Westfield State University 175 Gala celebrates students, exceeds fundraising goal

WESTFIELD, Mass., March 29, 2014 – On Saturday, March 29, the Westfield State University campus and the community came together to celebrate and commemorate the 175th anniversary of the founding of the university. Built around the academic and artistic accomplishments of Westfield State students, the event raised more than $125,000 for scholarships, much of which will be matched dollar for dollar through the State University Internship Incentive Fund. Additionally, the event raised enough money to endow a 175th Anniversary Scholarship to benefit students for generations to come, and “kick-started” fundraising for the Josh Simpson and Cady Coleman Scholarship for Art and Science Education. The sold-out event was 100% underwritten by sponsors.

“For 175 years, Westfield State has been providing an exceptional education without regard to gender, race, or economic status," said Elizabeth H. Preston, president, Westfield State University. "Tonight, we saw the results of that education in the remarkable academic presentations and artistic performances of our students, and we saw the strong support for the university and our mission in the financial generosity of the campus and community.  I can’t imagine a better celebration of our anniversary.”

Coordinated in just five months by University Advancement and the Westfield State Foundation, under the auspices of the 175th Gala Advisory Committee, “the drive to host a fundraising gala has been a stirring success, not just in the amount of funds raised but in the extraordinary number of individual donations andsponsorships  to Westfield State,” said Michael R. Knapik, executive director, University Advancement.

In addition to funding student scholarships, a portion of the funds raised from the gala up to $124,891 will be matched dollar for dollar as part of the State University Internship Incentive Program (SUII). Funds raised will assist students placed in businesses and organizations throughout the Greater Springfield area and beyond, during the upcoming spring/summer semesters.

The gala scholarship fundraising comes on top of $135,000 in scholarship funding that the Foundation already had announced would be available for the next academic year, including the founding of a new 175 Anniversary scholarship.

“Thanks to the strong support of our community, we are very hopeful that, like the 150 Anniversary scholarship established 25 years ago, the 175 Anniversary scholarship will support students for years to come,” said Knapik.

A raffle for a Josh Simpson contemporary glass planet raised more than $2,000 as seed funding for the second scholarship announced during the evening, which was the establishment of the Josh Simpson and Cady Coleman Scholarship for Science and Art Education.

The Gala celebrated the academic and artistic achievements of Westfield State’s students with poster presentations made by student representatives from each academic department. Anthony Duarte ’14, a senior art major, presented a variety of different types of art that comprise the different concentrations in the art major, including graphic design, fine arts, and art history.

“I was really honored to be asked to show off the different aspects of the art department to the community and to share all that we have to offer,” Duarte said. “It affirms my experience here that guests were so interested in literally investing in us.”

Flash mob-type performances showcased the talents of student clubs including the Night Owls, the acaOWLETTES, Urban Education Gospel Choir and the Step Team, as well as several Music Department ensembles such as the Jazz Quintet, the University Chorale, and musical selections from the Music Theater Department’s production of Fiddler on the Roof.

Official gala event sponsors included Expert Fitness, Extra Winnings of Westfield, Berkshire Bank, Barnes and Noble Booksellers, Opal Real Estate Group, Westfield Bank, the Westfield News Group, Mestek, Inc., WEPCO, Evisions, People’s Bank, New England Geriatrics, Westfield Gas & Electric, Liberty Mutual, Whalley Computer Associates, Drconsultants, COMCAST, Entre Computer Center, and Corvias Campus Living.

Read more about Westfield State’s 175 celebration, including event information, the history of the University and fond memories from faculty, staff and alumni at www.westfield.ma.edu/175th.