David Rubenstein

Visitors gazing up at the Washington Monument may not know it, but they partly have billionaire philanthropist and Bethesda resident David Rubenstein to thank for the view.

Early in 2012, the 62-year-old co-founder of The Carlyle Group, a hugely successful global asset management firm, donated $7.5 million to help fix cracks in the iconic structure that were caused by an earthquake in August 2011. That gift was just the latest of Rubenstein’s donations dedicated to national and historic treasures.

In 2007, he paid $21.3 million for a copy of the Magna Carta that is now on permanent loan to the National Archives. In 2008 and 2009, respectively, he bought copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Declaration of Independence, both of which are now displayed in federal buildings. And in 2011, he donated $13.5 million for a new gallery at the National Archives and $4.5 million for the National Zoo’s giant panda reproduction program. But that’s not all.

Rubenstein is reported to be the single largest donor in the history of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. And he’s apparently not done. Rubenstein, whose bank accounts swelled again when his company went public in May, recently told The Washington Post that he’s committed to giving away lots of his wealth. (Julie Rasicot)

Tiger Mullen

Tiger Mullen is obsessed with pizza—and that’s putting it mildly. The Rockville accountant and owner of Bethesda’s Haven Pizzeria Napoletana likes to immerse himself in his passions. How else to explain that he bought and/or made pizza six nights a week for 2½ years (gaining 25 pounds in the process), set his home oven on the cleaning cycle to replicate the higher temperatures of commercial pizza ovens (almost burning down his house), looked at 50 possible pizzeria locations in the Washington area, interviewed nearly 65 pizza chefs before making a hiring decision, coaxed an 82-year-old brick pizza-oven maker out of retirement to help build the ovens, spent $400,000 on two 100,000-pound brick ovens…the list goes on. But Mullen has more than a taste for pizza. He also has a head for business: Haven was profitable in February 2012, the first month it was open. (Carole Sugarman)

DeRionne Pollard

A member of the committee that interviewed DeRionne Pollard during Montgomery College’s nationwide search for a president may have said it best: This dynamic, down-to-earth leader has a “wow personality.” After being chosen in 2010 to take the reins of the state’s largest two-year college, Pollard didn’t waste any time “wowing” the community, immediately laying out plans to increase the number of students who complete degrees and to define the college’s core values and mission statements. Pollard, who came from Las Positas College in Livermore, Calif., is the first black woman to serve as president of Montgomery College, and its first openly gay leader. She lives in Clarksburg with her partner, Robyn Jones, and their son, Myles Julian Pollard-Jones. If Pollard has her way, however, she won’t be remembered for her ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. She’ll go down in local history for making the college “the most relevant community college in the country,” as she frequently notes in her speeches. (Amy Reinink)

George McPhee

Staid. Stony. Humorless. Those are the words commonly used to describe George McPhee, who has led the Washington Capitals as general manager since 1997. However, none of them jibes with McPhee’s actions one night in 1999, when he punched Chicago Blackhawks coach Lorne Molleken after an exhibition game for what he viewed as unnecessary roughness by Hawks players. The incident, which left Molleken with a black eye and McPhee with a onemonth suspension and a $20,000 fine, has become part of the lore surrounding the general manager. Fans know the Bethesda resident is as scrappy as he is steely. His inner fighter has helped him slowly build a winning team, and made him what The Washington Post calls “the most enduring sports executive in Washington, a town of inordinate athletic turnover.” (Amy Reinink)

Haroon Mokhtarzada

Haroon Mokhtarzada, who emigrated from Afghanistan with his family as a child, built his first website in his dorm room as an undergraduate at the University of Maryland. In 2001, before he graduated, Mokhtarzada and his two brothers, Zeki and Idris, pooled $2,000 and started Webs, a site that allows users to build their own websites using drag-and-drop software. Based in Silver Spring, just blocks from Haroon Mokhtarzada’s alma mater, Montgomery Blair High School, Webs has grown exponentially. In 2006, Mokhtarzada raised $11 million in venture capital, and within two years Webs’ customers were creating about 20,000 new websites per day. To date, 40 million websites have been built with Webs. In 2011, Vistaprint, a leading online provider of professional marketing products and services, acquired Webs for $117 million. Haroon and Zeki Mokhtarzada continue as part of Webs’ executive team. (Gabriele McCormick)

Martine Rothblatt

Before undergoing gender reassignment surgery in 1994, Martine Rothblatt was Martin Rothblatt, founder of Sirius Satellite Radio in 1990. But when Rothblatt’s 6-year-old daughter, Jenesis, was diagnosed that same year with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a rare and potentially fatal disease, the Silver Spring resident abruptly changed course. Frustrated that uncommon diseases rarely attract drug-development funding, Rothblatt founded the biotech company United Therapeutics in Silver Spring in 1996, determined to find a treatment for PAH. The company’s first pharmaceutical, Remodulin, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2002. Since then, United Therapeutics has developed several PAH drugs and continues to focus on treatments for cardiovascular diseases. Annual revenues totaled $743 million in 2011. Jenesis is now in her late 20s. (Gabriele McCormick)

