St. Charles Avenue magazine is proud to present its Activists of the Year 2016 – our 21st year!

Read on to learn why Peggy Laborde, Beverly Matheney, Alan Philipson, Frank and Paulette Stewart and Mary Ann Valentino are honored here for the gifts of their time, their efforts, their energies, their specialties – themselves – that they have given to our city.

What you’ll see is that though we’re only able to scratch the surface of their activism, their profiles will encourage and embolden you to take a more active role in our community and the nonprofits that make up its framework.

Activists of the Year
Alan Philipson

Alan Philipson enjoyed a very successful career manufacturing men’s gift items. He took his small regional company and turned it into a national distributor for almost every retail chain in the country. Instead of retiring, he swapped this dynamic commercial career for a new one focused entirely on giving back.

It was Sydney Besthoff, the well-known New Orleanian and philanthropist, who planted the seed for Alan’s second career, when he asked Alan to join the Isidore Newman School Board.

Alan had already offered his services to two other organizations that told him they would call him back; to this day they never have. It was clearly their loss, as he set about channeling his entrepreneurial skills into the task of fundraising for the school and eventually went on to chair the Newman Board. He credits Newman for enabling him to find his philanthropic passions. His two children, both of whom went to Newman, are memorialized there, and Alan still serves on the board.

Alan is currently immersed in the work of the Bricolage Academy and believes that it will become the benchmark for public education in New Orleans, in Louisiana and perhaps at a national level. He gives all credit to the academy’s founder, Josh Densen, and Densen’s staff, and says he’s honored to have worked with this team in taking the academy from an idea to a thriving public school.

Alan is also heavily involved with the Metropolitan Crime Commission and serves on several other boards, including the Industrial Development Board of New Orleans, WYES and Ursuline Academy.

Alan’s commitment to the city of New Orleans is absolute, he says. “New Orleans means everything to me. I love this city and hope to, in some small way, help it become the best city in the country.” His contribution to this goal is undeniable.

Selected Past & Present Organizations:

Bricolage Academy (Board Member, Chairman)

Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans (Advisory Council Member)

Industrial Development Board of City of N.O. (President)

Family Service of Greater New Orleans (Open Door Awardee)

Greater New Orleans Foundation ( Board Member)

Huguenot Society of Louisiana (Club Member)

Hurstville Security District (Founder, Secretary/Treasurer)

Isidore Newman School (Board Member, Chairman)

Kingsley House (Board Member)

KIPP Charter Schools (Board Member, Treasurer)

Lambeth House Foundation (Board Member, President)

Longue Vue House and Gardens (Board Member)

Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry (Board Member, Chairman)

Louisiana SPCA (first Vice President)

Low Cost Animal Medical Clinic (Board Member)

Metropolitan Crime Commission (Chairman)

National Jewish Medical and Research Center (Humanitarian Awardee)

New Orleans Lawn Tennis (Member)

New York Athletic (Club Member)

Pro Bono Publico Foundation (Board Member)

School of Design (Member)

Ursuline Academy (Board Member)

Valencia Board (Board Member)

WYES/Channel-12 (Board Member, Treasurer)

Activists of the Year
Beverly Matheney

Beverly Matheney’s dedication to philanthropy started when at 13 she was asked to participate in The Urban League Guild Youth Steppers. This group was started by the leadership of the Urban League Guild to inspire a generation of community minded volunteers. Beverly later served as the President of the Youth Steppers.

Her passion for civic responsibility has stayed with her, as has her involvement with the Urban League. A proud moment came in 2012, when the Urban League of Greater New Orleans hosted the National Urban League conference. As the sitting President of the local Guild Chapter of Greater New Orleans, Beverly welcomed the National Guild leadership celebrating its 70th year anniversary.

As a Registered Nurse, helping others is second nature to Beverly.

Twenty years ago, she used her nursing expertise to establish and teach a free medical assistance class to help individuals to enter the workforce.

As she sees it, “There are few things in life as meaningful as volunteering in your community. Activism has many rewards, but none as rewarding as seeing the successes of those you have helped.”

