Meet our Founder
From Passion to Action
Marian Wood Adair grew up in a small US town of just 6000 people in Hillsdale, Michigan. Her passion for the international community was ignited by her high school French teacher. Mademoiselle, who taught with enthusiasm, creativity, and knowledge inspired young Marian to embrace the idea that other cultures were fascinating. Mademoiselle opened Marian's eyes to the world. After graduating from college, Marian together with some friends traveled around Europe. The young women visited many sights, enjoyed new cultures, and tried out their French language skills on the French. Marian and her friends had a wonderful time—Marian, however, was smitten with the people. Mademoiselle's teachings and the trip through Europe were the catalyst she needed to become a global woman.
When Marian's husband, E. Ross Adair, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1950, Marian, Ross and their two children, Caroline and Stephen, moved to Washington, D.C. There, Marian had the opportunity to once again enjoy the global experience.
In Washington, Marian met women from around the world and together they shared many experiences. She also learned about their lives, dreams, and struggles. She met women who had struggled in their own countries; women who had the possibility to be exceptional but who had to work very hard to show or to share their accomplishments; women who had to be resilient to survive. Marian's daughter, Caroline, remembers one heartfelt comment by her mother. Caroline asked, "Mom when you meet women from other cultures, other countries, what do you see in the women?" Marian replied, "I see eyes." That reply told Caroline a lot. She knew her mother could see the soul of a woman through her eyes.
In her book Window on Washington, Marian states, "By 1953, I could resist no longer and felt motivated to organize a small group, where we would learn about each other on a first name basis." Marian shared her club idea with several diplomats who encouraged her to proceed. Mme. Von Roijen, the wife of the Ambassador from the Netherlands, was most encouraging giving Marian the advice she needed.
Even in the earliest days, it was truly an international effort. The first meeting was held at the home of the Adairs on May 5, 1953. The following quotation is from the Minutes of that meeting as saved by Marian: "The purpose of this meeting was to form a small club for diplomatic and congressional wives whose husbands dealt with international matters. The wives of six diplomats, each from a different country, were invited to the first meeting because they had the desire to help found this club and because of their geographic location." The second meeting included the international members, plus Congressional wives with the purpose of the club to develop friendships and build bridges of understanding throughout the world. Eventually, eight International Clubs were organized. Then Marian founded and became the First President of Welcome to Washington International Club.
Now, Sister Clubs are organized within the United States and worldwide under the name,
Welcome Clubs International (WCI).
A recording excerpt from
"A Look at Marian Adair"
Listen to the daughter and granddaughter of WCI Founder, Marian Adair, reminisce on her unique qualities.
Marian Adair Award
The Marian Adair Award was established in 2009 to honor the Founder's achievements.
The recipient, chosen by the club hosting the conference, is a woman who has made notable contributions to further our understanding of each other and who has demonstrably championed the cause of cross-global understanding, friendship, and education in her profession, community, country, or the world.
The Marian Adair Award is presented at WCI's Biennial Conferences. The award trophy is inspired by a competition open to all Member Clubs. The winning design was by Julia San Roman, an artist and member of Women's International Border Club.
Marian Adair Award Recipients
2018 Award Recipient:
Ms. Lael Mohib is founder and director of the Enabled Children Initiative, a U.K. and U.S. registered charity that supports and advocates for Afghan orphans with special needs. During her husband's tenure as Afghanistan's Ambassador to the U.S., Ms. Mohib volunteered at the Embassy, focusing on women's empowerment, social, cultural, and educational programs. We are honored to include Ms. Mohib in our group of the Marian Adair Award recipients.
2016 Award Recipient:
Helena Kroftová Leisztner
Ms. Helena Kroftová Leisztner, a native of the Czech Republic, has been active in the arts from an early age. She is an artist and a fashion designer who has donated the clothing of her winning collections to charities. She has collaborated with the theater, led a choir, and devoted herself to curating and organizing exhibitions. For eight years she worked at the Argentinian Embassy, in their media and cultural departments. She later worked abroad for several years, where she organized exhibitions, started her own business, and continued with her artistic endeavors. She has worked in Spain, Italy, Sweden, Thailand, Brazil, and Central America. Ms. Kroftová Leisztner's contribution to the arts and society are truly impressive.
2014 Award Recipient:
Ms. Hourvash Pourkian has contributed significantly to the cultural conversation that exists between cultures in Hamburg. Born in Tehran, Iran, and educated in Germany, the U.S.A., and England, Hourvash is an entrepreneur, author, social-political advisor, and has served in many other capacities. Most notably, Ms. Pourkian is the creator and moderator of the television program, "Kulturbrücke" (Cultural Bridge) and "Switch." The latter is a program that introduces and educates families and children to the many diverse cultures living in Hamburg. She brings her passion and vision for more interaction, education, and harmony between cultures and peoples. Ms. Pourkian's mission of building bridges of understanding resonates with all of us.
2012 Award Recipient:
Ms. Slavica Park was born in Bosnia. In 1991, she fled the growing tensions in Bosnia to join her father in Germany. In 1997, Ms. Park received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the German University of Darmstadt. That same year, she emigrated to the United States as a refugee. She ended up in Denver, Colorado where she supported herself by working nights, cleaning office buildings. Ms. Park spent her days studying at the Emily Griffith Technical College (EGTC), where she enrolled in the English as a Second Language (ESL) program. One short year later, she became an Office Assistant in the ESL Department, and in 2003, a Dean of the Language Center at EGTC. Ms. Park has persevered through adversity. She has worked to advance women and men who are marginalized. She is a remarkable woman!
2010 Award Recipient
Lydia Wong Ling
Ms. Lydia Wong Ling started her volunteer work at the Women's League Against Cancer in 1971 in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. In 1995, her family founded the Ling Foundation, which has given 110 scholarships to Brazilians to take post-graduate courses in Brazil and abroad. She is chairwoman of the Women's League Against Cancer helping women and children with the prevention and treatment of cancer through personal volunteerism and donation of funds. We are in awe of Mrs. Ling and are very thankful to her for contributing to the fight against cancer.