WASHINGTON - June 6, 2015 - In a special ceremony at the Alliance Française de Washington D.C. on Thursday, June 4, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney Shareholder Leonard L. Silverstein was awarded the Belmondo Medal of the “Fondation Alliance Française – Paris," for his involvement with and contribution to the Alliance Française of Washington D.C. The Board of Directors and the management of the Alliance Française, as well as the staff and most of the teachers attended the ceremony which was held inside the library of the Alliance Française de Washington. The Alliance Française has been located in historic Kalorama since 1971 when the Board of Directors acquired the former French Consulate on Wyoming Avenue.
The medal, on behalf of Mr. Jérôme Clément, President of the ”Fondation Alliance Française – Paris,” was presented by Dr. Jean-François Hans, General Delegate of the “Fondation Alliance Française” in the United States. The current president of the Board of Directors, Annie Seys, spoke about Silverstein’s career and unrelenting commitment to the cultural and artistic life of Washington D.C. Dr. Hans delivered a speech honoring Silverstein’s engagement and benevolent work at the Alliance Française de Washington D.C.
Silverstein has been involved with the Washington chapter since he joined the Board of Directors in 1963. He was president of the Board from 1990 to 1993. The Alliance Française is an international network of non-governmental non-profit French Language and Cultural Centers founded in 1883 by French personalities, amongst them famed author Jules Verne.
His unparalleled attachment to the French language and culture in D.C. is reflected in the growth of the Washingtonian chapter that he helped enter into the digital revolution when he was president of the Board. Silverstein secured the Alliance Française de Washington’s first five computers, a fax machine, a printer and a photocopier machines in 1990. At a time when most small companies and few non-profits were still handling business manually, Silverstein already had the vision that the venerable American network should lead the way into the 21st century.
He also supported the cultural programming of the Alliance Française de Washington with events such as bringing the famous violin-maker Etienne Vatelot to the US; a theater play by Nathalie Sarraute; music with Caroline Haffner; History with French resistant Lucie Aubrac; and art de vivre with Julia Child.
He connected the Washington chapter of Alliance Française with many of its current cultural partners, such as the Kennedy Center. Besides his generous support of the organization, he also understood the need for the Alliance Française de Washington to develop and diversify, launched the first Board Development and Fundraising Committee and ordered the first market studies of the organization.
Silverstein holds a bachelor of arts degree from Yale University (class of 1943) and a law degree from Harvard (class of 1948). During World War 2, he was an officer in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific. He co-founded the law firm Silverstein and Mullens which later on merged with Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC.
From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Silverstein was the Treasurer of the American Committee for the Bicentennial of the French Revolution and actively promoted the event in several American cities. He is a former president of the French-American Cultural Foundation in Washington DC and is still an active or an honorary member of the French-American Foundation in NYC as well as numerous other prestigious organizations such as: the Movado Group, Inc. ; the Chevy Chase Bank; the White House Historical Association); the National Symphony Orchestra ; the Choral Arts Society of Washington; Madison Council of the Library of Congress; Foundation Vishnevskaya-Rostropovich; and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Silverstein is also a "Commandeur" in the order of the Legion of Honor, an order created by Napoleon 1.
The medal of the Fondation Alliance Française – Paris is in gold. It was sculpted by Paul Belmondo, father of famous actor Jean-Paul Belmondo. It is bestowed to former Alliance Française presidents whose long-term involvement and support of their chapter is inspiring and merits recognition.
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