Richard René Silvin (born May 16, 1948) is an American retired corporate executive, turned author and lecturer, who is best known as an expert on Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, Palm Beach society architect, Addison Mizner, the 1930s French Line flagship, SS Normandie, and the history of Mar-a-Lago.

Richard René Silvin
Rene Silvin in Palm Beach, 2016
Born (1948-05-16) May 16, 1948 (age 75)
Alma materInstitut Le Rosey
Georgetown University
Cornell University
Occupation(s)Author and lecturer

Early life edit

Richard René Silvin at Le Rosey in 1966

Silvin was born in Bay Shore, New York to an American mother and a French father.[1] His grandfather, Léon Silvin, partnered with Albert Keller-Dorian, invented Keller-Dorian cinematography. They received 38 patents,[2] including the development of aluminum foil and cellophane.

During the first six years of his life Silvin spent most of his time in Islip, Long Island, NY living with a nanny, Mary "Nonnie" Lee, while his parents were mostly in France. At age seven he went to Swiss boarding schools; first to La Clairière in Villars-Sur-Ollon (1955–1958), Switzerland, and then to Institut Le Rosey in Rolle and Gstaad, Switzerland, (1958–1966). At Le Rosey, Silvin both rowed and coached the younger rowing team. His team went on to become National Swiss Champions in 1966, a feat no school had ever achieved.[3]

Career edit

Richard René Silvin working on the University of Bonn psychiatric hospital in 1975

In 1966 Silvin moved back to the United States to attend college. He earned a BS from Georgetown University in 1970, and an MBA in both Finance and Hospital Administration from Cornell University in 1972. He worked at Friesen International, a hospital design and management consulting firm in Washington, DC from 1972 until it was acquired by American Medical International, Inc. (NYSE: AMI) [4] in 1976. He rose to the head of the International Division of AMI, which owned and operated thirty hospitals in ten foreign countries.[5] In 1990 AMI sold its Swiss hospital group to Union Bank of Switzerland's Hirslanden Private Hospital Group. Subsequently, Hirslanden Group was acquired by South Africa's Medi-Clinic for $2.36B.[6][7][8]

Writing edit

After retiring from the hospital industry in 1998, Silvin started writing.[9] He published I Survived Swiss Boarding Schools: An Arc To Triumph in 2006. The book received notoriety among Le Rosey alumni. Silvin's second book, Walking the Rainbow: An Arc To Triumph [10] was published in 2008, was also autobiographical, and it chronicled the AIDS crisis. At the same time he published three article for the XVII International AIDS Conference, 2008 in Mexico city. All three comprise the history of AIDS up to 2008. Silvin's third book, Noblesse Oblige: The Duchess of Windsor As I Knew Her, was published in 2010, recounting Silvin's encounters with the widowed Duchess of Windsor, the former Wallis Simpson.

In 2014 Silvin published his first coffee table book: "Villa Mizner-The House That Changed Palm Beach".[11][12] The book explores the life and work of architect Addison Mizner, who was responsible for creating the Mediterranean Revival look in South Florida, including Via Mizner and the other vias around Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.

Silvin founded Silvin Books LLC in 2015, a full-service publishing company, and released a second coffee table book in 2016. Normandie: The Tragic Story of The Most Majestic Ocean Liner[13] details the building of the French Line's magnificent Art Deco flagship, its four-year active working life, and its sinking in New York City in 1942, when she was being converted to serve as America's only large troop carrier.[14]

In 2017 Silvin Books was renamed Silvin Books & Productions, and expanded into publishing other authors' works, as well as assisting clients in creating and presenting lectures. Silvin Books & Productions then released the second edition of Silvin's book Noblesse Oblige, the Duchess of Windsor As I Knew Her in November 2017. In the fall of 2018 Silvin Books & Productions released the second edition of I Survived Swiss Boarding Schools, now with the new subtitle: all that glitters is not gold, which chronicles his time at Le Rosey in the 50s and 60s.The book once again received notoriety among Le Rosey alumni. A year later, in the fall of 2019, Silvin Books & Productions released the second edition of Silvin's second book, now titled Walking the Rainbow, all that glitters is not gold.

