Nearly 500 guests attended Emporia State’s Sesquicentennial Gala Feb. 15 in the Memorial Union. Tickets sold for $75 each, and proceeds, which totaled approximately $5,000, were donated to the general scholarship fund.
“I very happy to report that, thanks to the generous support of guests and donors, Emporia State was able to celebrate the Sesquicentennial Gala at no cost to the University,” said Jennifer Denton, vice president for Stewardship and Administration, in an email.
The night kicked off with speeches by President Michael Shonrock, who spoke about the origins of ESU, and Lana O’Leen, chair of the board of trustees.
Shonrock said the university was founded by one professor and a handful of students while Abraham Lincoln was president of the United States. He also mentioned that he is the 16th president of ESU and joked that he would be avoiding theaters.
“I’m so overwhelmed with emotion to be here,” Shonrock said, “(and) celebrating 150 years at this institution.”
Shonrock said 150 students were on hand for the evening, providing entertainment and representing the student body. Booths showcased a variety of programs and activities on campus, including the debate team, the leadership program and an exhibit by the art department.
Tess Hobson, senior communication major, represented the leadership department and provided guests with information on the leadership minor, as well as the Mosaic retreats.
“It’s rewarding (to be at the gala) because the leadership minor is what led me here,” Hobson said. “So I’m excited to show people what it’s all about.”
Several student groups, including the chamber choir and jazz ensemble and students from the theater department, provided musical entertainment throughout the night. Shonrock said it was rewarding to see “our talent at ESU.”
“It’s a big deal to be around for 150 years,” said Jeffrey Poort, senior music education major and jazz ensemble member, “and to be asked to be a part of it is an honor.”
Sen. Jeff Longbine and Rep. Don Hill were also in attendance. Longbine said his wife, Gwen, was also a member of the planning committee for the gala.
“I think the crowd that’s here is a tribute to the institution we have, and I think it’s just absolutely a great evening,” Sen. Longbine said.
The evening closed with a special announcement from DenaSue Potestio, president of the ESU Foundation and vice president for University Advancement. Potestio said the foundation has, so far, gathered $9.3 million toward its goal of $45.3 million for the Now and Forever campaign, which “engage(s) alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends in a mission to raise private funds for the university’s students, faculty and learning environments,” according to ESU’s website.
After the announcement, musical duo Gabe & Benny performed their ESU hype song “Right Now.”
“It’s been fun to meet new people, and make connections,” said Gabriel Andrews, junior business administration major and one half of the duo. “Also, I had one of the stinger cocktails, and that was on point.”