Board of directors

The AFC is fortunate to have a talented and eclectic group of dedicated Board Members, each of them bringing something unique to the table. They generously give of their time, expertise, and money for the benefit of our organization.  We are grateful for their hard work and dedication!


Nicole Kardell



Nicole Kardell is an attorney for the Washington D.C.-based firm, Ifrah Law, specializing in privacy law. She earned both her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Virginia. 

French language and culture have been an important part of Nicole’s life since childhood. She began her exploration of French language in middle school and continued her education through college, living at UVA's La Maison Française while an undergraduate, and spending her third year of college abroad in Paris through the Sweet Briar program. She also interned for a law firm in Paris while in law school and has had the opportunity to travel periodically to France for work.

She hopes to make travel to France an annual tradition for her and her daughter, who has been in French immersion schooling since preschool. 

Nicole has been a member of Alliance Française since 2014.


marjorie hirschi

vice president


Marjorie began her career in the Commercial & Investment Banking sector in London in 2003. In her last position, Marjorie worked for Barclays Capital (currently Barclays Investment Bank) in the Credit Restructuring & Advisory Group where she executed European restructurings at the height of the financial crisis. Following this, Marjorie moved with her family to Charlottesville in 2012 and soon after started focusing on a technology start-up project, which she is hoping to finalize in the near future.

Marjorie received her Master Grande École en Management (Master’s Degree) avec mention (with honors) from EM Strasbourg Business School (formerly IECS), France in 2002. Following the completion of an international exchange program, she also received an M.A in Business & Finance with honors from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK in 2002.

Marjorie is a French national and is committed to transmitting French culture and language to her young son as well as spreading the French culture in Charlottesville.



martin Bass


Martin Bass has been a member of the AFC for about 15 years.  He studied French in high school and college, and after a very long break, joined the AFC to "re-learn" what he'd lost.  He has travelled to France several times, including a recent trip to Bordeaux.

He retired from the University of Virginia Physicians Group in 2014, and moved to Staunton, where he lives with his wife, Susie.  He has BS and MBA degrees from U.Va. earned in the mid-70's.




Jean Howell.jpg

Jean Howell was born in Virginia, completing her education at Sarah Lawrence College, majoring in history. She then spent most of her adult life in NYC area, building a career and, with her husband, rearing a family.  Her professional background is in business, focusing on sales and marketing. A lover of travel, and all things French, she spends several weeks to several months each year in Paris and other locations in France. 

Jean’s experience outside of her business career includes broad non-profit board experience, serving in several officer positions, including - President, Vice President, Garth Newel Music Center; President, Vice President, Alleghany Highlands Free Clinic; and various other organizational leadership positions.




Gail Babnew was born in Washington, D.C. and spent her childhood in Middleburg, VA. She attended Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA where she received a BFA in Interior Design.  Gail became a licensed architect in CA in 1981, and was the first female architect to become an Associate Partner of The Luckman Partnership, Charles Luckman’s international architectural firm. While working full time for Luckman, she enrolled in UCLA’s Executive MBA Program in 1982, earning her MBA in 1984.  In 1987, Gail left L&H to form her own real estate development firm, establishing a partnership known as KBL Associates with projects in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, CA.Gail is President of the Babnew Corporation which manages equities and she assists her husband, Joel, in their real estate business located in Los Angeles. 

She is a licensed real estate broker in the State of California, a member of the American Institute of Architects, and a member of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. She is a Director on the National Society of Madison Family Descendants Board, serves on the Board of the Boys & Girls Club of Orange, and is a member of the Dolley Madison Garden Club.Gail and her husband, Joel, own Springfield Farm in Gordonsville, Virginia where they are now full time residents.



nominations, chairman

Bruce received a BS from Wake Forest College and then an MD from U.Va. in 1970. He did his residency in ophthalmology at U.Va. and then a fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology at the Childrens’ Hospital of Pittsburgh. He has been in private practice in Charlottesville since 1977. 

He has served on the vestry of All Saints Anglican Church, the Board of Directors of the Virginia Society of Opthalmology (president for three years) and has been on the Alliance Francaise de Charlottesville Board since 2007. He served as President for 2 years.



2014- photo BE.jpg

Bernard Esclapez is a renowned French commercial photographer who specialized in the cosmetics, perfume & luxury industries. He is past President of the French National Association of Commercial & Fashion Photographers as well as a founding member, past Treasurer and Vice-President of the Association of Creative Photographers (UPP). 

Although he and his wife retired to Charlottesville to be near their daughter and her family, they continue to return frequently to Paris. Bernard is looking forward to participating actively in the French community here and sharing his interest in his native language and culture.



Social and events, co-chairman


ginger graham

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Ginger Graham is a Charlottesville native, and graduate of James Madison University, where she earned a BBA in Finance.   After working in accounting and the arts, Ginger now focuses on philanthropic work.  In addition to raising a young family, Ginger enjoys her work as a community volunteer, practicing photography, reading and swimming, as well as the study of foreign language, interior decorating and landscape design. 

