The 2012 National Smart Set Conclave was a whirlwind of fun and festivities from Oct. 11 through Oct. 14. The weekend drew more than 300 members from 25 chapters around the country to celebrate 75 years of friendship and enjoy the sights and sounds of Philadelphia. The group was founded in 1937 by Howard University students and there are now 650 members nationwide.
The Philadelphia Chapter last hosted a conclave in 1988. President Linda Gilliam and conclave chair, Stephanie Marsh Golson were at the helm as the entire membership pulled out the stops to make this a truly memorable event.
On Thursday, the chapter hosted a Philly party at the Doubletree Hotel on the Mezzanine with the best of Philly music and food chaired by Phillipa Ashby. Members wore their official colors — red and white — and “Philly Love" shirts. Many continued to party at the Sugarhouse Casino. On Friday, guests enjoyed the Philadelphia Historic and African-American Tour (PHAAT) where they had an opportunity to see and tour historic sites such as Mother Bethel AME Church in South Philadelphia.
Many of the husbands and significant others, known as Special Setters, enjoyed a golf outing at the Bala Golf and Country Club, an event chaired by Smart Setter Lynne Dudley.
The conclave chair’s husband, Byron Golson, led the Special Setters to the Simeone Car Foundation Museum, the only collection of vintage racing cars in the world. A guest from Dallas, Dr. Gary Dennis, was even more excited to meet retired renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Frederick Simeone. Some of the Special Setters even got to ride in a 1953 Cunningham!
One of the very special highlights of the Conclave was a reception and party at the Barnes Foundation Museum, chaired by City Solicitor Shelley Smith. Mayor Michael Nutter presented the club with a proclamation, declaring Oct. 11, 2012, "National Smart Set Day in Philadelphia." The Urban Guerilla Orchestra performed and everyone danced and toured the museum with four docents. The guests were, simply, in awe of the Barnes — its ambiance, the music, food, and art. “Thanks to Shelley, we were the first African-American group to host a party there since it’s opening,” Stephanie Marsh Golson said.
Thelma Howell, a founder of the Philadelphia chapter in 1941 was honored at a lovely jazz brunch chaired by Aretha Marshall. Mrs. Howell was accompanied by family including Smart Setters Angelique Seay Howell, Dianne Howell and Nancy Howell Christian. The band was fabulous and even played tunes by Benny Golson. The food was delicious and plentiful with Bloody Marys and Mimosas flowing. The jazz brunch also featured a fabulous 75th anniversary red and white cake created by Sweet Jasmine.
Joan Shepp and Boyds held receptions in honor of Smart Setters at their respective boutiques as members shopped. The ladies also loved on site vendors and their fabulous wares thanks to Gail Hawkins Bush.
The group rode trolleys to the Westin Hotel for a cocktail reception and “Diamonds are Forever” Gala chaired by Scheryl Glanton and Dr. Linda Gilliam. National President Judy Banks presented Dr. William R. Harvey, President of Hampton University, with a $12,500 check to support the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute which is a patient treatment facility for cancer patients. Dr. Harvey’s wife, Norma, is a Smart Setter in the Tidewater Va Chapter. Banks’ aunt, Irma Brooks, is a member of the Philadelphia chapter.
The Gala highlighted a special meal of filet mignon and crabcakes and a custom “Smart Set Parfait” with the Smart Set emblem in white chocolate. A moving and emotional part of the gala was when all the Smart Setters sang the club’s theme song, "That's What Friends Are For" by Dionne Warrick.
The party continued in one of the hottest spots in town, the Doubletree hospitality suite, thanks to Florence Wright, Donna Ross and Special Setter, Vinnie Ross. The fabulous D.J., food and lively crowd, made this the place to be after hours.
Smart Setter Dale Cochran, widow of the late Johnnie Cochran, and Dr. Carol Bennett, wife of renowned neurosurgeon, Dr. Keith Black, flew in from L.A. for the conclave. Others traveled from as far as New Orleans, Savannah, Chicago, Scottsdale, San Francisco, Atlanta, Charlotte and of course, Washington, D.C. We were honored to have charter members, Yvonne Simpkins and Ernestine McQuinn, travel from D.C.
The new National President, Phyllis Sherill, from the Tidewater, Va. Chapter received a warm welcome.
The weekend ended on another high note with Sunday breakfast and music and dance performed by Canaan Baptist Church Music and Dance Ministry. Rev. Derick Brennan of Canaan gave the invocation at the brunch and gala and is married to Smart Setter Alberta Brennan. Thelma Howell, officially, closed the Conclave with a special poem.
Every aspect of the Conclave was meticulously carried out. The artist who designed the incredible invitation and program is Smart Setter Susan Jarvis Ragland of the Philadelphia Chapter.
“We received so many notes, e-mails and calls about the fabulous time our guests had during the conclave”, remarked Stephanie Marsh Golson. “It was great to showcase our city’s history, art, food and music.”
Congratulations to all event chairs, officers and members of the Philadelphia Smart Set. In addition to the above, congratulations and special thanks to Conclave treasurer Tracie Butler Giles, Registrars Binky Seay, and Diane Chew Bowser and Gift Chair Karen Cousins for fabulous teamwork. Congratulations to the following additional members: Gina Atkins, Robin Bush Michelle Granger, Yvonne Gordon, Sharon Lozier, Bari Simpkins, Francine Boone, Tara Elliot, Tracy Glascoe, Jean Armstrong, Irma Brooks, Marjorie Chew, Althea “Terri” Cousins, Alice Davenport, Dorothy Davis, Jane Henderson, Helen Hyde, Wilma Lawrence, Harriet Logan, Lois Schmidt and Nathalie Simpkins for a job well done.
My sister, Marjorie Chew, has always told me how much she loves being a Smart Setter. I know why!