The Crowd: Event raises money for Chapman University

They sang. They danced. They even sent University President Jim Doti flying through the air above a stage lined up with chorus girls.

And at the end of it all, they raised $2.12 million for student scholarships.

American Celebration at Chapman University in Orange reached its 30-year milestone last week, producing one of the most spectacular events on the Orange Coast. A crowd of some 700 Chapman donors gathered in festive holiday black tie for the big show in Memorial Hall prior to a dinner party.

The dinner party unfolded in a massive translucent tent erected on the lawn fronting the turn-of-the-19th century structure.

Chaired by the philanthropic Bette and Wylie Aitken of Newport Beach and Anaheim Hills, the event also marked the 150th anniversary year of Chapman University. The special occasion was topped by an announcement that the Aitkens were making an additional gift of $2 million to the university, earmarked for the building of Chapman's future Center for the Arts.

Among their many community involvements, the Aitkens are especially passionate about the importance of art and culture in Orange County's overall health, education, and vitality. Their participation and support of such institutions as South Coast Repertory and the Segerstrom Center for the Arts is well known and respected.

The Aitkens joined vice-chairmen Mindy and Glenn Sterns of Newport Coast, and legendary O.C. citizens Julianne and George Argyros of Harbor Island, to ensure a major success. Julianne Argyros was especially glamorous in a one shoulder pink ball gown that garnered attention.

Together, the chairs, committee and faculty paid tribute to former O.C. families of note honored at the first American Celebration held in 1981. Included were the Segerstroms, Knotts, Karchers and Beckmans, all of whom have made significant contributions to the university and to the community at large.

Special honors of the evening also were bestowed upon American pop composer Mike Stoller, who with his late partner Jerry Leiber were responsible for such hits as "Hound Dog" and "Stand By Me." Stoller received Chapman's 2011 Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award.

After watching the American Celebration performance featuring some 100 students in their annual Broadway-style review, Stoller commented, "Many of these young people will someday grace the Broadway stages."

The Schmid family — whose name graces the main entrance gate of the university as well as many other campus buildings, programs and centers of learning — were also lauded. The extended family of O.C. pioneers Walter and Margaret Schmid, including Dick and Patty Schmid, Marty Schmid, widow of Dick Schmid's brother Don, all were named Chapman's Corporate Citizens of the Year.

Following the performance and honors, the crowd entered an elegant dinner party in a tent illuminated by crystal chandeliers that featured fountains centering a massive white high-gloss dance floor. Orchids, roses and hydrangeas adorned tables draped in glittering silver linen, where a dinner of lobster salad and filet mignon delighted the crowd.

Gala committee members and VIP guests celebrating the occasion included Dee and Doy Henley, Donna and David Janes Sr., Marybelle and Paul Musco, Ron Soderling, Marta and Raj Bhathal, Kathleen Bronstein, Kristin Crelin, Dale Merrill and William Hall, both of whom are responsible for the exceptional American Celebration performance.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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