Gala honors donors

Mai Hoang

Donors, students and others who attended the President’s Circle Gala on Friday used all their senses to celebrate a successful capital campaign.

From the sounds of the Guthrie Bell Tower to the photojournalism exhibit in Mass Media and Technology Hall, those who donated during the five-year campaign could see and hear the impact of their gifts.

The gala is held every other year for President’s Circle members – donors who give gifts of more than $1,000. It was also a chance for those on the Hill to thank donors for helping raise $102 million during the capital campaign.

The goal was $90 million.

Almost 500 guests attended, the most ever at any of the President Circle Galas, spokesman Bob Skipper said.

This year’s gala was held at DUC South Lawn. The 2001 event was held at the Sloan Convention Center.

At DUC South Lawn, guests could see two structures that did not exist at the last gala – Mass Media and Technology Hall, which opened in August, and the Guthrie Bell Tower, which was finished in May 2002.

After the presentation, some of the guests mingled while others lined up to see a photo exhibit of work of students in Western’s photojournalism program.

President Gary Ransdell unveiled at Media Hall a new four-panel black wall structure that listed the names of donors who were part of the Henry Hardin Cherry Society – the donors who donated more than $25,000 to the campaign.

After a reception at Media Hall, guests were led to a white tent for dinner. There they heard the bells from the Guthrie Bell Tower ring Western’s fight song.

“It’s just the whole spirit of the evening,” said Tom Hiles, vice president for Institutional Advancement. “Certainly, the Guthrie Tower represents the most tangible symbol of the campaign.”

Dinner guests sat at tables covered in black and white tablecloths, topped with red table coverings. Roses in silver vases were placed in the middle of the tables. At each place setting, there were programs decorated in polka dots and mints in a black case with Western’s logo.

Spotlights shone on each table.

On two video screens were images of Western’s campus. A stage was set up for the Pat Patrick Band to play later in the evening.

Guests were asked to sing along in a patriotic tribute led by Wayne Pope, director of Western’s Opera Theatre, as a tribute to people who have fought in the United States military.

Images of the Guthrie Bell Tower and of soldiers who served in war were shown, and guests sang “Proud to be an American” and “This is My Country.”

Mark Melloan, a graduate student from Elizabethtown, described life on the Hill through his words in his song “High on a Hilltop.” The guests listened to Melloan sing while they had dessert – a chocolate bourbon treat, shaped like a hilltop tower, topped with a red and white glaze.

They also saw pictures of Western life over the years.

After Melloan’s performance, Ransdell announced that his song would be played at all the home basketball games.

“Mark sang of tradition, spirit and pride,” Ransdell said. “These are the intangibles that drive the ‘Investing in the Spirit’ campaign; the intangibles that produce tangibles.

“Tonight we honor the tradition, bask in the spirit and swell in pride that you have made possible.”

During the program, the “Investing in the Spirit” campaign co-chairs Don Vitale and Mary Nixon announced the campaign totals.

The money from the campaign helped create 27 endowed professorships and $29 million in scholarships and brought the university’s endowment to $56.4 million.

Bruce Merrick, of Louisville, said he liked seeing all the visible changes as a result of their gifts. Merrick, a 1975 alumnus, said he also enjoyed the photojournalism exhibit at Media Hall.

“This reconnects me with the same excellence I experienced 30 years ago,” he said. “It feels great to be back.”

Jerald Manning, of Bowling Green, said he enjoyed seeing the buildings on campus and participating in the festivities.

“I think it’s a great way to see old friends from my Western days,” he said.

Gordon Ford, the 1934 alumnus who gave the $10.6 leading gift for the campaign, said the campus has changed for the better since he attended classes on the Hill.

“It’s just changed so much,” he said. “It’s a different world.”

He was especially impressed with the Guthrie Bell Tower.

“It ties the old campus and the new campus together,” he said.

Like the bell tower tying together the old with the new, the people of Western’s past, present and future danced together at the end of the program to celebrate the same thing: the changes $102 million can produce.

Reach Mai Hoang at [email protected]