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Record-Setting Founders Gala Supports Scholarships, Establishes Veteran Student Scholarship Fund

Founders Gala, the University of San Diego's signature fundraising event to support student scholarships, took its philanthropic impact to a new level of excellence on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, at the Jenny Craig Pavilion.

Attracting more than 600 attendees, including student, retired and current military, the university raised $800,000 in general scholarship support  and an additional $500,000 to establish a new endowed scholarship fund for student veterans. 

“Tonight is about embracing the spirit of philanthropy, supporting our student scholars and paying tribute to our student veterans and other military-connected students,” President James T. Harris III, DEd, said. “It is about establishing and enhancing scholarships for the more than 70 percent of USD students who strive to bridge the gap between what it costs to receive a USD education and what they can afford to pay. We can be that bridge. We can make a difference. We can change the lives of our students who, in turn, can change the world.”

Named in honor of university founders Bishop Charles Frances Buddy and Mother Rosalie Clifton Hill, the inaugural Founders Gala in 2009 established the Founders Endowed Scholarship Fund. It continues to support undergraduate, graduate and law students with documented financial need. The $800,000 in general scholarship support brings the total raised from five galas to nearly $3 million.

“It is incredibly important to raise funds for the endowment in the form of scholarship support,” said Coreen Petti, associate vice president of Advancement Marketing and Strategic Partnerships and Founders Gala Committee Chair. “This allows USD to attract and retain the best and brightest students, regardless of financial need, to receive a holistic, rigorous education that will help them become ethical and compassionate leaders who are inspired to create lasting social change.”

And establishing the endowed scholarship fund for student veterans is equally vital.

“USD has nearly 700 students who are active-duty military, are veterans, are enrolled in the San Diego NROTC program or are military family members,” Petti said. “Often times there is a gap in the funding they receive in federal aid and the cost of a USD education. They are a very important part of the USD community and we want to do everything we can to support them.”

The student veteran fund was one of several ways that Founders Gala saluted military, past and present, on Veterans Day.

Two USD alumni — Army Major General William M. Matz, Jr. (Ret.) '73 (MA) and Rear Admiral Yancy B. Lindsey '01 (MSGL), Commander, Navy Region Southwest — each had significant roles. Matz was the Gala’s Honorary Chairman while Lindsey led a veterans tribute.

Five Hometown Heroes — Michael Murphy ’99 (Navy), Karolyn D. Smith (Army), Lynn Welling (Navy), Adrian M. Brown (Army) and Thomas Delaney (Air Force) — were selected to attend Founders Gala among more than a hundred community nominations telling the stories of brave men and women who honorably served and who continue to be Changemakers in the community.  

A trio dressed in full American Revolutionary War uniforms marched and led guests from the Eagan Plaza area down the stairs to the Jenny Craig Pavilion floor. As guests entered the JCP, a fully decorated Missing Man Table was present. The display was there to remember all military men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while in service of their country.

Two student veteran endowed scholarship fund sources came courtesy of hat sales from the Operation Hat Trick promotion with Brand ‘47 and a Fund-A-Torero Veteran paddle-raise session during the Gala that provided direct philanthropic support that were 100 percent tax-deductible donations.

The black-tie evening’s program, hosted by television journalist, philanthropist and USD Parent Dorothy Lucey, featured a VIP lounge event, a Swarovski Sparkle Station, a Fashion Valley Shopping Vitrine, a cocktail reception and a USD Catering prepared three-course dinner with wine and dessert. There was a raffle to win tickets to see a San Diego performance of the play, “Hamilton,” followed by online/silent auctions and a live auction directed by auctioneer Benjamin Farrell, for one-of-a-kind experiences, trips, tickets to Super Bowl LII, and an autographed 2016 World Series Chicago Cubs jersey worn by Torero baseball alumnus Kris Bryant. The evening was capped off by an after party with food, an impressive military-inspired cake, spirits, and dancing to Wayne Foster Entertainment. Following the event, centerpiece flowers on each event table were collected by the Travis Manion Foundation and they were donated and delivered to the local VA Hospital.

The Founders Gala received tremendous support from the local community, including USD Employee and Gospel Recording Artist Lanee’ Battle who performed “God Bless America” alongside members of the USD Naval ROTC Color Guard and an invocation by Reverend Monsignor Daniel Dillabough ’70. The Gala wishes to thank Presenting Sponsor U.S. Bank, Legacy Sponsors Bartell Hotels and Coca-Cola, Heritage, Tradition and Premier Table Sponsors, trustees, alumni, parents, administrators, faculty and staff employees, students and friends of the university for their generous support.

Best of all, Founders Gala supports Torero Changemakers. One student veteran, Class of 2018 accounting major Jhonnatan Chinchilla, said it best.

“A veteran’s service and dedication to what he or she does is unquestionable. Once USD’s student veterans graduate and go out into the world, they’re not just representing USD as Toreros, they’re representing their family, their branch of service and their country — and the difference they make out in the world will be tenfold.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

See a full array of photos from the 2017 Founders Gala