Donald Dell

It’s hard to say what’s most impressive about Potomac’s Donald Dell: his tennis credentials (three-time All-American at Yale; U.S. Davis Cup captain; co-founder of the Citi Open tennis tournament, which benefits the Washington Tennis & Education Fund), or his role as a founding father of sports marketing (he was one of the first agents to represent athletes). Either way, Dell, who was captain of the Landon School tennis team and undefeated in match play there, is a bona fide local success story. After graduating from Yale University, Dell went on to earn his law degree from the University of Virginia, and then co-founded ProServ, an early sports management firm that would represent the likes of Arthur Ashe, Michael Jordan, Jimmy Connors and Patrick Ewing. Dell has written two books on sports marketing and negotiation, and is a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. He is also currently group president of the marketing firm Lagardère Unlimited. (Amy Reinink)

John Roberts

Chief Justice John Roberts took an unexpected left turn in 2012, when he joined the Supreme Court’s four liberal justices in upholding President Barack Obama’s health care law. A consistent conservative in the past, Roberts was nominated as chief justice by President George W. Bush and became, at age 50, the youngest chief justice in two centuries when he took his seat on the court in 2005. Roberts and his family reside in Chevy Chase. (Gabriele McCormick)

Alice McKinley

Thousands of girls have grown up with Alice McKinley, the beloved main character of a book series set in Montgomery County by award-winning author Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. The Gaithersburg resident, who has written more than 135 books, including the Newbery Medalwinning Shiloh (Atheneum, 1991), has taken Alice from third grade through the travails of middle school and high school. Naylor plans to write a total of 28 books featuring Alice and her adventures; the 27th was published in July and the last, Always Alice, is scheduled for release next year and will detail Alice’s life from age 18 to 60. But that doesn’t mean that this 79-year-old mother of two grown sons is planning to retire. On her website devoted to the Alice books, Naylor says she intends to keep writing as long as she can “hold a pencil.” (Julie Rasicot)

Ted Xenohristos, Ike Grigoropoulos and Dimitri Moshovitis

It was little more than six years ago that Ted Xenohristos and Ike Grigoropoulos were waiting tables at Bethesda’s Olazzo restaurant, and Dimitri Moshovitis was working as the chef at the former Tel Aviv Cafe down the street. The sons of immigrants and childhood friends since Greek school in Silver Spring, the three came up with the idea to open a Greek restaurant together, but nobody would rent them a space. Finally a landlord at 9713 Traville Gateway in Rockville took a chance on the 20-somethings. With help from their families, they built tables from scratch (for about $4 each), bought $35 chairs from Target, and opened Cava Mezze. Fast forward to 2012: With about 350 employees, the men now run three area Cava Mezze restaurants, four Cava Mezze Grills (with another in the works) and the new Sugo Cicchetti in Potomac; manufacture packaged dips and spreads in a 6,000-square-foot plant in Rockville that are sold in supermarkets from New Jersey to Richmond, Ohio to Tennessee; and cater events throughout the area. It’s a mini-empire built on a good idea and hard work. Nice guys apparently do finish first. (Carole Sugarman)

Erin Willett

Gaithersburg High School graduate Erin Willett was hoping she had the voice to win the second season of The Voice, NBC’s smash singing competition in which contestants are mentored by musician-coaches. The 22-yearold waitress’ powerful pipes caught country crooner Blake Shelton’s ear—the two later bonded over the recent losses of their fathers; Willett’s dad died during the competition—and carried her through several rounds of performing before she was eliminated in the semifinals, which were televised last May. Now this soulful singer with the curly, deep auburn hair is busy performing around the country and recently released a music video of her song “Home.” (Julie Rasicot)

Anthony Cohen

When Oprah Winfrey set out to re-create the experience of a runaway slave in preparation for her role as Sethe in the 1998 movie Beloved, she knew exactly who to turn to: Olney resident Anthony Cohen. Though there were numerous scholars who could have spoken to her about slavery in America, Cohen all but lived it. In 1996, the historian and writer walked several hundred miles from Maryland to Canada over six weeks to re-create the Underground Railroad experience. As part of that undertaking, which was chronicled in Smithsonian magazine, he shipped himself from Pennsylvania to New York City in an Amtrak crate to replicate the experience of Henry “Box” Brown, a slave from Richmond, Va. Cohen now heads The Menare Foundation, a Montgomery County nonprofit that aims to preserve and share the history of the Underground Railroad, in part through “historical immersion workshops” at Germantown’s Button Farm that depict plantation life in Montgomery County. (Amy Reinink)

