A SPECIAL gala dinner was held last week at the Sheraton Hotel in honour of Blaine Tavares, who is retiring after 12 distinguished years as the president of the American Club of Lisbon (ACL).
Blaine, who has lived in Portugal since 1973, will be handing over the reins to Charles (Buck) Buchanan. But those who know Blaine Tavares doubt that the word “retirement” is appropriate – she plans to remain an active member in the association.
During her presidency of the ACL, Blaine has overseen more than 100 luncheons, addressed by a distinguished array of politicians, statesmen and celebrities. Among the guests have been former Prime Ministers Francisco Pinto Balsemão (whose son read out a tribute to Blaine at the gala), Pedro Santana Lopes, Durão Barroso and Cavaco Silva. Current Prime Minister José Sócrates, former President Mário Soares and Portuguese comedy institution Herman José have also addressed the club, as well as a sprinkling of international names, with the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan being the most famous example.
Membership of the ACL now stands at 500 – mostly Portuguese – but a total of 20 different nationalities make up the club.
Blaine has steered the ACL through its 50th anniversary and helped to co-found the (worldwide) Association of American Clubs with Jürgen Abel, the president of the American Club in Hamburg and a surprise guest at the Sheraton dinner.
Blaine said she was “bowled over” that her successor was Buck Buchanan, bearer of a distinguished CV and an accomplished fellow skier. Buck Buchanan should be the right person to take the club forward, if a little “over-qualified” as Blaine quipped.
A graduate of the US naval academy, Buck has a degree in engineering and two masters degrees in international relations and business management. After several years in the navy, he joined the diplomatic service, directing various economic and investment programmes in Latin America.
Guests at last Friday’s gala evening tucked into a succulent meal of tuna and avocado mousse, vegetable consommé and veal medallions followed by passion fruit mousse. Between courses, Blaine thanked her co-workers at the club and the Sheraton Hotel for providing the ACL with a home for the last 10 years. Blaine praised Anne Taylor Grave, the club’s executive director and director of public relations, citing her “boundless energy, enthusiasm and attention to detail”. She also cited her mentor, António Maria Pereira, one of the most well-known lawyers in Portugal and an active member of the American Club for over 40 years.
praises Blaine’s role
The ACL’s honorary president is America’s new ambassador to Portugal, Al Hoffman, who attended the dinner with his wife, Dawn. Ambassador Hoffman, a leading figure in philanthropic affairs, paid tribute to Blaine’s stewardship. “When I first arrived in Portugal, I was told the most important organisation I needed to know and understand was the American Club of Lisbon. There is always a key person in every organisation, who drives the vision and success of that organisation, and there is no doubt that Blaine has done that over the last 12 years,” he said.
Messages of goodwill also came from former American Ambassador to Portugal, John Palmer, whose warm tribute was read out at the dinner. “The American Club will simply not be the American Club without Blaine Tavares! I will always treasure the way you took such good care of this rookie ambassador and we thank you for the extraordinary job you have done,” he wrote. Long-time American Club member, Alex Costa, described Blaine as a role model to everyone, the first woman and the longest serving president. Alex presented Blaine with a scrapbook compilation of memories of her 12 years in charge.
Among other guests were Pat Westheimer and Don David Price, directors of Americans in Portugal, who married last December.