Fashion industry icon, author, and philanthropist Diane von Furstenberg was honored with the 2022 Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Woman of Leadership Award on Friday evening during an exclusive ceremony and gala held at the Library of Congress.
The award was established by Justice Ginsburg with Julie Opperman, Chairman of the Dwight D. Opperman Foundation, prior to the beloved jurist’s passing. It is designed to “acknowledge and celebrate exceptional women who have devoted themselves to the betterment of society, regardless of background, place and purpose.”
“[Ginsburg] wanted her name to live on and wanted her legacy not to wane and so she wanted to celebrate extraordinary women from all walks of life,” said Opperman. “And she wanted them celebrated and honored and held in high esteem.”
A who’s who of the District’s philanthropic, arts, business, and diplomatic communities turned out for Friday’s by-invitation-only soiree. However, it was the out-of-town guests who flew in to cheer on von Furstenberg and honor RBG’s memory that perhaps made the biggest splash.
Academy Award-nominated actor Sylvester Stallone helped kick-off the ceremony by hanging a pink pair of boxing gloves over a portrait of Ginsburg with the “Rocky” theme song playing in the background—a sweet moment from “champ to champ”—while Nicky Hilton-Rothschild and her husband, James Rothschild (who sits on the award’s nominating committee), were among the many guests who skipped the cocktail hour in favor of exploring the Library of Congress’ renowned Main Reading Room.
Ginsburg’s last public appearance was when she received the Lifetime Leadership award at the 11th annual DVF Awards in February 2020. It was therefore especially poignant when von Furstenberg was announced as the third recipient of the Opperman Foundation honor (last year’s award went to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II).
While the mood at Friday’s black tie gala was decidedly celebratory, Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine was at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Several guests, including business leader and philanthropist Adrienne Arsht, integrated the colors of the Ukrainian flag into their eveningwear and both Rubenstein and US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged the ongoing conflict during their remarks.
The Dwight D. Opperman Foundation, the nonprofit behind this weekend’s award, takes its name from a well-known figure in the American judiciary and legal community. Dwight Opperman was a pioneer of the modern legal information system and as the powerful chairman of the West Publishing Company—creators of WestLaw (used by tens of thousands of attorneys each day)—he commanded the highest respect among his peers in the American judiciary.
Julie Opperman and Ginsburg first met during a Washington legal dinner, when they were the only two women in attendance (Ginsburg moved Julie’s seat next to hers), and they quickly became fast friends. The most prestigious award in the legal community today, the Devitt Award, was founded in 1982 also by the Dwight D. Opperman Foundation. And as a ardent advocate of the award, Ginsburg chaired it twice and was in attendance almost every year she sat on the Supreme Court bench.