University Park, IL,
13:42 PM

A Gala to Remember

Governors State University’s Glitter and Gold Marvel Gala was a red carpet affair that celebrated heroes whose superpowers have transformed students and launched successful careers while serving the Southland and beyond.

Noting 50 years of innovation since the university was founded on July 17, 1969, the gala marked the beginning of a celebration that will span more than a year to  end in June 2020.

“We’re honoring the past, celebrating the present, and jumpstarting the future,” said Will Davis, Vice President of Institutional Advancement and CEO of the GSU Foundation. “We’re celebrating 50 years of education, excellence, innovation, leadership, and your generosity.”

Davis played gracious host to about 200 guests who included notable alumni, state and local VIPs, as well as grateful students. GSU Trustees Masah SamForay and Carney A. Barr, whose brother David (dressed in a kilted skirt) led a round of gift-giving, also joined in the festivities.

Comic Damon Williams, sporting a black superhero’s cape, entertained guests on the Center for Performing Arts stage with quips about the obscure CPA location and the gimmicky costume.

In a more serious moment, he reminded supporters of the night’s goal. “We’re here to raise money for scholarships," he said.

Before elegantly dressed guests took their seats for a delicious dinner, they walked the red carpet and posed for photos against a 50th anniversary themed backdrop.

Once inside, GSU Theatre and Performance Studies dancers and the Legacy Band thrilled all.

Alumnus Justin Smith led the Legacy Band, which played a medley of 80s upbeat and sentimental tunes including Dionne Warwick’s “That's What Friends Are For” during the evening.

“I’m home,” a jubilant Smith announced to delighted guests, kicking of a round of student and alumni testimonies. “People like you stood behind me so I could graduate in four years, debt-free.”

Donald and Helen Morrison Endowed Scholarship winner T’Kyla Clayton also will graduate with no debt because of the generosity of others.

“I’m not only grateful to speak with you but also for the opportunity that this scholarship has afforded me to advance my education and cultural experiences through the diverse family I have gained here,” said senior Clayton who is studying for a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.

Senior Lecturer Jim Munz had such a rich GSU experience that he earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees at GSU.He later returned for his PhD and now teaches in Health Administration.

A native South Sider, Munz said GSU stepped in when other schools shunned him, allowing him to complete his degree. “I am forever indebted to Governors State. It does right by the community every single day.”

GSU President Elaine Maimon, feeling emotional from the accolades, thanked supporters for helping to transform GSU, and the community by extension. She reflected on the lyrics of Warwick’s hit single penned to raise money to fight the AIDS epidemic.

“I heard Justin playing, and I kept thinking, ‘That’s what GSU is for,’” she said. “Thank you all for making Governors State a very special place.”

Davis also gave a special thanks to sponsors First Midwest Banks, ComEd, Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC., and Tito's Handmade Vodka for creating a historic event.

“The Glitter & Gold Marvel Gala was our most successful ever. That wouldn’t have been possible without our generous partners and loyal supporters,” Davis said.

Watch the Marvel superhero video here.