A Gala to Remember


DenaSue Potestio and Dr. Michael ShonrockIt was a scene that reminded some in the crowd of a chic New York nightclub—subdued lighting, guests in formal wear enjoying passed hors d’oeuvres, trendy furniture in conversation-inducing arrangements, live music and theater—an ambiance that complemented the reason for the celebration.

After all, it’s not every day that a milestone like Emporia State University’s sesquicentennial rolls around. So when the Memorial Union’s Webb Hall was transformed into a gala venue to celebrate the university’s history and look forward to its bright future, it was only logical to anticipate something more than a typical banquet.

Along with experiencing the unique entertainment and invigorating social atmosphere, gala attendees learned that Emporia State is embarking on “Now & Forever: The Campaign for Emporia State University.” With a working goal of $45.3 million, it’s the largest, most comprehensive campaign in Emporia State’s history. 

And on top of that announcement came word that this same campaign is well on the way toward achieving its goal.

150th Gala entertainmentBirthday cupcakes“The support we’ve achieved in this effort is exciting and humbling,” said DenaSue Potestio, Emporia State Foundation president. Continuing, Potestio told the crowd that the campaign has already surpassed the 20 percent mark, with $9.3 million committed to the effort. (In the months since the announcement, additional gifts have pushed Now & Forever to nearly 25 percent of its goal, approximately 
$11.2 million.)

“I am deeply privileged to partner with Dr. Michael Shonrock, our Foundation Board of Trustees, our alumni, and our community to lead this campaign,” Potestio continued.

A unique approach has both transformed the campaign and given it a signature phrase that was first heard at the Feb. 15 gala over the peals of a bell rung by Shonrock, Emporia State’s president.

“We’re silent no more!” said Shonrock, invoking the image of Silent Joe, the iconic Emporia State bell tower which contains the bell that hung in the administration building of what was then Kansas State Normal School (KSN).

“We should be calling him ‘Victory Joe’!” Shonrock declared.

Stingers up!“We are imagining the Emporia State of the future. We’ve been changing lives for 150 years, and now it’s time to anticipate what comes next,” Shonrock continued.

And as servers carrying lighted trays of birthday cupcakes made their way through the crowd, gala-goers toasted not only the achievements of Emporia State’s past 150 years, but also the promise of lives changed in the future.

Indeed, some of that life-changing has already begun, courtesy of those who bought tickets for the gala. At a reception for newly tenured faculty in May, a check for $10,018.63 representing the proceeds from the gala was presented to Emporia State’s departments of theatre, art and music for scholarships and programming in appreciation of the student talent showcased at the event.