Julie Segre

Whether you consider her a super sleuth or a health hero, Julie Segre helped save countless lives by stopping a lethal germ that was making the rounds at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center last year. Over six scary months, the antibiotic-resistant superbug Klebsiella pneumoniae sickened 18 people at the country’s leading research hospital. Eleven of them died. Segre, a Bethesda resident and senior investigator at NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute, led the team working to untangle the bacteria’s DNA and figure out how the bacteria was spreading. Despite the hospital’s rigorous infection control practices, the bacteria turned out to be hiding in sink drains and a ventilator that already had been cleaned. NIH used robotlike machines to spray stronger germ-killing agents into tiny crevices on all contaminated equipment and in affected rooms, halting the outbreak. During World War II, Segre’s grandfather served in U.S. military intelligence, and when she was 10, he taught her how to break codes, a skill that eventually triggered her interest in breaking the messages encoded by bacterial DNA. (Stacey Colino)

Ryan Darby

In many ways, Bethesda’s Ryan Darby is a typical 9-year-old boy. He’s into football, basketball and video games, riding his bike, doing the “dougie” (a hip-hop dance) and hanging out with friends. Unlike most fourth-graders, though, Ryan is a cancer survivor with his own foundation, JUST TRYAN IT. Diagnosed with leukemia in 2009, Ryan is now in remission (his treatment will end in February at Georgetown University Hospital). The foundation started in his name has donated $250,000 to Georgetown University Hospital’s Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Unit Family Assistance Fund. And in April, Ryan was honored for his philanthropic work at the 13th annual Georgetown Pediatric Gala. The middle of three boys, Ryan also has advocated on Capitol Hill for kids with cancer, and speaks at schools and community events, urging kids to do their best and to appreciate every day. His motto: “Never look back.” Sometimes courage, resilience and wisdom come in a surprisingly small package. (Stacey Colino)

Seth Hurwitz

Seth Hurwitz is called “the region’s kingpin concert promoter” for a reason. His Bethesda-based It’s My Party owns the legendary 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., promotes live music at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, and has helped bring acts ranging from Bob Dylan to the Beastie Boys to the area. Though the Bethesda resident spends most of his time behind the scenes, he isn’t afraid to move into the spotlight, whether playing the drums onstage with the acts he promotes, playing a bit part opposite John Goodman on HBO’s Treme, or taking the state to task for subsidizing the construction of The Fillmore music hall in Silver Spring (his lawsuit claiming the subsidy violated state law was dismissed in March 2011). Whatever the commotion or the cause, Hurwitz makes sure the beat goes on. (Amy Reinink)

Michael Ledeen

Chevy Chase resident Michael Ledeen has been a figure in American foreign policy for decades. In the 1980s, the neoconservative was a consultant to the National Security Council and the U.S. Department of Defense and a national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan, allegedly playing a role in the Iran-contra affair in the mid-’80s. A former freedom scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, he is a current freedom scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Ledeen is also said to have consulted with White House adviser Karl Rove during the George W. Bush presidency. Ledeen regularly writes about foreign policy as a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online and the blog pjmedia. com. He’s also a nationally known championship bridge player and has written about bridge for The Wall Street Journal. (Gabriele McCormick)

Katie Ledecky

It’s a safe bet that Bethesda’s Katie Ledecky is the only 15-year-old in the nation sporting an Olympic gold medal these days. The youngest U.S. Olympian at the London Games, she stunned everyone when she touched the wall more than four seconds before her nearest rival, and came within half a second of breaking the world record in the women’s 800-meter freestyle this past summer. Watching her back home were hundreds of fans at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, where she’s now a sophomore, and at the local Curl-Burke Swim Club, where she has trained for years. Her accomplishment is all the more remarkable given that she only started training for the 2012 Olympics a year ago. Now she’s the proud owner of a gold medal and an American swimming record—before she’s old enough to drive. (An interview with the teen appears on page 138.) (Julie Rasicot)

Lon Babby

When your early career includes being a member of the defense team that got John Hinckley Jr. acquitted (by reason of insanity) for trying to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981, it can be hard to find a second act to top the first. But Bethesda’s Lon Babby has done so in his eclectic, 35-year career. Most of that time was spent as a sports attorney at the Washington law firm of Williams & Connolly. Though Babby first developed a reputation through the Hinckley case, he cemented it by serving as attorney for the Washington Redskins and as general counsel for the Baltimore Orioles. He later signed professional basketball player Grant Hill as a client, thereby launching a highly successful career as a sports agent. Babby went on to represent NBA players Tim Duncan and Ray Allen, along with other professional athletes, and has been named among the 100 most powerful people in sports by the Sporting News. The latest addition to his résumé: president of basketball operations for the Phoenix Suns. (Amy Reinink)