Lecturing edit

Richard Rene Silvin presenting at the Polo Club of Boca Raton, 2019

Silvin started lecturing about the Duchess of Windsor in 2010[15] after the release of his third book. He increased his lecture opportunities when he added Addison Mizner's life and work as a lecture topic in 2014. In 2016, with the publication of the Normandie book,[13] he added this topic to his lecture series. Additionally, he expanded the Normandie presentation by lecturing about the history of transatlantic ocean liner travel in general.[16] In 2017 Silvin premiered his presentation which chronicles the history of Mar-a-Lago, from Marjorie Merriweather Post to Donald Trump.[17] He followed this up in 2019 with a presentation about the lives of several wealthy famous women whose money did not bring them happiness. This includes stories about his personal relationship with Ann Woodward. René and his brother grew up with Ann's two sons at Le Rosey. Ann killed her husband William Woodward Jr. Also included are Christina Onassis and Alexander Onassis who were childhood friends of René, and Barbara Hutton, Leona Helmsley and Sunny von Bülow. In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic lock down, he added another string of lecture topics, which he has been offering in Zoom format: Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, whom he was friendly with in the 1980s, Princess Alice of Battenberg, Marilyn Monroe, Edith Piaf, Whitney Houston, Marlene Dietrich, whom he was also friendly with when he was a teenager, and the history of the Concorde. In 2021 he added the lives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Audrey Hepburn as lecture topics. In 2022 he premiered two new lecture topics: the life of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and the movie career and life as a princess of Grace Kelly. In 2023 he premiered his new presentation about the life of Elizabeth Taylor.

He has lectured at several universities,[18] as well as many venues in Key West,[19] Palm Beach and West Palm Beach, Florida; Atlanta and Thomasville, Georgia;[20] Newport, Rhode Island; North Carolina; Cape Cod, Nantucket,[21][22] in the Berkshires, Massachusetts;[23] and Harbor Springs, Michigan. Silvin is also a regular speaker at the well-known Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach.[24]

Other edit

In 2010 Silvin competed in the Gay Games in Cologne, Germany.[25] He entered the body building competition in the over-60 class, and was awarded the gold medal. Because of this win, he published an article in the Queer Times, called "The Road To Cologne".[26]

In 2014, Silvin was appointed to the Landmarks Preservation Commission in the town of Palm Beach, which is a voluntary position. Members are voted in by the Town Council. He served on this commission as the Senior Alternate[27][28] from March 2014 until March 2016, when he was voted in as a full member.[5] In December 2016 he became the Landmarks Commission's vice-chairman.[29] In April 2020 Silvin was elected chairman of the Palm Beach Landmarks Preservation Commission.[30][31] Because of term limits, Silvin ended his chairmanship in 2022.[32]

Bibliography edit

  • I Survived Swiss Boarding Schools: An Arc To Triumph, 2006, ISBN 0-9764052-9-6.
  • Walking the Rainbow: An Arc To Triumph, 2008, ISBN 978-0-87426-073-1
  • Noblesse Oblige: The Duchess of Windsor As I Knew Her, 2010, ISBN 978-0-615-50578-7.
  • Villa Mizner: The House That Changed Palm Beach, 2014, ISBN 978-1-884886-74-4.
  • Normandie: The Tragic Story of The Most Majestic Ocean Liner, 2016, ISBN 978-0-692-54560-7.
  • Noblesse Oblige: The Duchess of Windsor As I Knew Her - second edition, 2017, ISBN 978-1548619640.
  • I Survived Swiss Boarding Schools, all that glitters is not gold - second edition, 2018 ISBN 978-1724780393.
  • Walking the Rainbow, all that glitters is not gold - second edition, 2019 ISBN 978-1689181679.
  • Survivor: A Story About Facing Adversity and Coming Out on Top, 2023 ISBN 979-8375499253.

