Meet Mechelle Lawrence Adams, Executive Director
Executive Director’s Message
The following are opening remarks made at the September 16, 2022 Romance of the Mission gala event,
“Welcome. Good evening on behalf of the Mission Preservation Foundation. It is wonderful to have you with us this evening at the 2022 Romance of the Mission to raise funds for the purpose of ensuring the sustainability of this incredible place.
It is meaningful to gather this year in appreciation of our dear friends Bill and Joan Cvengros…Together, they have made significant and lasting impacts to this community, and specifically this special place, Mission San Juan Capistrano.
Indeed, their Love Endures.
Here in a California mission founded by Saint Serra and built by Indigenous Americans who were baptized- it is also an honor to welcome our concert artists, Vonzell Solomon, and Terron Brooks, two accomplished soloists coming together for a first ever evening of duets.
As some know, we had an artist change at the last minute, and the talented Mr. Brooks kindly stepped in to help our cause. He just debuted at the D23 event this past weekend the new theme song to Disneyland’s Wonderous Journey fireworks show which is premiering this January marking 100 years of Disney magic. We are fortunate to have him be able to join forces with the talented Vonzell Solomon, Personally, I admit I am thrilled to have Ms. Solomon here as well as many years ago when she was on American Idol my family was rooting for her!
As it relates to the Mission’s gala, the idea that Love Endures came about because of the historic “registries” which over the years we have had the chance to view firsthand. These special books record the names and milestones of all whose Catholic faith sacraments have been fulfilled on this site over the past 246 years.
In fact, as a side note, today when those with Native American heritage reach out to us to help them research their history, it is these very registries that are used to prove their ancestry. Who would have guessed that Serra’s script could help in centuries to come, to validate ancestries and connections?
For me, an old movie buff, finding out that THE Mary Pickford, “America’s Sweetheart” of the early 20th century, actually attended a friend’s wedding here in 1915 —and while she was here managed to convince the pastor to allow her to have an impromptu wedding vow renewal! (How did that happen?). To my surprise, I discovered that that wedding was captured in an oil painting by Charles Percy Austin that he painted from a photo a few years afterward. And looking to the old registries we discovered that that actual wedding moment had been officially recorded.
For sure…the weight of those old registries makes me feel responsible for “getting it right” —seeing “these moments” captured forever in their script makes me think about what we will leave behind in our collective script.
And in fact, watching the children of today, the visitors of the 21st century, those suffering from cancer or loss, coming here, joining us just this past weekend for 9/11 21st anniversary bell ringing, field of honor, it is so very clear to me, that today, Mission San Juan Capistrano is an architectural embodiment of the notion that …“Love Endures.”
We live to leave an impact…To leave something behind…our children and a better humanity, traditions, faith, courage, conviction. For sure. It is true. We all hope to leave a bit of our love of life behind in something that endures.
I see that in our board members, and their spouses:
Tony Moiso, and his wife Melinda
George O’Connell and his wife Eden
Paul Mikos and his wife Suzy
EJ Farrell and her husband Michael
Wylie Aitken and his wife Bette
Darren Aitken and his wife Laurie
Kerry Herbert and her husband Gavin Herbert Jr.
Vicky Carabini and her husband Michael
Connie Spenuzza and her husband Dr. Peter Spenuzza
And our Pastor, Monsignor Michael
And of course, there are our cherished honorees, Bill and Joan Cvengros.
And in our partners and friends—-Brand Enhance Valet, Inn at the Mission San Juan Capistrano, Rogers Gardens, Lugano Diamonds, Laguna Niguel Luxury Magazine, Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort, Buy My Bikes, Margaux Pierog-Kugelman, Deanna and Robert Saint-Aubin, Farmers and Merchants Bank, SEAs, Signature, our staff, and our incredible gala committee, and many volunteers. And in all of you.
Tonight’s celebration reminds us that we are connected in generations and in time. “Together” we hand the baton, or this very site, to new generations. For that reason, I invited my youngest child, 10 year old Jack Artemas Adams along with his sister, Lisa, 23, to join us at the concert this evening to bear witness to what happens here.
To see firsthand, the collective script that is YOU.
May Jack, and others of his young generation learn from your stewardship, generosity, philanthropy, concern, and care in order to ensure the continuing sustainability, and perhaps even widening scope of meaning in the 21st century, for that place that has withstood the test of time.
Tonight, as you enter the Central Courtyard by way of the Resurgam, please take a moment to view Mary Pickford’s wedding painting and the 1915 wedding entry in the old registry. We also invite you to see the one of a kind 2022 Romance of the Mission registry which records your presence here this evening…and for many of you, celebrates the names of your loved ones living and no longer with us.
Mission San Juan Capistrano also reflects the enduring care and stewardship of a number of special people who lived to leave an impact here. Candles lighted in the east triple arch are placed for those whose names appear at the end of our program, those to be remembered like Don Dorkowski, and for those who simply need our prayers.
Tonight I am filled with gratitude and hope for what you will leave behind in your collective script here tonight. Thank you.”
See you on the path,
Mechelle Lawrence Adams
About Our Director
Mechelle is a Native Californian, graduate from Huntington Beach High School, California State University Fullerton (BS, Political Science) and University of Redlands (M.A.,Management).
She and the Mission are the recipients of such awards as National Preservation Award, National Association of Interpretation Media Award, Arts Orange County’s Helena Modjeska Cultural Legacy award, San Juan Capistrano’s Mayor’s Business of the Year, Orange County’s Top Work Place Award, Tabasco Company’s top community cookbook award, Mayor’s City of San Juan Capistrano Business Organization of the Year for Heritage Tourism Association and marketing co-op efforts supporting the innovative promotion of the historic downtown’s business community and most recently California Missions Foundation Chairman’s Award for Significant Contribution to missions preservation.
Mechelle is the proud mother to three and resides in her home town of Old Town, Seal Beach with her husband and young son. She is the proud mother to two adult children, one a city planner and the other a costume designer.
Board and Commission Positions Held:
• Arts OC, Board member (2018 to Present)
• Committee Member, Advisory Committee for California Missions and Presidios (2018 to present)
• Orange County Historical Commissioner, 5th District, Supervisor Lisa Bartlett (Spring 2017 to 2021)
• City of San Juan Capistrano, Cultural Heritage Commissioner and current chair (2015 to 2019)
• San Juan Capistrano Heritage Tourism Association, Founder (2014 to present)
• Discovery Cube’s Innovators, Founding member (2013 to present)
• Preserve OC, member
• National Trust for Preservation, member
• California Preservation Foundation, member
Past Board Memberships/Non-profits Support:
• San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce, Board member
• San Juan Capistrano Historical Society Board member
• City of San Juan Capistrano, Laissez Faire Business Sub-Committee
• Discovery Cube Foundation Gala Co-Chairperson (2015, 2016, 2017)
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