Pulitzer Prize winners

The Bethesda area has a way with words. The remarkable writing talent concentrated here has resulted in a number of Pulitzer Prize winners, including: Ira Chinoy (1999, public service; 1994, investigative reporting); Tom Friedman (2002, commentary; 1988, 1983, international reporting); Tyler Marshall (2004, national reporting); Alan Miller (2003, national reporting); Chuck Neubauer (1976, local investigative specialized reporting); and David Willman (2001, investigative reporting), all of Bethesda; Potomac’s David Hoffman (2010, general nonfiction); Rockville’s James Risen (2006, national reporting); and Takoma Park’s Deborah Nelson (1997, investigative reporting). And that doesn’t even include those who’ve lived here and since moved on. (Gabriele McCormick)

Tappan “Tappy” Wilder

Have a question about Thornton Wilder? Ask his nephew, Chevy Chase’s Tappan “Tappy” Wilder. As literary executor and manager of Thornton Wilder’s intellectual property since 1995, Tappan Wilder speaks about his uncle’s life and work and is the honorary chairman of the Thornton Wilder Society. He also manages the literary legacies of Thornton Wilder’s three sisters and brother, all of whom were writers. Tappan Wilder has worked on compilations of Thornton Wilder’s novels and plays, as well as his letters. Like his uncle, Tappan Wilder earned an undergraduate degree from Yale. He also received graduate degrees from the University of WisconsinMadison (American history) and Yale (philosophy). He moved to this area in 1979 to help establish Partners for Livable Communities, a nonprofit that works to improve economic development, the quality of life and social equity in communities. (Gabriele McCormick)

Melissa Ballinger

In the early ’80s, Melissa Ballinger was working as a sauté cook at a D.C. restaurant when she spied the posters of pinup girls decorating the ice machine. After she became the chef there, the posters came down. Being a woman in a male-dominated field meant working twice as hard back then, and Ballinger was one of the pioneers in the female food world. A self-taught chef, she had early stints at the downtown Tabard Inn and former West End Café, executive chef jobs at Washington’s New Heights and at Crowne Plaza, corporate chef titles at Clyde’s Restaurant Group and the Austin Grill restaurants, and was general manager and partner at Pizzeria Paradiso in Georgetown. She opened Mia’s Pizzas in Bethesda in 2006, well before the upscale wood-burning pizzeria craze, and served cupcakes for dessert before they were trendy. Though more women work in professional kitchens nowadays, female chef/owners are still rare. In that, Ballinger remains on the cutting edge. (Carole Sugarman)

Alan Gregerman

Alan Gregerman is rethinking business. The Silver Spring resident is president and chief innovation officer of Venture Works, which helps companies and organizations develop winning strategies and create successful new products, services, ventures and ways of doing business. Gregerman is the author of Lessons from the Sandbox (McGraw-Hill, 2000) and Surrounded by Geniuses (Sourcebooks, 2007), which won an Axiom Business Book Award as one of the best leadership books of 2008. The book argues that each person is capable of genius, and it shows how companies can win by unlocking compelling ideas in their employees. In 2000, Gregerman also founded the nonprofit Passion for Learning, which aims to help children achieve their full potential. The organization works to build innovative partnerships between the business community and those Montgomery County schools where student achievement is affected by the challenges of dealing with family poverty and language issues. (Gabriele McCormick)

Rollin Stanley

When Montgomery County Planning Director Rollin Stanley left his job last spring for a similar post in Calgary, many people were glad to see him go. Chief among them were four Chevy Chase women who were frequent critics of Stanley and his policies—and who had called for his ouster after he claimed they referred to themselves as “the coven” in an article in Bethesda Magazine. There’s no doubt that Stanley was his own worst enemy. He could be arrogant, brash and condescending and, by most accounts, was a poor manager of the planning process and staff. But he was also a visionary, and his ideas and force of personality set (some would say shoved) the county on a path toward a much more urban lifestyle. Stanley’s mark on the county—and on how residents live—will be felt for decades to come. (Steve Hull)

Olga Grushin

The daughter of Russian sociologist Boris Grushin, Silver Spring’s Olga Grushin was born in Moscow and studied journalism at Moscow State University. She was awarded a full scholarship to Emory University in Atlanta in 1989 and became the first Russian citizen to enroll in and complete a four-year American college program, graduating summa cum laude in 1993. Grushin is the author of two English-language novels, The Line (Putnam, 2010) and The Dream Life of Sukhanov (Putnam, 2006), which was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. It has been translated into 14 languages. (Gabriele McCormick)

Andrea McCarren

Veteran WUSA-Channel 9 reporter Andrea McCarren was busy covering the recession—until she became a victim of it. The station let McCarren go in early 2009, as many local stations canned experienced and expensive journalists and replaced them with younger and cheaper ones. Recognizing that the news media landscape was changing fast, McCarren sought to reinvent herself as a blogger and social media guru. That summer, the Bethesda resident and her family traveled around the country in an RV, and McCarren blogged about the people they met along the way who were facing tough economic times. Shortly after they returned, Channel 9 hired McCarren back—and she has been a multimedia news machine ever since. Combining aggressive reporting, relentless tweeting and Facebook posts, McCarren has provided nearly nonstop coverage of most major news stories, including the Lululemon and George Huguely murder trials. She also has become a bit of a lightning rod herself. McCarren’s 10-part series on underage drinking last spring sparked a firestorm of criticism from teens and even some parents. She pulled herself off the story after she said her kids were harassed on Facebook and in school, but almost immediately returned in a very public way—announcing on the CBS Morning News that the story must go on. (Steve Hull)

