Women of Chapman’s Annual ‘Christmas at The Ritz’ Fundraiser Chaired by Newport Local Nets $300,000 for Chapman University

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WOC member Sue Grant, a resident of Newport Beach, and Event Chair Lisa Hallaian, a wealth advisor in Newport Beach / photo by Tony Lattimore

Women of Chapman, a 53-year-old Chapman University support group, celebrated the 37th anniversary of its famed “Christmas at The Ritz” holiday luncheon at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023.

Why Christmas at the Ritz? The group originally held its annual event at the Ritz Restaurant, a beloved old-school dining hotspot in Fashion Island that lasted more than three decades before closing in 2014.

After The Ritz closed, Women of Chapman held their event at other Newport Beach locations, including the Island Hotel (now the Pendry). Last year the group left Newport Beach but managed to keep the Ritz Restaurant name alive by moving to the Ritz Carlton.

The gregarious 280-member crowd was in high spirits in the pre-reception as they enjoyed greetings from a jolly Santa Claus, a quartet of Dickens Carolers, a champagne and martini cocktail reception, and real-life toy soldiers.

For the menu, tradition took center stage. The luncheon began with the signature Ritz Egg as the opening course, perhaps the most famous dish on the menu at the old Ritz Restaurant. Traditional Wild Mushroom Cappuccino Soup followed, and then Braised Short Ribs and Chilean Sea Bass.

Women of Chapman President Sheri Nazaroff with husband Mark Whitfield / photo by Tony Lattimore

The ballroom was awash in festive red linens decorated with the event’s signature nutcrackers and fresh pine greenery with red and gold accents shimmering. The signature Christmas at The Ritz wreath, always on the invitations and programs, was the main focus hanging in front of a beautiful red velvet backdrop, along with shimmering gold and silver trees gracing the stage.

Event Chair Lisa Hallaian, a Newport Beach wealth advisor, thanked her 35-member committee for helping make the benefit so successful.

The effort netted nearly $300,000 for Chapman. The 220-member group has raised more than $9.75 million through Christmas at The Rit” and is completing a $1 million pledge to the Keck Center for Science and Engineering and to the Harry & Diane Rinker Health Science Campus, plus a $1 million dollar pledge to the group’s Student Assistance Fund.

Major underwriters include Grand Patrons ($25,000) Julia & George Argyros of Newport Beach and Sally Segerstrom.

Women of Chapman members Georgeana Ireland, who has an art studio in Newport Beach, and Shannon Argyros, CEO of Positive Beverage in Newport Beach / photo by Tony Lattimore
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