The Valley Line: USC Town & Gown goes to lunch

I had a play date with my daughter, Heather, on Mother's Day weekend, a fun escape to San Francisco. On Saturday, the morning fog blanketed the city and the foghorns called out their mournful cry, giving the city such an eerie feeling.

Just as the fog lifted and the sun peeked out, we made our way to beautiful Golden Gate Park and the de Young Museum. Our destination was the exquisite and famed painting, "The Girl with the Pearl Earring" by Johannes Vermeer.

I have loved this painting ever since I first studied it in art history in college. I could hardly contain my excitement that I was actually going to be seeing it in person. The painting, often called "The Dutch Mona Lisa," is one of only 35 known paintings by the masterful Vermeer. The de Young was very fortunate to receive this painting for a short time since its usual resting place is at the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague, which is undergoing renovation.

Reproductions of this magnificent artwork do not come close to illustrating how exquisite this small painting is — it is absolutely luminous.

The exhibit at the de Young concludes June 2, so if you want to see this beautiful lady and many prints by Rembrandt, you had better hurry.

After our museum crawl we wandered about the city for a while then ended up in the Castro section of the city for dinner. Our restaurant choice, Poesia, was a recommendation from a friend and it was a delightful place to dine. Poesia, Italian for poem or poetry, was exactly that — culinary poetry— creative and innovative in every way, certainly not the usual Italian fare. We loved the cozy, neighborhood ambience and the fact the meals were moderately priced, as opposed to the fare in many San Francisco eateries. Give it a whirl next time you are in the City by the Bay.


A record crowd of nearly 800 people attended the Town & Gown of USC's annual Scholarship benefit luncheon, held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Carol Mollett, a La Cañada Flintridge resident who is president of Town & Gown, did a superb job of coordinating the many elements that made the event such a success. Vicki McCluggage, also a LCF resident, co-chaired the benefit with Michele Engemann.

Under the banner of "Visions and Voices of Philanthropy," the event honored USC President C. L. Max Nikias and his wife, Niki C. Nikias, for their continued support and promotion of the arts and humanities at the university. In addition, alumna Marlo Thomas, actress, author and activist, received the Town & Gown Lifetime Achievement Award.

Thomas was a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority while at USC, and earned her bachelor's degree in education and English in 1959.

Max Nikias established Visions and Voices in fall 2006, during his tenure as USC provost, to provide an inspiring and provocative experience for all students at the university, regardless of their major or class level.

Niki C. Nikias, USC's first lady and the honorary president of Town & Gown, was recognized for her influential role as an art aficionado.

The USC Marching Band got the festivities off to a spirited beginning by marching through the ballroom to the stage where their legendary leader, Arthur C. Bartner, directed them.

After luncheon was served, guests enjoyed watching a fashion show of spring and summer fashions presented by Trojan alum Robert Ellis.

Kimberly Ostiller, a 2012 Rose Princess who attended Flintridge Prep, is a scholarship student at USC. She was one of the student models showing the latest fashions from campus.

McCluggage and Engemann made presentations to the honorees. In her acceptance speech, Thomas moved the audience to tears when she talked about the young patients she has worked with at St. Jude Hospital.

Town & Gown supports the university through undergraduate and graduate scholarships, campus enhancements and cultural programs. To date, it has awarded over $50 million in scholarship funds to more than 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students, and boasts more than 169 fully endowed scholarships, with the numbers growing every year.


It was an unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon when nearly 200 people gathered in the backyard of Julie and David Battaglia's beautiful La Cañada Flintridge home for an event themed, "Wines of Italy, A Tasting Experience."

Organized by the Los Altos Auxiliary of Hathaway-Sycamores, the soiree raised much-needed funds to help care for and brighten the lives of youngsters — many of who have endured unimaginable trauma — who live at Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services' El Nido campus in Altadena.

Guests sampled eight highly rated regional Italian wines, starting with a sparkling prosecco, followed by crispy whites and then moving on to heartier reds from Tuscany.

Light appetizers, chosen specifically to pair with the selected wines, were prepared and served by culinary students of Le Cordon Bleu who volunteered their time as members of the school's Community Outreach Club. They were under the direction of chef Jaime Colboth-MacLeod.

The delightful fund-raising event was co-chaired by Kelly Springer and Diane Poryes.

Julie McCarty, president of Los Altos, welcomed and thanked the guests for their support of Hathaway-Sycamores. She then introduced Roshawn Davis, who spoke about her experiences as a resident at the facility in its Independent Living Program. She is now a fulltime employee of Hathaway-Sycamores as a student advocate.

Bill Martone, president and CEO of Hathaway-Sycamores, said, "The Los Altos Auxiliary makes a year-round difference in the lives of those who call our residential-treatment facility home. We appreciate the efforts of every member of this extraordinary group."

He also mentioned that proceeds from last year's wine-tasting event were used to remodel the residential dining room and added a "cyber café" for recreation as well as one-on-one therapy sessions, group therapy, tutoring, and studying.


JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada social scene. Email her at with news of your special event.

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