PHOTOS: Casita Maria 2016 Fiesta at The Plaza Hotel

The Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education’s “Fiesta 2016” presented their Gold Medal of Honor to Marcelo Claure (President and CEO of Sprint Corporation), Joanna Fisher (noted arts philanthropist), and Hutton Wilkinson (interior designer) on Tuesday, October 18 at The Plaza Hotel in New York City. As is Fiesta’s tradition the gala co-chairs were Jacqueline Weld Drake and H. R. H. Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia.

Jacqueline Weld Drake

The Fiesta Honorary Chairs were Violaine & John Bernbach, Annabelle & Alberto Marica, and Lisa & Julian Niccolini.  

Violaine & John Bernbach

Guests included: Peter Bacanovic, Tony Bechara, Cynthia Boardman, Martha Bograd, Mercedes Bograd Levin,  Hamish Bowles, Geoffrey Bradfield, Mr. & Mrs. Daniel Brodsky, Amy Fine Collins, Suzi Cordish, Alvaro &  Rene Domingo, Brian Fisher, Ian Fisher, Phoebe Fisher, Nicole Fisher, Courtney Fisher, Michèle Gerber Klein, Mai Hallingby Harrison, Valesca Hermes-Guerrand, William Ivey Long, Christopher Mason, Mary McFadden, Haydee Morales, Sergio & Malu Millerman, Pilar & Juan Pablo Molyneux, Ann Nitze, Michele Oka Doner, Luis D. Ortiz, Dr.Luiza Petre, Ann Rapp, Hunt Slonem, Ben Rodriguez-Cubenas, Cole Rumbaugh, Sana Sabbagh, Hunt Slonem, Barbara & Donald Tober, and Kristi Witker Coons. 

Rima Sacre , Anne McPherson , Mary Cunney
Rima Sacre , Anne McPherson , Mary Cunney
Marcelo Claure, Jordan Claure, Sienna Claure, Bella Claure

One guest missing from the festivities was Sprint’s new commercial star Paul Marcarelli, who is a good friend of Marcelo Claure. Paul sent a lovely message about his friend in lieu of his attendance “I was raised by two devoted teachers, and so I have always viewed the pursuit of a career in education as a calling. That’s why I am especially sorry I am unable attend this very special night for The Casita Maria Center for Arts Education as it honors my friend, Sprint CEO MarceloClaure. You only have to talk with Marcelo for a few minutes to realize you are in the company of a passionate human being committed to using his voice to effect real change in the lives of his employees, his customers and people around the world…” Marcelo was honored by Casita Maria for his work to bridge the “homework gap” that 5 million families in the U.S. with school-age kids experience because of lack of connectivity.  Sprint will be connecting up to 1 million high school students with a new laptop through his new initiative.

Sergio Alvarez, Liza Alvarez
Courtney Fischer, Brett Driesen

Dinner Chairmen, Jacqueline Weld Drake, of the evening’s honorees and new executive director, “Each year we honor three outstanding individuals who, through their work, exemplify excellence in philanthropy and the arts. This year is no exception. Each understands the role the arts can play in young lives. I am delighted to introduce Casita Maria’s new Executive Director, Haydee Morales.”

Past honorees have included Santiago Calatrava, Roberto Cavalli, Patricia Cisneros, John Demsey, France Desmarais, Marta and Placido Domingo, Emilia and J. Pepe Fanjul, Carlos Fuentes, Audrey Gruss, Agnes Gund, Audrey Hepburn, Carolina Herrera, Julio Iglesias, Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg, EddiePalmieri, Rodman C. Rockefeller, Daisy Soros, and Lynn Wyatt.

Liz Peek, Dan Brodsky, Helena Martinez
Joshua Beamish, Elysia Dawn, Ramasar Andrew, Suare Kaminski
Hillary Latos , Francisco Romeo

The menu included an appetizer, of Fresh Smoked Salmon Tartar; an entrée, of Grilled Filet Mignon; and a delicious dessert, of Blackout Cake Redux- ChocolateCremeux and Dulee de Leche Molten Cheesecake.

Casita Maria’s board members include Jacqueline Weld Drake (chairman), Ben Rodriguez-Cubeñas (vice chairman), Gautam Patel (treasurer), MichèleGerber Klein (secretary).  Casita’s Trustees include Nancy Barry, John L. Bernbach, Martha Bograd, Mario Buccellati II, Diane E. Finnerty, Miguel A. Fuentes Jr., Alexandre Leviant, Alberto Mariaca, Alberto Mejia, Thomas C. Quick, Violy McCausland-Seve, Michael L. Ziegler Esq. Casita Maria’s Chairman’s Council incudes Daniel Brodsky, Ambassador Paul L. Cejas, Anne Eisenhower Flöttl, Wolfgang K. Flöttl, Sergio Millerman, Lewis S. Ranieri,and Pilar Crespi Robert.

Kamie Lightburn, Christopher Mason, Mary Mcfadden, Ishar Patkin, Michele Gerber Klein
William Ivey Long, Amy Fine Collins, Hamish Bowles
Brian fisher, Lisa Niccolini, Joanna Fisher, Julian Niccolini
Luis D’Ortiz


The mission of the Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education is to empower youth and their families by creating a culture of learning through high quality social, cultural, and educational opportunities. Casita Maria was founded in 1934 by Claire and Elizabeth Sullivan, two schoolteachers in the living room of their apartment. Their goal was to give the children of recently arrived Latino families the support they needed to meet the challenges of a new language and a novel school system.  The hope was that the young would thrive in their new homeland and lead their parents and their community to full participation in the American Dream. By developing innovative responses and programs as issues arose, relocating to the South Bronx as its community moved around the city, Casita has been able to effectively serve each new generation. By 1961, Casita was offering programs and essential services to thousands of New Yorkers.   Even when the Bronx “burned” in the 1970’s, Casita remained a safe haven and a gateway to opportunity. Today, Casita Maria is an institution, a driving force for scholastic enrichment through its vital after school and educational programs that focus on the arts and technology.

Tina Beriro, Barbara Tober, Jeanne Lawrence

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