In July 2000, Joanne Silver and her husband Ron were in Paris for an international conference where they dined with a friend, Françoise Lecoutour, president of the Caen Lyceum Club, Normandy. She had written and spoken of Lyceum several times and on this occasion, it was for Joanne le bon moment to undertake such a venture as Françoise said, “Oh, we would love to have a Lyceum Club in the United States!”
Joanne and Françoise continued to correspond and with the support of Caroline Travers, then International President, Joanne began work on the Statutes. In November 2001 a letter was sent to Ms. Travers in Australia, officially stating the intention to form a Lyceum Club in the Philadelphiaarea. A list of interested and interesting women with varied backgrounds was drawn up. Early in 2002 preparations were in place to form the club.
In June 2002, the Silvers again visited France and were warmly received by Françoise and members of the Lyceum Clubs. Two receptions were held – one in Françoise’s home “La Crichonnière” in Le Fresne-Camilly, Normandy, and the second at the Paris apartment of Solange Thierry de Saint-Rapt, the Paris Lyceum President. Both these events were well attended, with warm greetings and sincere hospitality. In Paris, Joanne gave a short speech of thanks for this marvelous welcome and for their enthusiasm and support of the founding of the first United States Lyceum Club.
In August 2002, Joanne Silver, Monica Connolly, Marilyn Conwell, Cynthia Lyman and Gail Infield—core members—reviewed the draft of the Statutes, which had been modeled after the international statutes in force at that time. With twenty members, the first Annual General Meeting took place in December 2002 at Joanne’s home in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Officers were elected and Circles of Interest were established. The Statutes were ready and were sent to the BCl in Stockholm in May 2003 for approval and then to the International Council in Basel in May 2004.
Since its beginning the Philadelphia club has pursued the goals of lifelong learning through cultural visits to area museums, some visits led by docents who are members of this club. In the area of extending our knowledge and appreciation of other cultures, a professor and Chinese national spoke to us about China Past and Present. We hosted a program by two Iranian women who spoke about the plight and current status of women in that country. In addition to this woman’s issue, a local author spoke to members, their daughters and granddaughters about her motivation for writing children’s books for girls, empowering them to pursue whatever career they wish. Another distinguished speaker was a survivor of the Nazi occupation of Belgium, speaking to our group about first-hand experiences of her time working for the Belgian Resistance. Service projects have included gathering books for a library which had been destroyed by flood, providing clothing for women about to reenter the professional work force, supplying school supplies to children of migrant families and providing funds to inner-city schools for art supplies. We have also supported organizations such as Doctors without Borders and Heifer International to provide health care and better hygiene to underprivileged people.
In October 2008 our club hosted Cultural Days in Philadelphia where we welcomed over 80 members from Australia and Europe who attended the four-day program. The highlight of the Cultural Days was the twinning ceremony between the Philadelphia and the Paris clubs. Since that time members of the Philadelphia Club have visited the Paris club and have strengthened the bonds of friendship among their members.
The Philadelphia Lyceum Club is proud to be part of the International Lyceum family, and continually strives to live by its philosophy and its goals!