto Candies, LLC. The company is well known as an innovator in vessel design, ascribing to the philosophy that “our people are our best asset.”
The family company began with a simple request. In 1942, during a pivotal time in world history, Captain Otto B. Candies was asked to provide small craft support to an oil rig to clear water lilies from an access canal. Though a relatively small task, Candies attacked it with spirit and determination. The Captain’s efforts won him respect, admiration and a crew-transport contract with the Humble Oil Company – predecessor to today’s ExxonMobil.
The Otto Candies, LLC reputation for dedication and excellence spread as the offshore oil industry boomed. Today, the Candies fleet continues to expand. No matter how complex and demanding the offshore industry becomes, Candies is well-positioned to accept the challenges of the future, and the company’s goal remains the same: get the job done on time, within budget, safely and responsibly.
The Candies Family has a history of providing outstanding service through their marine transportation company and of serving in the armed forces of their country. Ludwig P. Candies, Otto Candies’ oldest brother, enlisted in the US Army in 1942. Like most veterans, he spoke sparingly about his own role in the war. Otto Candies LLC has a ship named after him, the M/V Ludwig Candies. Otto Candies, Jr. also served in the Army and Paul Candies Sr. was a member of the Coast Guard.
Nicki Candies, the company’s Director of Regulatory Affairs, Public Relations, has long been a staunch supporter of The National WWII Museum. She remembers attending all of the Grand Opening ceremonies, but in particular recalls the Grand Opening of the 4D film Beyond All Boundaries, produced by Tom Hanks, as a moving and compelling experience. To have all of her senses engaged in the things 17- to 20-year-old men experienced and endured during that time gave her “goose bumps on top of goose bumps.” Coming from a large and very close family, Nicki strongly sensed the bonds developed among the soldiers and their “sense of camaraderie” and devotion to country. It was so obvious through the telling of their stories that they truly were a band of brothers.”
Nicki remembers the family’s financial commitment and partnership with the Museum stemming from a phone call from the Museum’s Associate Vice President of Corporate Alliances, Patricia Eubanks. More encouragement came from Museum Trustee and past Board Chairman Donald “Boysie” Bollinger, whose family was considered “second family” to the Candies. Knowing about the family’s passion for World War II history, Bollinger strongly encouraged their involvement. It was then in 2010 that the family decided to sponsor the annual Otto Candies, LLC How Sweet It Is! Dancing and Dessert Soirée, an evening of cocktails and delectable delights following the Museum’s annual Victory Ball fundraiser. This opportunity showcases the family’s enthusiastic spirit and fun outlook, and Nicki also noted that it is “a perfect fit with our last name.”
The Candies Family would like to continue to honor the legacy of Otto B. Candies and Agnes Candies for the foresight and sacrifice they made in founding their family business. Nicki feels thankful that she, along with her brothers and cousins, has been able to reap the benefits of her grandparents’ sacrifices. In speaking about the Museum, Otto would say that “the shoe could so easily fit on the other foot. I want to help others that could use my help.” He was a true patriot and a man that “truly understood what a benefit it was to be an American.”
This past July saw the passing of Paul Candies, Sr. He was the President of Otto Candies and ran the company along with his brothers. A lifelong resident of Des Allemands, he served in the US Coast Guard and always gave strong support to the military and our country. Nicki shared that he wore an American flag lapel pin every day of his life. He was a “cheerleader for the Museum,” and encouraged his friends from all over the country to come to New Orleans to visit this growing institution. He loved the stories that are told within the Museum’s walls, and the Museum is extremely fortunate to have had this beloved man as one of our strongest advocates.
We extend our sincere thanks to all members of the Candies Family. The National WWII Museum has been privileged to enjoy the support of the Candies Family for the past four years. Their generous sponsorship provides essential funding for the Museum’s educational programs, and through these efforts we are able to teach future generations about the American experience in World War II.
From Left to Right: John Hairston, Ann Hairston, Suzanne Mestayer, Michael 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.
The 2013 Whitney Bank Victory Ball is The National WWII Museum’s signature fundraiser and most important benefit of the year, providing essential funding for the Museum’s education mission. As a leading business institution, Whitney Bank has always called attention to our community’s history and traditions. We are honored to have Whitney Bank’s support this year as our title sponsor.
The Whitney Bank Victory Ball will be held on Friday, June 14, 2013, in the new US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, featuring a meaningful program and top-notch entertainment. We will celebrate the evening’s theme, On The Front Lines of Freedom: Personal Reflections of WWII, with a presentation of the Silver Service Medallion. This year, the medallion will honor courageous soldiers who demonstrated extraordinary dedication on the battlefield and correspondents who also faced deadly conditions to ensure the stories and images of service and sacrifice were shared with the Home Front – and preserved for generations to come. This inspirational evening will feature the personal reflections of these individuals as we challenge all to remember those who have protected our freedoms.
Since its founding on October 26, 1883, “the Whitney” has endured as an industry leader in the Gulf South. The oldest continuously operating bank in New Orleans,Whitney Bank first occupied offices at 137 Gravier Street, still part of the bank’s Central Business District headquarters. Through more than 100 years of change, Whitney has remained dedicated to the fundamental principles and business practices set forth by its founders: maintenance of strong capital, sound ethics, exceptional service, and solid commitment to economic development, combined with a desire to preserve local heritage.
