The Crowd: Celebrating the champions of Chapman

The remarkable transformation of Chapman University from a small-town college of little reputation to a serious university with a growing national pedigree is testament to the vitality and the commitment of the Orange County citizenry. It is also the leadership of Chapman's president, Jim Doti, that has inspired serious money to support the vision.

The list of Chapman champions is long and distinguished, perhaps beginning with the dedication of Chapman alum George Argyros and his wife, Julianne. Their support has rallied nearly every O.C. citizen of means and accomplishment to not only contribute millions of dollars but also to lend expertise, advice and intellectual and emotional support.

Some have become adjunct professors in their chosen fields, including Mark Chapin Johnson, medical products millionaire and chairman of the Orange County Performing Arts Center before it was rebranded the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Chapin Johnson is an avid student of government, a member of Stanford University's Hoover Institution and a professor of political science at Chapman.

Others have contributed their resources and talent to realize personal goals and make dreams a reality. The Dale E. Fowler School of Law, the Argyros School of Business and Economics, the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, and (under construction) the Musco Center for the Arts are all examples of how prominent donors in the community have transformed the quality of education at the university through their personal vision.

S. Paul and Marybelle Musco, Newport Beach residents, have led the charge to create this enormous undertaking, which will elevate Chapman's performing arts majors to a more professional status, making the school's programs serious contenders with such notable institutions as NYU, UCLA, USC, Yale and others that offer degrees in music, drama and the performing arts.

The most recent major gift to Chapman comes from Harry and Diane Rinker of Newport Beach. Their $15-million contribution, which was recently announced, will name Chapman's new Health Science Campus in Irvine. Funds will be used to support Chapman's graduate programs in the health sciences, including pharmacy, physical therapy and physician's assistant. A Chapman medical school cannot be far behind.

All of this explanation is a prologue to a most basic reality when examining higher education in America today. That reality check is the cost for students to attend. A year at Chapman, including tuition, fees and living expenses, exceeds $50,. That is a daunting reality.

To meet the cost, some two-thirds of students at Chapman receive some form of financial aid either via academic scholarship or need-based assistance, along with all forms of available grants and loans.

On Nov. 2 on campus in downtown Orange, the university welcomed a "who's-who" crowd of O.C. leaders, including a significant level of Newport-Mesa support, for the American Celebration, raising in excess of $2 million net to support scholarships for Chapman students.

The 32nd annual event was, as tradition dictates, a celebration of Chapman values centered on honoring those who have made a serious difference for the university, for the community and for themselves and their families. The 2013 couple of honor was Suki and Randall McCardle, Newport Coast residents named Citizens of the Year. McCardle, a Chapman grad with both bachelor's and master's degrees, joined his elegant bride in accepting accolades from their peers. For one of the most genuine and generous patron couples on the coast, the tribute was well-deserved.

Adding a celebrity cache to the occasion was actor Beau Bridges, whose daughter is a student at Chapman. Bridges represented his late father Lloyd Bridges and his brother Jeff Bridges as Chapman paid further tribute to the creative accomplishments of this American family of performing artists.

The phenomenal success of the gala -- which began with a grand reception followed by a Broadway-caliber stage performance featuring Chapman students and then a spectacular formal dinner for more than 800 guests -- is due to the incomparable skill, talent, vision and, most importantly, hard work of gala chairs Twyla and Charles Martin.

The Martins are an O.C. power couple. Intelligent, creative, driven, they are community leaders with the organizational skill of top Pentagon officials. Actually, they are better than that. The Martins get things done without drama, without controversy.

Not only did they exceed the lofty financial goal, bringing in more than $2 million, they decided to mix things up and refresh the event after years of repetition.

A few of Twyla Martin's touches included working with the producers to showcase the exceptional solo talents of students rather than just a program of production numbers. The audience responded with enthusiastic appreciation.

Twyla's touches at dinner included eliminating loud music during dinner service "so people could actually talk" and creating a separate party for the students, less formal and more in keeping with their own style. The Martins also revamped the auction process, handling all fundraising online rather than turning the party into a bidding extravaganza. Classy move.

Major support for the gala came from the Moscos, the McCardles, the Argyroses, Zee Allred and Drago Gligie, Kelly and Jim Mazzo, Doy and Dee Henley, Catherine and Jim Emmi, Brenda and Michael Carver, Harriet and Sandy Sandhu, Christine and Lon Cross, Sandi and Ron Simon, and Murthy Simhambhatla.

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

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