Beverly serves on a number of boards, each of which supports the community in a unique way. She channels her passion for the arts through her work with Young Audiences of Louisiana, which uses art to enhance learning in young children. As a past President of the Board, Beverly has been a driving force behind the highly successful fundraiser, “Dancing for the Arts,” and has helped fellow board members establish a Young Audiences Charter School at Kate Middleton. At the school, the arts are used to enhance learning and empower children to become part of today’s innovative and entrepreneurial economy.

Her passion for community is rekindled regularly as a member of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, and her husband Robert and her son Aaron are often involved in her efforts to make this city better.

Selected Past & Present Organizations:

American Heart Association ( Board Member, Founding Member Circle of Red, “Pursonality” Chair)

Arts Council of New Orleans ( Board Member, luncheon Chair)

Casa Argentina New Orleans

Council of Alcohol and Drug Abuse for Greater New Orleans (Vice President)

English Turn Garden Club ( Vice President)

Links Inc., Crescent City Chapter

Mystic Krewe of Femme Fatale (Inaugural Member)

New Orleans Botanical Garden Foundation (Board Member)

Urban League Guild of Greater New Orleans ( Guild President, Board Member)

West Jefferson Hospital (Chair “Ruby Red Luncheon”)

Woman of Fashion (Prix D’Elegance Award, Board Member)

Young Audiences of Louisiana (Board Member, President, Chair “Dancing For The Arts,” Outstanding Service and Leadership Awardee)

Activists of the Year
Frank Stewart

“I have spent 55 years in death care,” says Frank Stewart. Death care begins when healthcare ends, or when everything has been done to sustain a life. It covers all the practicalities of the funeral, cremation, burial and memorialization. Frank believes the enormous success of his firm was built on its ability to help people face the reality that we have but two choices in life: “We can make our own decisions in regard to the final rites, or we can have someone make those decisions for us after we leave this physical world.”

In 1959, after serving as an officer in the Navy, Frank joined Stewart Enterprises, the family firm. The organization, which had become the world’s second largest death care provider, with national and international expansion and a NASDAQ listing, was recently acquired by Service Corporation International.

“I credit my success by surrounding myself with people I can look up to,” he says. “Give them the title, give them the authority, give them the compensation, give them the coaching and get out of their way.”

At 81 years old, he’s deeply involved in scores of nonprofit organizations. The rationale for these extensive philanthropic endeavors is the goal to give back to his community, the community that has offered him countless opportunities and joys.

Frank has served on more than 30 nonprofit boards and he has been involved in too many organizations to mention.

When it comes to his greatest accomplishment, however, Frank smiles, “It was marrying my incredible wife, Paulette de la Vergne, in 1961, with whom we raised Trey and Betty,” he says. Frank and Paulette thoroughly enjoy their children and two grandchildren, Carter and Mason Poole. “We are immensely proud of them,” he says.

Privileged to have worked and travelled extensively in the U.S. and the world, Frank says, “There is no other place that has more appeal or a better environment than New Orleans.”

Selected Past & Present Organizations:

Archbishop’s “Community Appeal”

Boy Scouts of America

Chamber of Commerce (Chairman 1996)

CityBusiness Editorial Advisory Board


Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital (1972-’84)

Jesuit High School


Maison Hospitaliere (1978-’79)

Mercy Hospital (Board of Development 1971-’77)

Military Order of Foreign Wars (Past Commander)

National World War II Museum

New Orleans Museum of Art

Ochsner (Medical Foundation Board 1994-’96, Board of Councilors to present)

Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman School of Business (Business Council (President 1993-’94)

Tulane University (Board of Administrators since 1992, Emeritus Club, Medical Center Board)

United Way of Greater New Orleans

World Trade Center (President 1991, Chairman 1992)

Young Presidents Organization

New Orleans Council of the United States Navy League

Serra Club

University of New Orleans (Business Council of College of Business Administration 1976-’77)

Volunteers of America (President’s Council)

Activists of the Year
Paulette Stewart

When you ask Paulette Stewart about her activism, she’ll immediately start telling you about all the wonderful work her husband, Frank Stewart (also a 2016 Activist), has done and continues to do. So you have to scratch a little deeper to find out that in addition to being a wonderful wife, homemaker and mother, Paulette has been serving the community in New Orleans and Louisiana in a multitude of different ways.