Giuliana DePandi Rancic

Giuliana DePandi Rancic has bared her life and her soul over the last few years, publicly battling infertility, breast cancer and a double mastectomy, and handling it all with grace, courage and dignity on her reality TV show, Giuliana & Bill. Rancic, who was 7 when she and her family immigrated to Bethesda from Naples, Italy, learned to speak English by watching American TV. After graduating from Walt Whitman High School and earning an undergraduate degree in journalism from American University and a master’s in journalism from the University of Maryland, she moved to Los Angeles and landed a job as a television correspondent for E! News. In 2007, she married Bill Rancic, first winner of The Apprentice. Five years later, the couple announced that they were expecting their first child with the help of a gestational carrier. The baby boy was born at the end of August, and the Rancics were scheduled to co-host NBC’s new matchmaking show, Ready for Love, this fall. (Gabriele McCormick)


When you hear the names Greenwich, Palo Alto and Newport Beach, one word comes to mind: affluence. But those three tony towns finished second, third and fourth in Money Magazine’s 2012 ranking of “Top Earning” towns. The clear winner: Bethesda. With a median family income of $185,000, Bethesda outpaced Greenwich ($168,000), Palo Alto ($164,000) and Newport Beach ($157,000). Moreover, the median home price in Bethesda ($740,000) was much lower than in the three runners-up (where prices range from $1.2 million to $1.9 million), meaning local residents have more money to spend. (Steve Hull)

National Intrepid Center of Excellence

Members of the U.S. military often return from war zones not only with physical injuries but with “invisible wounds”— including traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). That’s where the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) comes in. Since opening at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda in 2010, NICoE has been offering a comprehensive evaluation and treatment program for active-duty service members diagnosed with severe PTSD and/or TBI. The $65-million, 72,000-square-foot, state-of-theart facility was built entirely with private funds, including a $3 million donation from Bob Barker of The Price Is Right. Using some of the most advanced imaging technologies in the world and an interdisciplinary team of neurologists, psychologists, family therapists and other medical professionals, the center works to help these brave men and women return to productive lives. For some, that hope already is becoming a welcome reality. (Stacey Colino)

National Museum of Health and Medicine

Who knew there was a museum in Silver Spring that celebrates National Hairball Awareness Day in April, complete with a display of human and animal hairballs? That exhibit is just one of many fascinating things about the National Museum of Health and Medicine, established in 1862 during the Civil War by the U.S. Army and now housed in a geometric structure at the Fort Detrick Forest Glen Annex on Linden Lane. About 55,000 people annually visit the museum, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, to check out exhibits that highlight the effects of disease on the human body and the history of American medicine. Visitors can stop by daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to see such things as the bullet that killed President Abraham Lincoln, fragments of his skull and a shirt cuff stained with his blood. There’s currently a Civil War exhibit, as well, in celebration of the museum’s 150th anniversary. (Julie Rasicot)

Plummers Island

Plummers Island lies a stone’s throw from the American Legion Bridge and nine miles from the White House, a little-known botanist’s paradise on the Potomac River. The 12-acre, undeveloped island was leased by the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 1901 and purchased in 1908 for use as a field camp, with the goal of cataloging every plant there. In 1958, the National Park Service assumed ownership with an agreement that the club could continue its research indefinitely. In the last century, the club collected and cataloged more than 4,300 plant and tree leaves. They’re now in the Smithsonian’s botany department, where their images are going into an electronic field guide. The club also has “bar-coded” the island’s plant species, creating a database of DNA segments from each plant. It continues to maintain Plummers Island and conduct research, awarding small grants to those interested in furthering knowledge of the Potomac basin’s natural history. (Gabriele McCormick)

Seasons 52

Seasons 52 defies every culinary stereotype. It’s a chain, with about two dozen restaurants across the country. It’s owned by Darden, the world’s largest full-service restaurant company, whose holdings include the not-so-glamorous Red Lobster and Olive Garden. All of its menu items weigh in at fewer than 475 calories, according to the chain. And yet, it manages to execute some of the best-tasting seasonal food in the area. The North Bethesda location has been a hit ever since opening in April 2011, with reservations highly recommended at peak dinner times every night of the week. How does Seasons 52 do it? With annual sales of nearly $8 billion, Darden has put its vast resources to good use, with recipe development and smart marketing—it’s a “fresh grill and wine bar,” not a “health food” restaurant. Any company that serves 400 million meals a year is bound to get something right. (Carole Sugarman)


