Founders’ Day and Gala mark Emporia State’s sesquicentennial grand finale

February 9, 2014

When Emporia State University concludes its 150th anniversary celebration during the upcoming Founders’ Day weekend celebration Feb. 14 and 15, it will be with transformational style and flair matching the event ushering in the milestone a year ago.

A Friday luncheon and Saturday’s sesquicentennial Gala will herald a year that has witnessed remarkable strides in enrollment, fundraising and promotion arenas.

It’s an occasion that has seen the commissioning of an orchestral work, publication of a book and the mounting of a photo exhibit, all of which will be featured as capstones of the year-long celebration.

“It seems hard to believe we’ll reach the pinnacle of our 150th anniversary on Feb. 15,” said Dr. Michael D. Shonrock, Emporia State University president. 

“I encourage the Emporia community to attend the Founders’ Day luncheon as well as the Gala on Saturday evening. The Gala is a fundraiser and your financial support is absolutely essential as we chart the future,” he added.

Events on Friday, Feb. 14, include a ceremonial sealing of a time capsule at 10 a.m. at the Center for Student Involvement in the Memorial Union, followed by the traditional Founders’ Day luncheon. Doors to Webb Hall in the Union open for the luncheon at 11:30 a.m. with the program beginning at noon. Included in the program is the announcement of the two winners of the 1863 scholarship essay competition and a presentation about the 150 Photo Exhibit created for the sesquicentennial.

The luncheon costs $5, and tickets are required. They are available from Union Services in the Memorial Union or by calling (620) 341-6378.

After lunch, Steve Hanschu will present a look back at Emporia State’s 150 years and sign the book he edited for the celebration. Campus and city walking tours also will be available with a photo scavenger hunt.

Music setting a forward-moving, hopeful theme is the highlight of the Saturday events at a black-tie-optional gala celebration. The event reprises the sesquicentennial kickoff event in February 2013 announcing the launch of Now & Forever: The Campaign for Emporia State University. Guests will dine on food “prepared with flair and distinct flavor to take your palate on a delicious journey,” promises Head Chef Clarence T. Martin, Jr.

As the evening’s signature highlight, the Emporia Symphony Orchestra will perform “Commemorative Overture,” commissioned for the sesquicentennial observance and first performed by the orchestra at a concert a year ago.

“We feel very thrilled to be performing the overture for an audience that is specifically celebrating the 150th anniversary,” said Dr. Jeremy Starr, assistant professor of music and conductor of the orchestra.

Dr. Gary Ziek, professor of music, composed the work in 2013 to launch the sesquicentennial celebration.

“It’s an honor and a great experience to be able to conduct it, because it means so much not only to the orchestra playing it, but also to everyone who hears it,” Starr added.

“It would be wonderful to welcome 500 community Hornets to the grand finale on Saturday evening, and you don’t need a date!” said DenaSue Potestio, Foundation president/CEO.

“Bring a friend or simply yourself and we’ll seat you with new friends,” Potestio continued. “If you haven’t ventured onto campus for awhile, this is definitely the time to come back. Saturday evening will be filled with beautiful and inspired music in celebration of 150 years of changing lives.”

Potestio is excited about the symphony’s contribution to Saturday’s gala, but she also appreciates how the orchestra’s volunteer nature speaks volumes about its contribution to Emporia’s future.

“The fact that we have 75 volunteers — yes, unpaid community members, faculty and students — in the Emporia Symphony Orchestra is a strong statement about how a celebrated community orchestra can move a city to greatness,” Potestio said.

The orchestra will also back up Emporia State students Gabe Andrews and Benny Bowden in a symphonic rendition of “Right Now,” the Emporia State hype song. Dr. Andrew Houchins, professor of music, wrote the orchestration.

“He says it’s been really interesting to take the electronic sounds of the original song and put them into an acoustical piece,” Starr added.

Also during the program, the 260-plus members of the Now & Forever National Campaign Committee will be announced, then guests will enjoy dancing to the sounds of the Emporia State Jazz Ensemble, directed by Ziek. The evening will be a prelude to the group’s performance in April at the 13th annual New York City Jazz Festival.

The evening begins at 6 p.m. with a cocktail hour on the second floor of the Memorial Union. At 7, the musical program begins in Webb Hall. Dinner will be in the KSTC Ballroom beginning at 8 p.m. followed by dancing and dessert at 9 p.m.

Tickets for the gala cost $100, and reservations are required. To purchase tickets, contact the Emporia State University Foundation at (620) 341-5440 or register online at by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11.

“Join us this Friday and Saturday as we set the stage for our next 150 years of changing lives,” Shonrock concluded.



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