References edit

  1. ^ Murray, Mary. "A Writer's Life". Palm Beach Illustrated. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  2. ^ "Timeline of historical film colors". Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  3. ^ "July Author Appearances at the Provincetown Public Library - Provincetown Public Library". Provincetown Public Library. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  4. ^ "American Medical International Trims Staff, Hours, Raises". Los Angeles Times. 21 October 1985.
  5. ^ a b Kopf, Aleese. "Palm Beach elects new Landmarks Preservation Commission members". Palm Beach Daily News. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  6. ^ "Medi-Clinic steps into Europe". Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  7. ^ "Medi-Clinic to buy Swiss hospitals for $2.36 bln". Reuters. 2 August 2007.
  8. ^ "Hislanden Klinik Im Park". Hislanden Swiss Hospital Group. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  9. ^ "Palm Beach author Silvin shares tales of royalty & loyalty". Palm Beach Daily News. Retrieved 2016-02-21.
  10. ^ Kathy Quan. "Walking the Rainbow An Arc to Triumph". Suite101.
  11. ^ "At home with society architect Addison Mizner". Palm Beach Daily News.
  12. ^ ""Villa Mizner" brings Boca Raton's Addison Mizner to life". Sun-Sentinel. 13 November 2014.
  13. ^ a b "Palm Beacher tells tale of SS Normandie in new book". Palm Beach Daily News.
  14. ^ "HSPBC Guest Lecture: Richard Rene Silvin's "SS Normandie"". New Times Broward-Palm Beach. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  15. ^ "Revisiting the final days of Duke, Duchess of Windsor". Palm Beach Daily News.
  16. ^ "The history of transatlantic ocean liner travel, the Costa Concordia". Lifelong Learning Society of FAU Jupiter/.
  17. ^ "Fellowship expands Sunday programs to four". Palm Beach Daily News/.
  18. ^ "Noblesse Oblige – The Duke and Duchess of Windsor | Lifelong Exchange". Florida Atlantic University. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  19. ^ "Monroe County Public Library Author Talks: Richard René Silvin on "Normandie: The Tragic Story of the Most Majestic Ocean Liner"". Monroe County Public Library.
  20. ^ Susanne ReynoldsCNHI (16 January 2014). "Brush with royalty". Thomasville Times-Enterprise.
  21. ^ "Life & work of Addison Mizner". [Nantucket Preservation Trust News]. 14 August 2018.
  22. ^ "The Life & Work of Addison Mizner". [NCTV18]. 20 September 2018.
  23. ^ "Lenox historian reveals history of winter white house". [Berkshire Eagle]. 31 August 2018.
  24. ^ "ArtSmart Lecture Series:All That Glitters Is Not Gold". [Kravis Center for the Performing Arts]. 31 March 2020.
  25. ^ ""The Road to Cologne": Rene Silvin".
  26. ^ "A look back at Gay Games VIII via Living In the Queer Times: Richard René Silvin". Federation of Gay Games. 8 July 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  27. ^ "Town Council names new landmarks board members". Palm Beach Daily News.
  28. ^ "Landmarks board impressed with plan for Royal Poinciana Plaza". Palm Beach Daily News.
  29. ^ "Landmarks board taps Silvin vice chairman after Gannon leaves". Palm Beach Daily News.
  30. ^ "Landmarks Preservation Commission". Town of Palm Beach. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  31. ^ "Silvin, Small named to head Town of Palm Beach boards". Palm Beach Daily News. 7 May 2020.
  32. ^ Davis, Andrew; Wagner, Jodie (22 February 2022). "term-limited Silvin leaves Landmarks board after serving 8 years, the last 2 as chairman". Palm Beach Daily News.