125 Le Bal Celebrators







Watching as the elegant guests—400 strong—ascend the Four Seasons staircase for the Alliance Francaise’s 25 Le Bal thrown by its Woman’s Board, what else to say but tres chic? Chicago’s cultural, civic, and social leaders and prominent members of the French community gathered to celebrate the 125th anniversary of one of Chicago’s oldest cultural institutions whose glamor is always matched by its commitment to outreach.


Executive Director Mary Ellen Connellan with the Woman’s Board.


Elisabeth Adams (Gala Co-chair), Cheryl Sandner (Woman’s Board President), and Gail Hoffman (Gala Co-chair).

The Gala, chaired by Liz Adams and Gail Hoffman, raised key operating funds for education, language immersion programs for Chicago Public Schools students from core neighborhoods, and cultural offerings at the Alliance. Cheryl Sandner serves as Woman’s Board President.


Educational outreach students.

Board President David Horn summed up the elegant evening that included a toast from Yannick Tagand, Consul General of France in Chicago: “I think that for everyone there, it was such a welcome relief to be out socially after so many months of pandemonium  and isolation, to be celebrating in such a beautiful venue, putting on our ‘good clothes’ to celebrate 125 years of the Alliance Française de Chicago! And with great gratitude to our Woman’s Board who worked so hard and of which can only be said that it was une soirée magnifique.”


David Horn with Catharine Hamilton, Honorary Co-Chair.


Merche, Myriam and Jack Bransfield.

The gala recognized two leaders applauded internationally and beloved at home, Catharine Hamilton and Myriam Bransfield, for their roles in shaping the organization. Hamilton was honored for her many years of dedication to French culture and to the Alliance, and Bransfield was presented the Prix de l’Alliance Française de Chicago. Hamilton served as Honorary Chair of the Bal.

Priceless photos of early Chicago days, when the Alliance came into being along with the Art Institute, the Field Museum, the University of Chicago, and many other institutions were shared with guests as part of the Alliance’s history project.


Consul General of France in Chicago Yannick Tagand and his wife, Mélina Blanc, with Betsey and Dale Pinkert.


Paula Castro and AF Professionals Group President Sal Maldonaldo.


Phiillip Lantz, Margaret Unetich, Veronique Bushala, Kristina Schneider, and Michael Seuring.


Isabelle, David, and Judith Zaslavsky.


Mika Devonshire and Leanne Zappia.

The 75-member Woman’s Board executed an evening of innovative entertainment, terrifically successful live auction offerings and a passionate paddle raise, French-inspired cuisine paired with French wines, and the music of the John Paris Band.  An afterparty with DJ Madrid kept guests dancing late into the night.


Champagne Lady-New Moon actor.


Executive Director Mary Ellen Connellan with co-chairs Gail Hoffman and Elisabeth Adams toasting the Alliance Française de Chicago..

Executive Director Mary Ellen Connellan said, “Everyone present was ready for a party and our wonderful Woman’s Board delivered une fête extraordinaire! Together we raised our glasses to 125 years of French language and French culture at the Alliance Française de Chicago and to an even more glorious future!”


For more about the Alliance Francaise de Chicago, visit af-chicago.org.