The Crowd: Debutantes presented to Newport society

In time-honored tradition, 22 young women, members of the Newport Chapter of National Charity League Inc., were presented to society at the 51st Newport NCL debutante ball on Nov. 26.

Resplendent in their white ball gowns and escorted by the gentlemen in their lives, who were attired in formal white tie, the debutantes danced the night away. They were marking a tradition, leaving youth behind and entering adulthood as accomplished women on a track for successful lives both in terms of personal achievement and community involvement.

The statistics associated with this model of success are impressive. Each of the debutantes are enrolled in colleges and universities across America. Cal Berkeley, Stanford, USC, Dartmouth, NYU and Auburn are among the institutions the 2011 NCL debutantes attend. Additionally, many of the women are college athletes, student body leaders holding office, and members of academic honor roll societies.

They come to the debutante ceremony after having collectively devoted more than 11,300 hours of service to some 30 Orange County philanthropies over a six-year program, which begins in the seventh grade.

Three crucial life lessons are imparted:

First, commitment to a long range goal.

Second, service to community as a multi-generational process involving mother and daughter — and in many instances also grandmother and even great-grandmother.

Third, and perhaps most important, developing a strong sense of self, hopefully built on values that are based on charitable and humanitarian pursuit.

In short, an old-fashioned tradition that may indeed be more important in today's society than in past times when this rite of passage was certainly more of a social event reserved only for the wealthy Anglo-Saxon Christian segment of the American landscape.

More than 400 guests, family and friends of the debutants, converged upon the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Irvine, for the elegant event. Each young lady was presented wearing her NCL Medallion, taking the St. James bow and walking the formal aisle on the arm of her escort.

Then it was time for the first dance, a traditional waltz where most of the debs took the arm of their fathers. Mothers across the Hyatt ballroom shed silent tears of joy.

A new tradition was inaugurated as the mothers were invited to join them on the dance floor as the debs turned over their fathers and sponsors to the mothers and completed the first dance with invited young men escorting them to the affair.

Following a sentimental toast, a three-course dinner was served as the crowd danced into the night to the music of society orchestra leader Jay Sterling.

Each of the mothers and all of the volunteers deserve credit for their dedication. Of special note, kudos to the 2011 debutante director Kathy Ursine, assistant director Aaron Searcy, and committee members Denise Labbé, Molly Calder, Corey Bakkila, Chris Luebke, Lisa Matar, Allison Olmstead, Betsy King, Nancy Vaughan, Carrie Young, Lori Junkins, Rosanna Chila, Lorraine Gyulay, Marivi Leonard and Kathleen Farmer.

Special NCL generational legacies in attendance included Cathleen Bledsoe with daughter Piper Bledsoe, Doreen Chandler with Hayley Mae Chandler, Becky Conway with Lauren Diane Conway, and Constance Davidson with Victoria Elizabeth Davidson. Younger sisters of former NCL debs included Nicole Frinzi, Madeline Anne Strutner, and Catherine Ann Sullivan.

The 2011 debutantes are Miss Chelsea Marie Barth, Miss Piper Cathleen Bledsoe, Miss Brooke Erin Braga, Miss Katrina Lee Burke, Miss Catherine Anne Carpenter, Miss Hayley Mae Chandler, Miss Kathryn Ann Conner, Miss Lauren Diane Conway, Miss Lauren Taylor D'Ippolito, Miss Victoria Elizabeth Davidson, Miss Katherine Elizabeth Fox, Miss Nicole Ann Frinzi, Miss Andrée LeCaron Keith, Miss Katherine Carol Leonard, Miss Matilda Ann Lumpkin, Miss Allyson Kristina Mason, Miss Katherine Marie Matthews, Miss Abigail Jane McBean, Miss Lauren Sara Stanton, Miss Madeline Anne Strutner, Miss Catherine Ann Sullivan and Miss Natalie Marina Swift.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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