“The National WWII Museum is an American treasure. It’s a stellar collection of insights into the commitment and sacrifices of the brave people who lived the experience – the Greatest Generation,” said John M. Hairston, the company’s CEO and Chief Operating Officer and a member of the Museum’s Board of Trustees. “We at Whitney Bank are honored to join with the Museum to celebrate that determined American spirit.”
The Museum is proud that Mr. Hairston will serve as co-chair of the 2013 Whitey Bank Victory Ball. His father, Mitch Hairston, served aboard the USS Fletcher in the South Pacific during WWII. He is the inspiration for John Hairston’s engagement with WWII veterans and his Museum leadership efforts.
During World War II, Whitney Bank strongly supported the war effort, offering contracting advice and financing for war-related businesses, while also distributing ration books and war bonds. As they had done in World War I, or what was then known as The Great War, Whitney associates fought overseas and served in critical roles at home to preserve America’s freedoms. Whitney Bank paid those associates for any loss in pay during military service. The postwar years saw the bank’s deposits grow from $141 million to $353 million. The bank expanded with new branches in Louisiana and offered assistance to countries ravaged by the war.
“America’s victory in World War II changed the course of history for the world and secured the freedoms and values at the core of our American way. Partnering with the museum is a privilege for Whitney Bank as we honor WWII veterans and all who did and still do protect us at home and on foreign shores,” said Carl Chaney, the company’s president and CEO.
We are thankful to Whitney Bank for its generous support and interest. This support from a leading business institution ensures that we can advance our mission to tell the full story of the American experience in the war that changed the world.
For more information regarding the 2013 Whitney Bank Victory Ball, please contact Jessica Skelly, Director of Special Events, at 504.528.1944 ext. 334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National WWII Museum is proud to highlight capstone donor Frank B. Stewart, Jr., a dedicated supporter and advocate of the Museum since before its inception. Born and raised in New Orleans, Mr. Stewart saw the need early on for the city to become home to a “venue to teach present generations and generations to come the price of peace and the consequence of war.” In addition to his capstone gift, he has served on the Museum’s Board of Trustees, and has generously supported ongoing exhibit planning efforts. His lifetime of service and spirit of giving are illustrated in the above photographs.
Stewart remembers sitting at school while hearing President Roosevelt’s famous address to Congress and to the nation on December 8, 1941, the day after the surprise Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. He remembers listening and asking questions such as “what does the word infamy mean?” He and his schoolmates were “scared to death” of what was to come, rushing to the basement and huddling together with a fear of the unknown.
He felt inspired to take action. Even children had a job to do. Shown in the photo to the far left above, an 8-year-old Stewart had collected several tin cans to take to Audubon Grammar School on Broadway when the State Waste Fats Campaign began. Mr. Stewart embraced the spirit that everyone old enough for school was expected to collect items for the war effort. He remembers collecting foil, gum wrappers, cans of lard, hangers, and newspapers while pulling along a wagon that held his bounty. As a young student he collected newspapers every weekend for five years, determined to make his school “first in the nation.”
Stewart’s dad was a WWII air raid warden, responsible for enforcing regulations during an air attack. He remembers having to turn all the lights off and pull down the shades as precautions. Strange as it may seem today, there were constant fears that bombs would be dropped at any time. His mother made bandages two to three days a week as part of a wives group organized by the Red Cross, and he recalls slipping into Higgins Industries shipyards to watch with fascination the production lines where military landing craft were manufactured.
After the war, as Stewart became an adult, he remained dedicated to public service and to the spirit of citizenship. He served in the US Navy on mine sweepers patrolling the coasts of Florida and Cuba in 1950s. He was commissioned in the year 1957, and was promoted to lieutenant junior grade at the age of 25. A photograph taken around the time of this promotion is shown above. A graduate of Jesuit High School and Tulane University in New Orleans, Stewart has always given priority to discipline, which he defines as “the ability to make yourself do what you have to do or should do, rather than what you want to do.” He believes this principle is the foundation for success in life and was the key to Allied victory in World War II.
Stewart first became involved with the Museum through a meeting with Stephen Ambrose and Gordon “Nick” Mueller, both then serving as University of New Orleans history professors. Mr. Stewart said he will never forget that meeting. He recalls being deeply impressed with Stephen Ambrose; he had watched his lectures and was familiar with his books. When they explained their plan to build a museum to honor the veterans of WWII and preserve the story for future generations, and that it “would not happen unless a commitment was made,” Stewart recognized the importance of the idea and provided a critical early gift. As a result of such support, The National D-Day Museum concept came to life and the institution opened to the public on June 6, 2000.
Stewart still considers that gift as one of the more gratifying achievements of his life. He feels philanthropy is important because “life has given me everything. I have got to give back because of what life has given to me.” The lesson he most wants to share with others – through the Museum and its programs – is how America won the war after trailing badly in its defense preparation, and how citizens can succeed at anything through discipline and hard work. He feels it is important to share what he has learned in his lifetime. His philosophy: “I am a relay runner in life. I have obtained the baton of knowledge from men that have come before me, and I have to use it and pass it on to the next runner.”
He hopes to be remembered for “having done the right thing for the right reason.”
We extend our sincere thanks to Mr. Frank B. Stewart, Jr. His leadership gift continues to allow us to fulfill our mission of telling the story of the war that changed the world – why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today. The National WWII Museum would not be where it is today without his generous support.
Post by Donor Relations Manager Lauren Bevis
The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world - why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today - so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.