One of the most extraordinary collections of post-World War II art, including works by Alexander Calder, Henri Matisse and Mark Rothko, is also one of the least viewed. But the man behind the collection, Mitchell Rales— dubbed “Potomac’s quiet billionaire”—wants to make it more accessible to the public. The collection is housed in the modernist limestone-andzinc Glenstone, a museum designed by New York’s Gwathmey, Siegel & Associates Architects and surrounded by monumental outdoor sculptures on Rales’ 150-acre Potomac estate. Rales plans to build a new, 125,000-square-foot gallery to augment the existing museum, which currently has space for only 10 percent of Rales’ collection. Since 2006, the little publicized museum has been open and free to the public. Visitors, however, must request reservations online for Wednesday through Friday viewings, and groups are limited to 20. (Gabriele McCormick)

A major crossroads in American history

You wouldn’t know it to look at it today, but the intersection of Rockville Pike, Hungerford Drive, Veirs Mill Road and East Jefferson Street in Rockville has served as a major crossroads in American history. In 1755, British soldiers bivouacked there during the French and Indian War. More than a century later, first Union, then Confederate soldiers also camped there during the Civil War. President James Madison secretly crossed the intersection when fleeing the British in the War of 1812. President Richard Nixon’s Watergate burglars did the same when evading federal investigators in the 1970s. The Montgomery County Fair began there in the 1800s; the first trolley line from Washington ended there in 1900; black and white baseball teams played each other there in the early 1900s, decades before integration. And in the northeast corner of St. Mary’s Cemetery lies F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. (Mark Walston)

The Universities at Shady Grove

Not everybody wants—or can afford—to attend a college or university far from home. Those looking for an alternative might find it at The Universities at Shady Grove, a community of nine Maryland state universities offering 70 undergraduate and graduate degree programs on a central campus in Rockville. Begun in 2000 by the University System of Maryland as a location for part-time instruction, USG now serves more than 3,600 undergrads and graduate students who can receive degrees from schools ranging from the University of Maryland, College Park, to Towson University. Students looking to fasttrack their education will find programs with flexible timetables, including evening and weekend classes. (Julie Rasicot)

White Flint

Long a bastion of strip malls, parking lots and fast-food joints, the White Flint corridor of Rockville Pike is slated to receive a major makeover. The White Flint Sector Plan, approved by the Montgomery County Council in March 2010, calls for the two-mile stretch from Montrose Parkway to the current White Flint mall to be transformed from suburban sprawl into a lovely pedestrian boulevard with tree-lined promenades, 24-story buildings, thousands of new residential units and shops, restaurants and other services within walking distance of the people who live there. It would include $1.1 billion in new infrastructure, including an elementary school, a fire station and other public facilities, and is expected to add several thousand permanent jobs to the area. It’s a plan that will continue to spark public debate as it moves forward, but one that’s sure to transform North Bethesda as we know it. (Amy Reinink)

Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary

Located on 400 acres in Poolesville, the nonprofit Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary offers a permanent home to neglected, abused or abandoned farm animals, typically rescued by animal control agencies. Currently, there are about 200 animals that will live out their lives at the sanctuary— including horses, mules, cows, goats, pigs, sheep, chickens, turkeys and rabbits. “We also have a peacock and a Chinese golden pheasant that were found in D.C.,” director Terry Cummings says. Wildlife organizations rehabilitate and release the wild ducks and geese that are brought to the farm. The sanctuary is entirely funded by public donations, 100 percent of which go to the animals’ care and feeding. (Gabriele McCormick)

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

A hidden treasure in Montgomery County, the nonprofit Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) is dedicated to advancing biomedical research and science education in the United States. Founded in 1953 by the late business magnate, aviator and film producer, the institute is based in Chevy Chase and employs more than 3,000 people across the country. Its mandate: “to probe the genesis of life itself.” In recent years, HHMI-funded research has explored disease-related genes, how cells move within the body, what drives us to eat, and new tools to control tuberculosis and HIV. By the end of 2011, it had an endowment of $16.1 billion and had paid out $905 million for scientific research, grants and other initiatives. Like the billionaire who was so reclusive at the end of his life, this vital organization is seldom seen by most of us—but it has a major impact on the world. (Stacey Colino)

The Ratner Museum

Located on Old Georgetown Road near Bethesda’s Wildwood Shopping Center, The Ratner Museum is one of the few museums in the world dedicated to portraying the characters and stories of the Hebrew Bible. Established by cousins and Bethesda residents Phillip and Dennis Ratner in 2001, the museum features a permanent collection of Phillip Ratner’s biblical artwork and a changing display by other established and emerging artists. Nonbiblical sculptures by Phillip Ratner, who earned degrees from Pratt Institute and American University, have also been installed at the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court. Dennis Ratner and his wife, Ann, founded Hair Cuttery, the 750-store chain they started with one shop in West Springfield, Va. The Ratner Museum offers free admission and is open to the public Sunday through Thursday. (Gabriele McCormick)

