Making new friends and honoring old ones is the motive behind a spectacular evening of dining, dancing and musical delight on tap this Saturday (Nov. 22) for patrons of Sam Houston State University's College of Arts and Sciences.
Former television newsman and "Eyes of Texas" host Ron Stone will serve as master of ceremonies for the benefit gala which begins at 5:30 p.m. in the university's Lowman Student Center Ballroom. Throughout the evening dinner guests will be treated to a delectable potpourri of live performances showcasing the exceptional talents of SHSU musicians. Highlighting the musical lineup will be the SHSU Symphony's performance of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" with guest pianist Charlotte Tull. The night's festivities culminate with ballroom dancing fueled by the melodious syncopations of the renowned SHSU Jazz Ensemble.
But before the dancing begins, COAS will pause to pay tribute to three honored guests -- Frances Elizabeth Williams Byrd and Morris L. Waller, of Huntsville, and William Foster Burgos, of Camarillo, Ca -- COAS friends whose deeds and devotion have enhanced the college's educational quality and prestige.
While the event is being staged to raise funds for important COAS initiatives, motivation for the gala transcends mere fund-raising, according to Christopher Baldwin, COAS dean.
"This university isn't some ivory tower disassociated from its local community. We are a part of that community and this wonderful event is a way of manifesting that connection," Baldwin said. "The whole focus of the gala is on the development and cultivation of friends."
Saturday's event benefits the COAS Fund for Excellence which provides monetary support for college endeavors not funded by the state. The excellence fund helps pay for valuable research tools, upgrade lab and classroom technologies, and defray expenses for students and faculty traveling to conferences, competitions and performances. The fund also assists with the development of international field schools and student and faculty exchange programs.
"It isn't even the sugar on top of the bun," Baldwin said of the endeavors made possible by the excellence fund. "We want to do some bread and butter things and the state funds simply don't stretch that far."
Among COAS initiatives "in the pot and boiling" are plans to establish additional summer field schools and collaborative arrangements with universities in Mexico, Northern Italy and even China. The college is also in the process of reviewing and updating its academic curriculum, placing special emphasis on technological innovations to improve classroom instruction and distance learning capabilities.
This December, the SHSU Symphony Orchestra has been invited to perform in London. Also, a team of SHSU computer programmers who logged an extraodrinary performance in regional programming competition last year has it's sights set on upcoming national programming competition.
"The monetary resources made available by donations to the enhancement fund support programs like these," said Baldwin. "They allow us to respond to opportunities like a sophisticated college."
Anyone interested in attending Saturday's COAS Fund for Excellence Gala and Symphony Pops Concert, may purchase tickets by calling the COAS at (409) 294-1401. Tickets are $50 per person and tables seating 10 are available from $500 at the bronze level, to $10,000 at the diamond level.
Gala attendees will also be able to bid on a variety of exclusive silent auction items donated by friends of COAS. Among the items up for grabs are trips to Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe, as well as a whitetail deer hunt at the exclusive Loco Bayou Hunting Club on Lake Nacogdoches.