The Board

Minneapolis-Tours Board Bios

(Left to Right) Beth Parkhill; Simin Hickman; Gail Beske; Christina Selander Bouzouina, Alliance Francaise Executive Director; Helen Burke; (Back Left) Michael Rainville and Robert Corrick


Gail Beske, Chairman and Treasurer
Gail has been a Francophile since 7th grade, which was a very long time ago; that’s when she discovered the French language and culture. During her junior year of college spent in Paris, she visited the Touraine for the first time and fell in love with France. Many visits, and lots of Skype calls later, she still retains solid friendships of French amis whom she met that year and subsequently. Gail had several au pairs over the years, one of whom was from Tours. Visiting her family’s vineyard a few years ago and staying in a little cottage on the property, was very special.

After retiring from her regular job, Gail began to refocus on her passion for the French language and culture and joined the Minneapolis-Tours board last fall to help strengthen the relationship between Minneapolis and Tours. She is happy with the many blossoming friendships that she has made while serving the association and is very excited about the mission and bright future.

Simin Hickman, Vice President

Having grown up in Iran, Simin was greatly influenced by the French culture, music, art, and language. When she had a chance to visit France many years ago, she fell in love  with this country and continues to visit any time she has a chance.

At a Petit Dej at Alliance Francaise shortly before she retired, Simin was introduced to Tours and learned about the sister city organization. She knew immediately this was the organization she wanted to work with. The experience has been so rewarding, going to Tours, meeting colleagues and hosting visitors from Tours. It has all been such a fabulous experience. Simin strongly believes that these relationships are an important influence on the future of international communities.

Helen Burke, Secretary
In October 1994, Helen volunteered to be host for Minneapolis’ first intern from Tours. Stephanie stayed five months chez moi while she “worked” at the downtown library. Helen’s biggest concern during her stay? ‘How could any bread here possibly be up to French standards?’ And what was 23-year-old Stephanie’s clear choice, hands down, among all the possible breads? Lund’s “budget” white bread!! That’s proof positive that it’s easier than one thinks to successfully host une Francaise!

Hosting Stephanie led Helen to become involved with Minneapolis-Tours and to visit la Touraine twice. Her favorite chateau? Hard to choose just one, yet Amboise wins. Helen says Amboise is Stephanie’s favorite, too, which is close to her hometown of Blere.

Marilyne Bouteiller

IMG_0485A French native living in Minneapolis for over 20-year, Marilyne joined the organization to stay connected to her roots. She always wanted to find a way to be involved in some kind of relationships between France and the United States. In March 2013, she contacted Minneapolis-Tours Sister Cities and immediately connected with the mission of the group. Having visited the Loire Valley at a younger age, Marilyne remembers the splendor of the region, its castles, wine valleys and the graciousness of its people.  “I am excited to serve on the board and bring a little bit of France to the organization.”

Mary BullockMary Bullock

Mary was first introduced to the Minneapolis – Tours Sister Cities when Simin asked her for help in finding a hockey team from Minneapolis to play in a tournament in Tours. She has a son who plays college hockey and a daughter who plays high school hockey, so she knows a lot about twin cities hockey.

For the last two years she has been taking French classes with Simin at the Alliance Francaise, deepening her love and fascination with the French, their language and culture. Thus putting hockey and French together was a very exciting idea for her. She met with Beatrice Pawlik when she was in Minneapolis last year. They worked on putting together a hockey team to send to Tours and also on having a team from Tours come to Minneapolis. They are still working on this and hope to be able to see this happen soon. However, they are learning there are many bumps in the road when it comes to international travel and 10 year olds.

Sports is a universal language, whether hockey, soccer or any sport, it can break down language barriers, open cultural exchange and create a commonality that brings children and adults together from different countries. She would love to see sports play a role in bringing these two cities and their children together and creating a greater cultural awareness.

She is married to Jim Bullock and has three children, Jamie 25, Ryan 20 and Carly 15. She has been a volunteer with Animal Humane Society since 1995 (also a member of the Volunteer Advisory Board at AHS) and a volunteer with Kindest Cut, a low-income spay and neuter organization, since Jan. 2014. In addition, she is a monthly volunteer with Meals on Wheels in Eden Prairie since 2000 and has served a myriad of volunteer positions with school and church since moving to Minnesota in 1994.

Sarah Johnson PhotoSarah Johnson
Sarah started as a volunteer for Minneapolis and Tours Sister Cities in 2009, when she joined the group at the annual Sister Cities Day Aquatennial celebration, and joined the board in 2014. She graduated as a French major from the University of Minnesota, Morris and studied in Paris in August 1998. She has always enjoyed a love of French culture and history and looks forward to sharing her passion for France with others in the Twin Cities and Tours.

Pierre Girard
Pierre Girard is second generation French Canadian from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. His grandparents emigrated from St. Ursule, Quebec. He served as President of La Société Canadienne Française du Minnesota and has been involved with The Pioneers and Les Servivants, local French Canadian organizations. He is also on the board of the French American Heritage Foundation. He has been working on his genealogy and has discovered family origins back to Les Sable d’Olonne, France.

Also Board Members: Michael Rainville and Lane Rosenthal


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