Long enamored of French language and culture, Ginger is delighted to serve on the board of The Alliance Francaise of Charlottesville.  She also serves on the board of The Women’s Initiative. 



A native of Fontainebleau, Jacqueline Gupton attended the Lycée International, followed by two years of studying English in London. She then relocated to Germany, where she worked in computer software development for the US DoD. After moving to New York with her husband, Bruce, she attended Columbia University and graduated Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa, following this with doctoral studies (all but dissertation).

When living in Greenwich, CT, she served on the Board of the Alliance Française for twenty years, where she organized (i) l’Alliance du Soir cultural conferences and (ii) a French “cine-club.” Working with l'Accueil New York (ANY), she also helped organize “cafés rencontres” for lonely French retirees.

In 1998, the Guptons purchased Rocklands, a historic property near Gordonsville, VA. As CEO of Gordonsville Preservation Associates, Jacqueline led the transformation of the center of the town (with son Garrick); these efforts have been recognized by the Garden Club of America, who presented her its “Historic Preservation Commendation” award. With the help of Nicole Yancey, Jacqueline also established a Sister City program between Gordonsville and Thoré-la-Rochette (the village of Rochambeau). Most recently, she has been awarded “La Médaille d’Or de Solidarité et Valeur” by La Renaissance Française – USA, an organization devoted to promoting French language and culture in the United States.



Ed Herring.jpg

Edward moved with his family to Charlottesville from New England several years ago after retiring  as an International Business Consultant. Edward, a North Carolina State University alumnus, lived and worked in Europe for many years and has been a life-long lover of the French language.  Since his retirement, he has held several temporary assignments at area high schools teaching French and German. He enjoys leading the AFC's monthly Saturday morning coffees and is a former member of the Charlottesville Sister Cities Commission.



Phil Heuschen.jpg

Philippe Heuschen has over 17 years experience in finance and accounting.  Most recently he was Director of Financial Services in charge of providing outsourced accounting services to four UVA related foundations.  Prior to that role he was the Controller for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and operates Monticello.  Philippe has over 13 years experience specifically focused on not-for-profit finance and accounting.

Growing up between Belgium, the Netherlands, and the United States, Philippe is passionate about trans-Atlantic relations, and values highly the variety of cultures to which he was exposed.  Besides being fluent in French, he has functional knowledge of Spanish and some Dutch

Philippe has been living in Charlottesville for six years with his spouse Heather and their young children Louis and Anne.  Besides spending time with his family he is an avid football (soccer) fan, player and coach.


emily martin

development, chairman



Editor and Art Director of "La Belle France: The Sophisticated Guide to France" from its inception until 2004, personally reviewing upscale travel throughout France focusing primarily on the chefs, restaurants, and lodging.

Originally from Nashville,  Barbara went to NYC after college at Hollins University and lived in NY over ten years where she was with Ford Models doing  television commercials and print photography before moving to Charlottesville.  After relocating to Charlottesville, she published monthly travel newsletters: "La Belle France: The Sophisticated Guide to France"... and also:  "Golf Travel" - covering golf destinations around the world. She has numerous local interests including the Paramount Theater, the Charlottesville Garden Club, and the Virginia Film Festival. Although she has traveled a great deal throughout France, she has never lived there and does hope to one day spend an extended period of time in France.  She truly adores French values and lifestyle!


john vernon

John Vernon worked for 21 years in United Technologies Corporation until his retirement from the company in 2013, most recently serving as Vice President and General Manager, Global Fire Suppression for United Technologies Climate, Controls, and Security, located in Ashland, Massachusetts. Before this, John served as the Managing Director of UTC Fire and Security Distribution France, where he led a challenging consolidation of French fire businesses into a single entity. For 18 years prior, John held posts of increasing responsibility in United Technologies’ Carrier air conditioning division. In 2007-09, John was the President, Residential Light Commercial International for Europe, Middle East, and Africa, based in Paris, France, where he managed multiple subsidiaries and partnerships and where he previously served as Vice-President of Distribution. Before transferring to France, John spent eight years in the Asia Pacific region, serving as Executive Vice President in the Toshiba Carrier Corporation Japan and as the Managing Director of the Toshiba Carrier Thailand factory, located in Pathum Thani, Thailand. He has held a variety of functional and management positions at Carrier locations in Brunei, California, New York, Italy, and Japan. John joined United Technologies in 1991 through the Carrier Leadership Associates Program. He holds a bachelor’s degree in History and Economics from University of Virginia, a master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Chicago, and an MBA and master’s degree in Asian Studies from the University of Virginia. He also served for four years on Darden Graduate School of Business Corporate Advisory Board at the University of Virginia.



Ariane Bailey Hiribarne- Served 5 years on the Board, including 4 as Vice President. 

Ann Bearden - Served 4 years on Board, including as Secretary

Marijke Ford - Board President from 2006–2011

Yates Nobles - Served 8 years on the Board, including as President and Secretary

Roulhac Toledano