Inside USD

Gala Raises $425,000+ for Student Scholarships

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The University of San Diego’s signature fundraising event, the Founders’ Gala, was a black-tie formal affair that featured fine dining, fine wine, live music and uniquely spectacular silent and live auction items.

While the Nov. 5 event in USD’s Hahn University Center was a sparkling, fun night for the more than 300 guests in attendance, the biggest winners were USD student scholars.

More than $425,000 was raised for the Founders’ Endowed Scholarship Fund, which provides much-needed financial support to undergraduate, graduate and law students, according to Coreen Petti, USD assistant vice president of marketing and strategic partnerships and Founders’ Gala Committee Chair.

The gala, which celebrates the university’s co-founders Bishop Charles Francis Buddy and Mother Rosalie Clifton Hill, has been held every other November since 2009 when it coincided with USD’s 60th anniversary celebration. This year’s gala was generously supported by Founders Sponsor Bartell Hotels, Legacy Sponsors Cisco, Coca-Cola and Trace3 and a host of other key corporate organizations to make it a top-notch event.

Perhaps Darlene V. Shiley, the Gala’s honorary chair and current USD trustee, said it best when she described the gala as “a night about hope, promise and potential. It’s a night about philanthropy.”

Shiley, whose long-term generosity to USD includes support for its science programs, graduate and undergraduate theatre arts and more, followed her own advice by making a donation during the Fund-A-Torero portion of the program that, in turn, rewarded her. Torero Cesar presented Shiley (pictured, right, with USD President Lyons) with a large piece of Swarovski Crystal shaped as a Torero Bull.

The night featured a pre-gala VIP reception in the Frank Warren Lounge with exclusive silent and live auction items for bid. The general gala reception and silent and live auctions followed.

There was a plethora of auction items ranging from food, wine, wine tastings, unique USD athletic experiences, exotic vacations and getaways, tickets to TV show tapings, services including a personal trainer, a year’s worth of fresh-cut flowers, crystal works of art and much more.

Petti said two unique items were “Puppy Love,” in which a blonde Labrador puppy was auctioned live for $2,500 and a pair of $10,000 bids enabled two lucky winners to each have a dining experience for eight complete with a personal chef and a host of USD executives, including USD President Mary E. Lyons and USD Board of Trustees Chair Ron Fowler, present to serve the winning bidders and their guests.

One of the most helpful items introduced at this year’s gala was the use of BidPal, a high-tech wireless device that made it easier for guests to enter their bids on auction items electronically. Petti said her team worked very closely with USD’s Information Technology Services department to assure BidPal’s functionality was flawless.

After the “business” of the evening was concluded, the USD Choral Scholars, under the direction of Edwin L. Basilio, EdD, performed Moses Hogan’s “Oh Lord Please Hear My Prayer,” and guests were served a three-course meal with specially selected wines.

President Lyons gave a closing speech, focusing on the merits of a USD education, including spotlighting some of the students who have benefitted from the generosity of those who contributed to the Founders’ Endowed Scholarship Fund.

“A USD education is a distinct experience that allows our students to be immersed in rigorous discovery and learning through our nationally ranked academic programs in building their faith and spiritual lives, in shaping their values, and in becoming globally, competent leaders who are dedicated to ethical conduct and changing the world through service to others,” she said.

The gala then turned things over to Haute Chile, a live band that played hits past and present for people to dance to and enjoy after-dinner drinks and petit fours as part of the Haute Encore After Party.

All in all, the Founders’ Gala provided an opportunity to engage with active members of the business community, USD alumni, parents, friends and family. Petti thanked each of the event’s sponsors and members of the campus community, including her team, for their efforts.

Petti said she feels that the Founders’ Gala is on pace to become a must-attend event in San Diego, one that “puts the university on the map, brings people together to showcase USD in a unique way and it’s all done in the name of student scholarships.”

The next Founders’ Gala will be held in November 2013.

— Ryan T. Blystone

Photos courtesy of Christy Seaver

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