Newman alumni share fond memories of Party on the Plaza

Sep 08, 2021
Party on the Plaza alumni

Newman University’s annual Party on the Plaza, which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 18, at Founders Plaza on campus, is the event of the year. All proceeds from the event are used to help fund Newman student financial aid.

Starting in 1975, Newman hosted a Renaissance Faire every year — events that eventually became a fundraiser similar to Party on the Plaza.

Because the event has been around for a number of years, countless Newman alumni have fond memories of it, including 1987 alumnus and Party on the Plaza Master of Ceremonies J.T. Klaus. He was also the alumni representative on the very first committee that planned Party on the Ponderosa, another predecessor to Party on the Plaza.

Master of Ceremonies, J.T. Klaus
Master of Ceremonies J.T. Klaus

“They haven’t been able to shake me since,” Klaus joked. “The very idea of ‘let’s have a great big party just to raise money for scholarships’ fits me.”

He added that last year when Newman raffled off a brand new 2020 Ford Mustang in lieu of Party on the Plaza, he had people he’d never met before reach out to buy a ticket.

“Scholarships … that’s a good cause,” Klaus concluded.

Paying it forward

Ann Fox
Ann Fox

Ann Fox, who received a bachelor’s degree in English in 1981 and a master’s degree in organizational leadership in 2001, participated in the Renaissance Faire as a Newman student and has attended nearly every annual fundraising event since the early 1980s. Her husband, Mark, a 1979 biology graduate, has done the same.

Fox said she was blessed to receive scholarship support as a student, without which she couldn’t have attended college. Mark also received a scholarship, as did their two daughters, who are Newman alumni as well.

“Our goal has always been to pay that gift forward as we are able,” Fox said.

She added that because of this, attending Party on the Plaza is extremely important to her and her husband.

Party on the Plaza

“There is something powerful about being on campus — the place where our lives were profoundly impacted by the people who taught and challenged us so long ago,” Fox said. “We especially enjoy connecting with the ASC Sisters and meeting students who serve and entertain us through the evening.”

Service to others

Party on the Plaza requires many volunteers to make the big event run smoothly, including students like the ones Fox mentioned.

Haley Graeff (right)
Haley Graeff (right)

And while they volunteer at the event, students have the opportunity to express their gratitude to those who helped make their education possible.

One such former student is Haley Graeff, a 2015 accounting graduate who volunteered as a performer at Party on the Plaza during her years at Newman. At that time, the event was themed around Oktoberfest, so Graeff and other student performers wore dirndls and lederhosen and sang German drinking songs for the attendees.

While performing was fun, what was perhaps more important to Graeff, a Cardinal Newman scholarship recipient, was the chance to thank donors. She said that going to Party on the Plaza as an alumna brings everything full circle.

“As a student, I was so very fortunate, and now I have the opportunity to give back to the university that gave me so much,” Graeff said. “Attending Party on the Plaza allows you to be part of the legacy of student success. At every turn, it’s apparent who the night is benefiting. While the event is always a blast and a great way to spend your Saturday evening, you’re also helping change the lives of Newman students who will transform society in the future.”

The Newman Troubadours sport their Oktoberfest attire at the 2015 Party on the Plaza.
The Newman Troubadours sport their Oktoberfest attire at the 2015 Party on the Plaza.

A life-changing cause

Dana Beitey, director of alumni relations, shares Graeff’s sentiments about Party on the Plaza.

“There are so many great causes out there, and this one is no exception,” she said. “Raising money for scholarships to provide help for the next generation of thinkers, shakers and doers, that’s what Party on the Plaza is all about. The money raised from POP adds to the scholarship bucket in order to provide some much-needed financial relief to really deserving students.”

Attendees of Party on the Plaza celebrate a raffle win.

Guests must reserve tickets to Party on the Plaza by Wednesday, Sept. 15. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to wichitapop.com. Tickets can also be purchased by contacting Laura Hartley at 316-942-4291 ext. 2161.

Those who are unable to attend in person can still support the event through donating or bidding on silent auction items on the event website. Silent auction items will be viewable online starting Monday, Sept. 13. Bidding for the silent auction opens at noon on Wednesday, Sept. 15, and closes at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18. 

Reserve your 2021 Party on the Plaza tickets

All money raised goes towards Newman University student financial aid.

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