This interview finds Paulette fresh from chairing “Pasta & Puccini,” a benefit for the Jefferson Performing Arts Society. The gala raises money to support main stage performances and the society’s outreach programs. These programs serve at-risk students, disabled people and senior citizens, some of whom have never seen a main stage show.

For years, Paulette has also been involved in the Louisiana SPCA, serving on both the board and the advisory board. She has a deep belief that all animals should be treated with respect, dignity and compassion. The SPCA, through many outreach programs, educates young people starting in kindergarten on those issues. The SPCA also addresses the legislature and lobbies for laws banning cock fighting and prosecuting dog fighting, and works tirelessly to find forever homes for animals through outreach adoptions and transports animals to areas that need adoptable animals. The outreach programs are educational and social, and last year reached 4,600 children.

In 2015, the Paulette & Frank Stewart Adoption and Resource Center for the LASPCA opened its doors. It is a 40,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility dedicated to helping animals, and last year, 2,300 animals were adopted from that shelter. It houses a low-cost animal clinic and humane education and outreach services.

Paulette takes great joy from being able to help other people she says, “I have been blessed and most fortunate in my life and I am happy to share my blessings with others.”

There is no doubt that Paulette and Frank make a formidable team, and she credits him for his energetic and never-ending leadership. They frequently lend their home for nonprofit events, and Paulette has hosted countless community events including meetings, luncheons, teas, dinners and parties.

Her two children, Betty Poole and Trey Stewart, are also sources of great happiness in her life, as are her grandchildren, Mason Poole and Carter Poole. Her dedication clearly comes from her passion for the city. She loves the diversity of its culture, its great food, architecture, festivals, history and even the weather!

Selected Past & Present Organizations:

D-Day Museum (Co-Chair inaugural “Victory Ball”)

Chair, 2nd Victory Ball D-Day Museum (which evolved into the National World War II Museum)

Jefferson Performing Arts Society (Chair “Pasta & Puccini”)

Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (Chair “Opus Ball”)

Louisiana SPCA (Board & Advisory Board)

Loyola University College of Music & Fine Arts (Advisory Board Member)

New Orleans Museum of Art (Visiting Committee Member)

Activists of the Year
Mary Ann Valentino

When you consider Mary Ann Valentino’s long and fulfilling life, three things become clear: her deep and active faith, her dedication to the city of her birth and her love for her family.

Born in New Orleans, Mary Ann is a graduate of Ursuline Academy and Loyola University. At her first social at Loyola, Mary Ann Glorioso (as she was then) met Anthony J. “Val” Valentino and they hit it off immediately.

During the war, Anthony went into the Army. Mary Ann, wanting to help her country, too, taught herself to type and found employment at the Port of Embarkation, helping move troops around the world. In 1944, Mary Ann married “Val” and began a beautiful family that would grow to seven children.
Despite being busy raising a family, her drive to help others never faulted and she started working with social welfare organizations dealing with handicapped children, adults and those with special needs. Mary Ann became involved with St. Michael’s Special School in New Orleans and it continues to hold a special place in her heart.  She was also instrumental in the development of the Sophie Gumbel Guild (now called the Strive Center).

She has also lent her continued support to the New Orleans Opera Association and as Chairman of the Board of Governors she hosted an international event honoring the Spanish Ambassador to the United States.

While continuing to serve her community in a multitude of roles, Mary Ann enjoys being an active and involved grandmother to 18 children and 10 great grandchildren.

When asked where she finds the energy she says, “I have always derived a great sense of satisfaction in knowing that I had worked on projects that were beneficial to the community. I have been inspired by many people, in particular by several friends who were activists and outstanding women. I felt a sense of emulating them and Lucille Blum, now deceased, was a wonderful inspiration to me.”

Mary Ann says that the thing she loves most about her city is the people she has been fortunate to work with. It is the indeed the city and its people that have been fortunate.

