Meridian Ball at 50: Shining Fresh as Ever


The Meridian Ball, a perennial favorite among Georgetowners, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this fall. But don’t expect over-the-top theatrics at the Oct. 12 dinner and after-party.

“The real star of the show is the history and legacy of the ball. We’re celebrating five decades of leaders who have made the event the success it is today,” explains Natalie Jones, Meridian’s Senior Vice President of external relations and a former deputy chief of protocol at the State Department.

Every first lady since Patricia Nixon has lent her name to the glamorous affair, which is attended by Cabinet secretaries, business leaders, ambassadors and members of Congress. Last year, House Speaker Paul Ryan was the king of the night, the most talked-about guest.

Other participants aren’t as well known, but are just as special to Meridian. This year, Jones and her team are corralling an impressive list of ball chairs of the past. She is most proud of the attendance of Jane Sloat Ritchie, the ball’s first ringleader, back in 1968.

Now well into her 80s, Ritchie is still waving the flag of Meridian, which bills itself as a global leadership organization through its ongoing programs and dialogue-fostering events throughout the year.

On the day of the ball, Meridian participants will gather at the Ronald Reagan Building for sessions on technology and innovation across borders and other weighty global matters.

Then, in the evening, the party gets underway.

The Meridian team has the tedious task of channeling 500 guests to one of nearly 40 small dinner parties hosted by foreign ambassadors at their homes. Belgium, Germany, Colombia, Peru, Japan and Mexico are just a few places where you could end up for an elegant multi-course meal.

More than 300 other guests will dine at the White-Meyer House, the stately family home of the late Katharine Graham. This is one of many illustrious connections between the ball and the Georgetown community.

Stuart Holliday, a proud Hoya (Georgetown University grad), has been the CEO of Meridian since 2006. He and his wife Gwen are credited with the continuing success of the ball, building the perfect bridge between the past and a new generation of Meridian donors.

“Georgetown residents have been leaders and advocates for international engagement since the beginning. From the School of Foreign Service, my alma mater, to foreign policy leaders such as the Wisners, the Nitzes and the Cutlers, Meridian has been a great purpose and cause for many who call Georgetown home,” Holliday tells us.

Rep. Francis Rooney, a Republican from Florida who lives on at 33rd and O Streets NW, has been involved with the ball for years, as have Georgetown jeweler Ann Hand and Jane and Calvin Cafritz.

After the dinner, guests converge at Meridian House, a stunning example of Beaux-Arts architecture, for dancing and dessert. DJ Nikola, a local celebrity, will be keeping the dance floor pumping, while an orchestral quartet will be on hand for lovers of more traditional music.

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