Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Who would have thought the social set would be so eager for another sumptuous repast so soon after a bounteous Thanksgiving feast?

It was hardly a penchant for gluttony, however, that drew 75 dinner guests to the residence of Greek Ambassador Alexander Philon and his wife, Helene, Monday night. When an eminently popular and charming Embassy Row couple play hosts to an event benefiting Washington’s SEED School, one of the city’s most worthy and popular causes, you drop everything and go, despite any lingering effects of holiday overindulgence.

Educationally minded philanthropists in the crowd had warmed to the SEED School concept right from the start, of course. The nation’s first urban college preparatory public boarding school, Schools for Educational Evolution and Development or SEED, was founded in 1998 to benefit “at risk” children who might not otherwise fulfill their academic potential. SEED has been a resounding success as well as a model for other schools across the country.

When the Philons heard that the SEED curriculum included classical Greek art, mythology, geography and philosophy, they were so impressed they decided to offer those who studied the hardest the opportunity to personally visit their homeland. Last summer, the first group of eight youngsters and two teachers visited Athens, Crete and other places they had studied in the school.

Until now, the program was funded by the Greek government, but the Philons are anxious to ensure that it continues into the future.

“We want to get it endowed while we’re still here,” Mrs. Philon said before event chairwoman Eileen Shields-West announced that enthusiastic supporters had contributed an astonishing $80,000 to the cause.

Jonathan Ledecky, whose $10,000 contribution made him the sole “Odysseus”-level donor, said he personally visited the school to meet the students who had earned their trip.

“The top kids get to go. What a great concept,” Mr. Ledecky told fellow benefactors. “Most of them hadn’t ever been on a big trip before. They were ecstatic, thrilled.”

“The boarding school experience opens up a whole new world for the students, and now Helene has brought it another step forward by taking them to Greece,” added Malcolm E. “Mike” Peabody, who knows a bit about the subject himself as a 1946 graduate of Groton (which his grandfather, the Rev. Endicott Peabody, founded in 1884).

After cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, guests enjoyed a performance of “Clerambault’s Orphee” by the Violins of Lafayette chamber orchestra (and narrated by two exceptionally poised SEED School students, Dion Milton and Sophia Echavarria), then dined on grilled scallops and potato flan, Peking duck in a chanterelle ragout and baked pears with blue cheese and a pine-nut baklava with nary an “I-couldn’t-possibly-eat-any-more-rich-food” demurral to be heard.

Well-sated guests included Selwa W. “Lucky” Roosevelt, Bitsey Folger, Ann McLaughlin Korologos, Pie Friendly, Tom and Chris Downey, Ann and Bill Nitze, Joseph and Alma Gildenhorn, Warren and Claire Cox and Diana and Mallory Walker.

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