Friday, Nov. 15, 2013 marked a magnificent evening to celebrate the generosity of donors, Trustees, alumni, faculty, and staff. The event featured captivating artistic and cultural performances by Arcadia University students.
Serving as a gesture of deep gratitude from the University to those who have and continue to help shape Arcadia, the evening was an opportunity for donors to meet the student recipients of their scholarships. This year was the first time members of the Gateway Society, President’s Circle, Covenant Society, Knight Society, and scholarship donors have celebrated in a joint event.
During a well choreographed 45-minute program, Arcadia students showcased their talents with a duet, an aria, and even a salsa dance that made at least one attendee remark “I feel like I’m at ‘Dancing with the Stars’!” As donors and alumni mingled with one another and University administration, faculty, staff, and students, several donors remarked at the vibrant, luxe atmosphere of the event.
“This is the first time I’ve been to an event like this,” said Arlene Johnston ’72, community engagement officer on the Alumni Association Steering Committee. “I love it. Everything is exceptional.”
Guests arrived to a University Commons Great Room that had been transformed into an elegant, lounge-like space with high-top tables and chairs, white leather tufted sofas, and three performance stages interspersed throughout the room. A delectable lineup of food from around the world was presented: lobster macaroni and cheese, chicken parmesan bites, pumpkin soup shooters, Asian short rib pot pie, strip loin with a brandy demi-glace, a raw bar, and a Greek station with lamb gyros, homemade falafel, and baba ghanoush were among the fare.
Beginning the program at 7 p.m., the Glenside Goonies, a student group that fires up the crowds at home athletic contests, burst through the doors, leading “A-U” chants before being joined by the Arcadia Cheerleaders, the Knight Club Dance Team, and the new Arcadia Knight mascot. The lights then dimmed, and Alexis Simone ’15 set the melodic tone for the evening with a solo performance of “Let Me Be Your Star,” her voice soaring effortlessly through the Great Room.
Alexa Strus ’15, president of the Student Government Organization, and Jayson Flores ’14, vice president, then offered student perspectives on the opportunities they have been provided because of the support of donors.
“All of the energy of the student body comes from the opportunities we have here at Arcadia,” said Strus. “There are so many amazing things we are able to do. I’ve been able to study in London and China, and now I’m planning to go to South Africa. You help us explore the world and find our place in it. Thank you so much.” “Through the class curriculum, I’ve been pushed to write even more,” said Flores, “and I’ve become editor-in-chief for the newspaper; I’m interning with Philadelphia Magazine; and I’ve been published by USA Today.”
Strus and Flores introduced a video celebrating the donors, featuring Trustee Emerita Beverly Goldberg ’53, faculty members Jan Tecklin and Dr. Steve Robbins, students Strus and Flores, and Chair of the Board of Trustees Chris van de Velde. The video allowed donors to share their philosophy on giving, and showcased how support helps Arcadia students in their educational careers.
A duet on the north stage of “Get Happy/Happy Days Are Here Again” by Grace Szczepkowski ’15 and Clare McLaughlin ’14, singers who seemed born for the stage, followed the video.
Lorna Stern, recently appointed vice president for The College of Global Studies, took to the center stage to reflect on Arcadia University’s commitment to international education. Many marveled at the total number of students that have studied abroad or had an international experience through the University—63,000 students in 65 years.
“Our students go to countries like Guatemala, South Africa, and Germany,” said Stern. “They swim with whale sharks in Western Australia, teach young children new computer skills in South Africa, and get involved in working with refugee clinics in Athens, Greece. They make a contribution, they make a difference, and they learn to see differently—and isn’t that what learning is all about?”
With a nod to the “Eternal City” of Rome, Stern introduced tenor Stephen Bennett ’14, who delivered a stirring rendition of the aria “Caro Mio Ben.” Stern then led a fun interview of Christina Yee ’14, who recounted her study abroad experience learning Spanish and volunteering at a physical therapy clinic with patients with multiple sclerosis in Barcelona, Spain. When Yee’s interview ended, the north stage came to life with a salsa performance to the theme from The Pink Panther by Puro Ritmo, the University’s Latin dance club.
Van de Velde stepped to the podium atop the window stage. Before introducing President Nicolette DeVille Christensen, van de Velde expressed his gratitude to the donors and the students who had made the evening special.
“I’d like to thank all of you who help make this University as successful as it is,” said van de Velde. “I’d also like to thank the students who have performed here this evening. It’s an amazing demonstration of some of the talent in this community.”
In her remarks, President Christensen noted the important legacy of the institution and offered heartfelt thanks to the donors, acknowledging President Emerita Dr. Bette Landman and Goldberg.
“Arcadia is a legacy institution building on a foundation that began over 160 years ago,” said President Christensen. “To all of you in this room, you are the reason we can continue to build on this legacy and plan for the future. You have helped so many students in so many ways whose future would not be so bright and whose academic experience at Arcadia would not be nearly as robust and expansive without your many kindnesses and generosities. Thank you so very much for sharing such a special evening in harmony with us.”
An Arcadia Choir rendition of “Rains Down in Africa” served as the event’s culminating performance, with choir members snapping their fingers to mimic the rhythmic patter of rainfall.
While the student performances, dessert trays, sparkling ice sculpture of the castle, and chic attire offered an air of pageantry, attendees such as Susan Rhoades Summers ’56 never lost sight on what truly made the evening special—a common thread of supporting an institution they value so dearly.
“I was a scholarship work grant student, I graduated summa cum laude, and I am extremely proud of my connection with Beaver and the opportunities it gave me,” said Summers, a member of the Covenant Society who attended the event with her husband, Gordon. “I feel very blessed to be in a circle of people who are well educated and understand the world, but there are many people of promise who don’t get that opportunity. It’s incredibly important to give and to support.”
Photos by Kara Wright ’14