On Saturday Sept. 18, Founders Plaza on the Newman campus was decked with stringed lights hovering over decorated tables, the sounds of Celtic tunes by Knocknasheega, clinking champagne glasses and the friendly chatter of guests dressed in their best.
Investing in students through scholarships
The 2021 Party on the Plaza: Return to the Renaissance successfully raised $150,000 toward student financial aid. Every dollar spent through the live and silent auctions, party games, golden tickets and generous donations were added to the pool of student scholarship funding — which includes $1,000 a guest donated in exchange for a $1 bill.
“I am always moved when (auctioneer) Charlie Moon can sell a dollar bill for a thousand dollars because it means everybody’s heart is in the right place,” Master of Ceremonies J.T. Klaus said. “That always amazes me.”
President Kathleen S. Jagger, Ph.D., MPH, describes the night as “bigger and better than I ever could have imagined.”
“Kudos to Laura Hartley because she was one who put it all together with a huge team of volunteers,” Jagger said. “People were so generous with their gifts and their bids. It was a lot of fun, great food and the fireworks show at the end was just spectacular.”
Teamwork makes the dream work
Last year, Director of Alumni and Campus Events Laura Hartley was faced with adjusting the traditional look and feel of Party on the Plaza in response to the ongoing concerns surrounding the pandemic.
“Party on the Plaza is the one event where all our supporters kind of come together, so not being able to have it really put a downer on last year,” Hartley said. “Being able to get back together and have a quasi-normal event again was just really fantastic.”
Supportive faculty, staff, alumni, volunteers and donors all played a role in making Party on the Plaza possible. Students of Gardening Club, the Multicultural Leadership Organization and the Sloppy Joe Improv Troupe oversaw renaissance-themed games and challenges that included catapult pong, plague rat toss, Dante’s plinko, Jacob’s Ladder and sabrage, which involved opening a champagne bottle with a sword.
Great Western Dining catered a delicious spread of garden salad, smoked prime rib, grilled chicken, penne pasta, roasted potatoes, assorted bread and butter and a dessert of crème brulee pumpkin spice and vanilla. Additionally, each dining table was complete with a charcuterie board of meat and cheese.
“It was really fun to go into our Renaissance costumes and meet a bunch of the people who are donating towards our scholarships,” senior Michelle Tong said. “I’m a recipient of the St. Newman Scholarship, and that’s a huge reason why I decided to come to Newman and am able to take advantage of the amazing school and support that I get here.”
The Newman University Troubadours sold golden tickets during the event for $100 each, giving guests the chance to win a live auction item and only spend $100.
“For sponsors to come in and donate their money or items, I think it’s just another representation of their belief in Newman,” Hartley added. “That’s something really special to see.”
David Borho ’01, ’11 and his wife, Glenna, were event VIP sponsors along with Dale Withers.
A Newman reunion
In addition to celebrating Party on the Plaza, Newman alumni of 1971 joined the Golden Hearts Club, which marks 50 years since graduating from Kansas Newman College. Dana Beitey, director of alumni relations, organized the Friday night on-campus alumni social which featured hors d’oeuvres, drinks, a trivia quiz and prizes.
Graduates of 1970, 1971 and 1972 who attended the social also attended a Saturday morning brunch where they learned about Newman updates, opportunities for involvement as well as a golf cart tour of the campus. All were invited to join in on the Party on the Plaza fun scheduled for later that evening.
Bill Veal graduated from Kansas Newman College in 1971 with a degree in political science and a minor in philosophy. This was his first year attending Party on the Plaza.
“I’m proud of this school,” Veal said. “This land has been filled in by these beautiful buildings and everything, and I’m just so proud of what Newman has become.”
Veal chose to support student scholarships by purchasing one of the $100 golden tickets — all 100 of which sold out before dinner was served at 6:30 p.m.
“What Newman has to offer is amazing, and I’m happy to support it,” Veal added.
Establishing a tradition
For 1971 alumnae Karen Perkins and Susanne Hamker, the weekend wasn’t just about celebrating their 50th reunion — they were also celebrating “50 years of friendship,” Hamker said.
Hamker described herself as a wallflower who blossomed through her time at Newman.
“I grew up as one of 15 children, so knowing that Kansas Newman College offered scholarships and grants was a huge help,” Hamker said. “I could have never gone to college without all the help and assistance that I had.”
Perkins shared that she’s always on the lookout for a good place to put her money when she donates.
“I can see the growth and improvement of Newman,” Perkins said, wiping her eyes. “It means a lot to me.”
Although this is the first Party on the Plaza event that either Perkins or Hamker have attended as alumni, they jointly agreed to make this an annual event they attend for years to come.
“The comradery, the friendships, the fun — it’s all worth it,” Hamker added.
The evening ended with the university’s spectacular on-campus fireworks display, sponsored by Klaus Enterprises.
“When we were coming out of the pandemic, we were sitting in a meeting and I’m like, this needs to be big. We have to do something different — we have to have fireworks,” Klaus said.
Klaus worked with Chris Siefers, an alumni and member of the Party on the Plaza Planning Committee, who reached out to friends in her hometown of Ellinwood, Kansas, with a pyrotechnics license and a barn full of fireworks. Thus the fireworks display was born.
“I think there’s a real need for not only a return to normalcy, but a spark for things that are getting better. And I think we were able to do that safely in the outdoors, under the stars, under the fireworks,” Klaus said. “I think it was a great show.”
“We have great friends, donors, board members and family members that all contributed here tonight,” Jagger added. “Just the number of people that it took to put this together … we’re so very grateful for all of them.”
Newman University gives its sincere thanks to the following sponsors who made this year’s Party on the Plaza possible.
David Borho ’01, ’11 & Glenna Borho
Adorers of the Blood of Christ
BKD CPAs & Advisors
Noreen Carrocci & Bob Benson
Triplett Woolf & Garretson LLC
Ascension Via Christi
John ’75 and Dianne ’75 Carney
Butler Community College
Catholic Charities – Wichita Diocese
Cross First Bank
Dr. Pat Do
Dugan Truck Line
Great Western Dining Services
IMA – Blake Wells
Dr. Kathleen and Dr. Jim Jagger
JV Johnston ’82
Mary Jones ’84
JR Custom Metal
KU School of Medicine
Carmella ’79 & Dr. Michael Ludlow ’78
Jenifer Stone ’87 ’93
Alice ’85 and Dale Wiggins