Most expensive home

What kind of home does $20 million buy? How about a mansion sitting on 13 prime acres in Potomac that comes with a fancy name and a pedigree of historically famous owners? That would be Marwood Estate, purchased by sports mogul Ted Leonsis in January and the most expensive home sold in the Bethesda area this year. Formerly the manse of the Joseph P. Kennedy family, among others, the estate boasts 10 bedrooms, 13 full baths, a guest house and an apartment and pool house. All this, plus panoramic views of the Potomac River. (Julie Rasicot)

Sites of plantations

Montgomery County is one of the most politically liberal jurisdictions in the country—but that was far from the case in its early history. From before the American Revolution to the Civil War, the county was home to thousands of slaves. In 1860, 5,421 of the county’s 18,322 residents were slaves, and slave owners accounted for a third of the county’s heads of households. Many local landmarks were once the sites of plantations where slaves toiled. For example, a 600-acre farm with 100 slaves once stood where the National Institutes of Health and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda are now located. Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase was once the plantation of Greenbury Watkins, who had 33 slaves, 13 of whom were under age 10. And where Westfield Montgomery mall is now, there were two farms with a total of 41 slaves. In the 1860 presidential election, Abraham Lincoln received only 50 votes in the county—just 2 percent of the county’s total. (Steve Hull)

J. Craig Venter

Can J. Craig Venter’s “super bugs” save the world? That’s what this former National Institutes of Health researcher would suggest. His Rockville-based nonprofit, the J. Craig Venter Institute, and his company, Synthetic Genomics, are working to create microbes from synthetic DNA that could create fossil fuel and food and suck up oil spills and other pollutants. Though critics reportedly regard Venter’s claims as premature and the man himself as egotistical, we wouldn’t bet against him. His past accomplishments include sequencing and publishing the human genome in 2001 and creating the first synthetic DNA in 2010. A Navy corpsman in Vietnam, Venter swam a mile into the ocean intending to commit suicide, but changed his mind and swam back to shore. He went on to make Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People lists in 2007 and 2008. Whether Venter, who splits time between his La Jolla, Calif., mansion and his Alexandria, Va., town house, will save the world is debatable. But few would argue that he has already changed it. (Amy Reinink)

Total Wine & More

Since 1934, Montgomery County has had the most heavily controlled liquor law in the nation. It’s the only county in the country that acts as the sole wholesaler for all three categories of alcoholic beverages—beer, wine and spirits. When Prohibition ended, the federal government allowed states to decide how they wanted to control alcohol sales; Maryland then asked each county the same question, with Montgomery choosing the most comprehensive route. Between profits from its wholesale operation and 24 retail stores, MoCo now nets about $30 million annually that goes into a general fund. Critics say the arrangement limits choice and squelches price competition, but the county liquor board claims alcohol-related public health and safety are better in controlled jurisdictions and that selection has improved. Ironically, Total Wine & More, the fabulously successful alcoholic beverage superstore chain started by brothers David and Robert Trone, is headquartered in Potomac, with 80 stores in 13 states. Maryland isn’t among them, however, because state law prohibits alcohol sales at chains and big box outlets. The company’s corporate offices are in the Cabin John Shopping Center—above a Montgomery County liquor store. (Carole Sugarman)

River Rescue and Tactical Services Team (RRATS)

Members of the county’s River Rescue and Tactical Services Team (RRATS) were running an errand on Dec. 23, 2008, when they met a 4-foot wall of brown water barreling down River Road in Bethesda. A 66-inch water main had burst, leaving several vehicles stranded and in danger as icy water began to fill their interiors. The team, which is based at stations 10 and 30, sprang into action, and with the help of other rescue personnel saved all nine people who had been stranded. Though the team, which now consists of 63 career members and 24 volunteers, doesn’t usually make national news, as it did that day, its members are no strangers to dramatic and risky rescues. The team regularly responds to stranded boaters or kayakers on the Potomac River, and helps with water rescues in flood situations elsewhere in the county. In 2011 alone, it rescued 57 people, according to Capt. Oscar Garcia, spokesman for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service. As of October, it had rescued 36 people this year, Garcia says. (Amy Reinink)

Republican Party

We’ve got to hand it to local Republicans: Being red in die-hard blue Montgomery County can’t be easy. Democrats continue their long-standing hold on county government; no Republican has been county executive since James Gleason became the first person elected to the post, serving from 1970 to 1978. And it has been six years since Howard Denis of Chevy Chase, the last Republican to sit on the county council, lost his re-election bid for the Bethesda-Potomac District 1 seat. And yet the local Republican Party soldiers on, with an ongoing calendar of events on a spiffy website for the county’s roughly 123,000 active registered Republicans (active registered Democrats number about 330,000). Those local GOP stalwarts who traveled to Tampa in late August for the Republican National Convention reveled in a once-in-four-years opportunity to bask among the party faithful. Back in the county, though, it was business as usual: Being Republican may make one stand out in a crowd—just not at the ballot box. (Julie Rasicot)