Selected Past & Present Organizations:

1984 Louisiana’s World Fair (Vatican Volunteer Coordinator)

Academy of the Sacred Heart (Honorary Diploma)

Catholic Cultural Heritage Center (Board Member, The Pope John Paul Awardee)

Catholic Foundation Archdiocese of New Orleans (Board Member, Order of St. Louis Medal, Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal)

Cenacle Retreat House (Board Member, Cenacle Captain)

Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem (Member)Heart Ambassadors (Charter Member)

Eucharistic Missionaries of St. Dominic (Board Member)

Institute of Human Understanding (One of 10 Outstanding Persons Awardee)

Jesuit High School (Chairman Alma Mater Awards Luncheon, Alma Mater Award)

Louisiana Arts Council (Chairman Program for Special Children)

Louisiana Philharmonic Symphony (Co-Chair Women’s Committee, Chair Sun King Exhibit)

Loyola University (Chair Visiting Committee)

New Orleans Opera Association (Board Member, Chairman)

Our Lady of Holy Cross College (Honorary Doctorate Degree of Humanities)

St. Elizabeth’s Guild (Volunteer Activist Awardee, Juvenile Diabetes Awardee)

St. Michael’s Special School (President St. Michael’s Guild, Chairman “Blue Rose Charity Ball,” Co-Chair “Chef’s Charity for Children”)

Spirituality Center (Spirituality Award)

The Strive Center (Board Member, Gala Chair)

Ursuline Academy (Most Outstanding Alumnus Awardee)

Willwoods Community (Servus Fidelis Awardee)

WLAE-TV (Board of Trustees Member)

Young Women’s Christian Association (Co-Chair Inaugural Battered Women Program Luncheon)

Activists of the Year
Peggy Laborde

The power of volunteerism was imprinted on Peggy Laborde’s mind from an early age. She tells a story about her father Lyle LeCorgne, “I will always remember the advice from my dear dad. He would hold up a finger and say ‘This is one.’ Then he added a second finger and say, ‘This is not two but 11.’ Then he would add a third finger and say, ‘This is 111.’ He taught us from an early age how volunteer efforts can stretch to make a difference for so many people instead of a just a few.”

With that early teaching, it’s no surprise that Peggy believes there’s no better way to use your time than making a positive difference in the world. She believes that individuals have the power to enact change and improve lives, and improve them forever. One of her favorite quotes is: “Those that can do, those who can do more, volunteer.”

Peggy also credits her charitable work, and that of so many others, for breeding the optimism she feels about her city and she’s thankful for all the friends she has made along the way.

Peggy began her career as a microbiologist in Houston, but says her most rewarding job was raising her two children. Now her most fulfilling role is as a grandmother of four grandchildren 4 and younger.

It is no surprise that her current focus is children. One of her main projects is sponsorship of “Cultivating Communities” at Longue Vue House and Gardens. Students from local schools develop skills in gardening, entrepreneurship and philanthropy. She believes that early investment in children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, can have a fundamental and positive impact. Peggy is also heavily vested in the Louisiana Children’s Museum Early Learning Village, an ambitious plan to relocate to a new state-of-the-art facility in City Park that will offer a transformative experience in early childhood development.

Peggy has always believed that New Orleans is a cultural and architectural gem, and she’s one of its most active and effective volunteers.

Selected Past & Present Organizations:

The Audubon Institute (Chair “Scales and Ales,” Chair “Zoo-To-Do”)

Catholic Foundation (Board Member)

Children’s Hospital (Co-Chair “Sugarplum Ball”)

Friends of the Cabildo (Board Member)

Jesuit High School (Co-Chair “Celebration”)

Junior League New Orleans (Member, Sustainer of the Year Awardee)

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (Living and Giving Awardee)

Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation (Co-Chair “Save Our Lake”)

Lambeth House Foundation (President, Co-Chair “On Broadway”)

Longue Vue House and Gardens (Board President, Co-Chair “Sentimental Journeys”)

LSU Health and Science Center Dept. of Psychiatry and Dept. of Urology (Co-Chair galas)

Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (Board Member)

Loyola University (Board Member)

New Orleans Magazine Top Female Achiever Awardee

New Orleans Town Gardeners Inc. (Board Member)

Red Cross (Co-Chair ball)

St. Elizabeth’s Guild Activist (Co-Chair luncheon, Volunteer Activist Awardee)

United Way (Board Member)

Women of the Storm Executive Team (Member)