Members of the Levelland community, faculty, staff, former students and friends of South Plains College turned out Thursday (Feb. 22) to raise more than $252,600 for scholarships for future SPC students at the 20th Annual Scholarship Gala held at the Mallet Event Center.
Themed “Generations of Opportunity”, the sell-out event was attended by more than 500 guests and volunteers during the evening that was highlighted by an acoustic music performance by former SPC students Josh Abbott, Edward Villanueva, Preston Wait, David Fralin and Austin Davis. The scholarship gala was hosted by City Bank as well as gala underwriters Carrie and Richard Ellis and Ray and Donna West.
“We are happy to be a part of this gala since its inception 20 years ago,” said K.W. Hill, City Bank Levelland branch president. Hill recounted the very first gala was a formal black-tie event that was held in the college’s Sundown Room. “Since then, the gala has changed over the years, including this evening’s dress code,” he told the audience. “We’re a little more causal in dress, but the reason why we’re here is still the same and that’s to raise scholarships for deserving students.”
Dinner entertainment was provided by commercial music students Hayden Spears of Clovis, N.M., and Angela Beth Crowson of Lubbock. Spears is the recipient of the Landon Velasquez Memorial Scholarship in Guitar Studies. Crowson is the recipient of the Partridge Family Scholarship and the Commercial Music Competitive Scholarship.
Gala patrons were served a gourmet meal that featured Western Cuisine, and they had the opportunity to participate in a live and silent auction that featured unique items donated by local businesses and friends of the South Plains College Foundation. The menu was prepared by the staff of Great Western Dining, Inc.
Following dinner, Julie Gerstenberger, director of development and alumni relations, welcomed the guests and announced the amount of scholarship funds that had already been raised prior to the evening.
I have great news,” Gerstenberger said. “From our table sponsorships and ticket sales alone, we have already brought in a record high of $116,000,” she said. “When you add to that amount our pre-gala donations of more than $8,700, we begin this evening with about $125,000. So thank you! Thank you!”
Ann Capps, president of the SPC Foundation, thanked the audience for attending the event and discussed how the Foundation’s 29-member Board of Directors works to steward the Foundation’s scholarship endowments. The Foundation has awarded more than $950,000 in scholarships to South Plains College students this year.
Capps said the Foundation joins the college in presenting the Pacesetter Award to recognize donors who have provided exemplary support through their philanthropy, service and leadership. This year, the honor was bestowed on Ray and Donna West of Midland.
The Wests were recognized for their exceptional philanthropy to South Plains College that has resulted in the establishment of eight endowed scholarship programs over the past 12 years. These scholarship programs have benefitted 119 students since the first one was established in 2007.
Local television personality and SPC alumna Christy Hartin issued a special appeal to the gala audience. She talked about how her father John Hartin was instrumental in starting the commercial music program. And, although she did not study music, she chose broadcast journalism for her career.
“This is the night that we’re able to say ‘We want to benefit the future,’” she said. “We want to help those students who say thank you for each dollar that you give. Because it’s true that there are college students right now at South Plains College who would not be here if it were not for the money you give at events like this.”
Hartin invited Josh Abbott to the stage with band members Villanueva, Wait, Fralin and Davis who announced a $10,000 contribution from JAB Cares to establish a new scholarship endowment with the SPC Foundation. Abbott acknowledged the importance of scholarships in his college career at SPC. The special appeal raised $27,760.
“One of the things we’re celebrating this year is our theme ‘Generations of Opportunity,’ and it’s exciting to look out at this audience and see families who have benefitted from South Plains College,” said Dr. Robin Satterwhite, SPC president.
“When you speak about the Generations of Opportunity that South Plains College has provided to so many families, I’m going to mention a few. There is the Vest Family with Russell and Angie and all three of their children attending South Plains College,” he said. “The Blume Family who also has had multiple generations attend South Plains College. Phelps Blume and then his daughters, Shannon and Shalyn. Shalyn is now an employee of ours. Vickie Wisian and now her grandson who has graduated from South Plains College. Being an alumnus as well, I have had two children attend South Plains College,” he added.
Dr. Satterwhite asked how many in the audience have had multiple generations of family attend SPC and hands throughout the room shot up in response. “I want to thank you for believing in South Plains College and helping change the lives of our students,” he said.
Abbott and friends took the stage to tell their stories of attending South Plains College and to perform a number of the Josh Abbott Band’s music hits that have made these former SPC students rising stars in the country music scene. The evening’s performance concluded with Abbott performing the lead single on their latest studio album, “Until My Voice Goes Out,” a tribute to his father who died a year ago.
“We are so appreciative of the generosity of all our sponsors and gala attendees who have helped us raise a record amount for scholarships,” said Gerstenberger. “This level of support from the community and our friends is life-changing for so many SPC students.”
Diamond-level contributors included Worley Welding Works, Eagle Rubber and Supply, Connie and Jim Belcher, Great Western Dining, Butch’s Rat Hole Service and Allied Oilfield.
Six businesses and individuals donated unique and finely crafted items that were featured in the live auction. The silent auction featured treasures from businesses and individuals. The two auctions raised $93,930.