Housing crisis in Potomac

Yes, Virginia, there is a housing crisis in Potomac. “Overall demand is down for the high-end properties [in Potomac] because people in the middle are unable to move up,” says Bethesda Realtor Bob Myers. About 25 percent of owners of homes priced at $2 million-plus “got in for little or no money down and carry huge mortgages on homes worth less than their mortgages,” says Bethesda Realtor Jane Fairweather. Because of that, many can’t afford to sell. In July, sales in Potomac were down almost 30 percent from a year earlier, with properties sitting on the market an average of 83 days. And those $2 million-plus homes in Potomac are selling much more slowly than those in Bethesda. In the first half of 2012, 80 percent of Bethesda homes listed at more than $2 million sold, while only 50 percent of comparably priced homes sold in Potomac. Baby boomers and millennials want to live a more urban lifestyle, Fairweather says. “They want the stimulation and convenience of living on the edge of urban districts and also want to eliminate the time-consuming and costly commute to and from Potomac,” a trend that will continue as gasoline becomes increasingly more expensive and roads remain clogged with traffic. (Gabriele McCormick)

Nike surface-to-air missiles

During the Cold War, Montgomery County was deemed critical to the defense of Washington, D.C., in what many saw as an inevitable conflict with the Soviet Union. Military intelligence, however, believed conventional anti-aircraft artillery was incapable of stopping an aerial attack. And so it was that, beginning in 1954, a string of U.S. Army defense bases was built from Potomac to Gaithersburg, each armed with powerful Nike surface-to-air missiles pointed toward the eastern sky. They remained a lethal part of suburbia into the 1970s. And even today, remnants of the site near Gaithersburg, including a silo and a few scattered buildings, sit behind a mini-mall on Muddy Branch Road. (Mark Walston)

Community Montessori Charter School

In August, the Community Montessori Charter School opened its doors in Kensington as the first public charter school in a county that prides itself on the excellence of its public schools. The elementary school, serving 70 students up to age 6 who were chosen by lottery from more than 250 applicants, is operated by Crossway Community, a nonprofit organization that offers programs to disadvantaged and low-income people. The agency is the first to survive the Montgomery County Board of Education’s rigorous application process; the board denied several other applications over the years and even rejected Crossway Community’s plans the first time around. The school, which already ran a preschool, eventually plans to serve as many as 188 kids in preschool through third grade. (Julie Rasicot)

The Wednesday Morning Group

Mothers who’ve left the career track to care for their kids—as well as those who’ve stayed home from the start— know what it’s like to crave intellectual stimulation. For 50 years, local moms have found it through the weekly lecture series offered by The Wednesday Morning Group at Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda. Started by the church in 1962 as a discussion group for mothers, The Wednesday Morning Group is now open to men and no longer affiliated with the church, though meetings are still held there. Those who attend can enjoy a cup of coffee and an hourlong lecture by a variety of national and local news personalities, authors, politicians, scientists and policymakers. The group meets every Wednesday that Montgomery County public schools are in session. And there’s no need to worry about who’ll watch the kids who aren’t yet in school: The group offers a baby-sitting co-op. (Julie Rasicot)

“Fast casual” dining trend

Ever since Chipotle came onto the scene, the “fast casual” dining trend has exploded, now outpacing all other segments of the restaurant industry. The Mexican food chain, with its customized burritos and mindfulness of the environment, animals and farmers, presaged a host of culturally similar restaurants in Bethesda and environs over the past six years or so. Cava Mezze Grill, sweetgreen, Kraze Burgers, Bold Bite, Panas Gourmet Empanadas, Boloco, Chop’t, Taylor Gourmet, Elevation Burger, the upcoming Newton’s Noodles and some of the frozen yogurt shops hit all the local demographic hot buttons. Often built with recycled materials, equipped with energy-efficient lighting and stocked with sustainable ingredients, these restaurants appeal to the growing number of consumers concerned about their health and the environment. And in an area with lots of successful, highly educated residents, “having it your way” is a winning concept. As one local restaurateur puts it, customization means “power to the people.” (Carole Sugarman)

Excuses for parking infractions

I was only gone for a minute! I was just looking for someone to make change so I could pay. I seriously thought that errand would take five minutes, but the line was out the door. I didn’t know about the pay-by-cell— but I promise I’ll use it next time!

Montgomery County parking enforcement officers have heard it all when it comes to excuses for parking infractions. People can be remarkably optimistic—or delusional—in thinking up ways to avoid that little yellow envelope. Rockville defense attorney Michael Dobbs told Bethesda Magazine in 2010 that he knew of just one excuse that has spared drivers the $45 ticket: The meter wasn’t working (supported by recording the meter number, parking space number, date, time and the amount deposited—with all of this evidence presented in court, of course). (Amy Reinink)