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IMG_2992“I get to realize my fantasies at American Celebration,” Chapman President Jim Doti shared at the 31st annual gala dinner and performance on campus at Chapman University. “I always wanted to be Yul Brenner.” Sure enough, Doti was onstage in Memorial Hall looking like the late revered actor himself (bald head, faux abs and pointed slippers to boot!) waltzing with Deborah Kerr look-a-like Julia Argyros to “Shall We Dance” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I.

The Doti/Argyros team’s annual appearance was highlighted in the student performance, always a highlight, which showcased more than 100 students from Chapman’s College of Performing Arts in a production titled “We Make Stars.” The kids sang and danced their hearts out to numbers from such famous shows as There’s No Business Like Show Business, Wicked, Singing in the Rain, Hello Dolly, My Fair Lady, and Lullaby of Broadway. The tap segments were thoroughly entertaining and impressive solo and ensemble voices made you feel you were enjoying a real, honest-to-goodness Broadway show.

Acclaimed actor Richard Dreyfuss was presented Chapman’s Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award, to which he quipped, “If I can twist this gentleman’s (Doti’s) arm, I intend to teach here next semester,” while longtime Chapman supporters Jim and Catherine Emmi were named the university’s Citizens of the Year. Overseeing the honors were gala chair Joann Leatherby and husband Greg Bates, vice chairs Adrienne and R.J. Brandes, whose guests were actor Beau Bridges and his wife Wendy, honorary gala chairs Zee Allred and Drago Gligic, Julia and George Argyros, and Marybelle and S. Paul Musco, as well as a stellar committee of supporters.

An enormous clear celebration tent outside Memorial Hall was the site for the black-tie gala dinner dance. Compliments abounded from the 850 guests as they entered the beautifully-designed dinner palace with its dazzling contingent of crystal chandeliers for a delicious repast featuring courses from some of Orange County’s best chefs – Sapphire Laguna’s Azmin Ghahreman, The Ranch Restaurant’s Michael and David Rossi, Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge’s Ross Pangilinan, Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen’s Gabriela Patrick-Salazar, and Chapman’s Sodexo Campus Services’ Jim Douglas.

Always a dancing crowd, the dance floors were packed as the Haute Chili band worked its magic. The effort garnered close to $2 million in net proceeds for Chapman’s University Scholarship Fund, which enables 80% of Chapman students to receive scholarship assistance.

Surprise Announcement: With longtime Chapman supporters Julia and George Argyros on stage (George is a ’59 graduate and Chapman trustee member since 1976), Doti announced that the The Argyros Family Foundation had given $8 million to the university’s new Marybelle and Sebastian P. Musco Center for the Arts, with the center’s 1,050-seat main concert space to be named the Julianne Argyros Orchestra Hall.

Selected photos: Jeanine Hill and John SaadeAMCEL1-01AMCEL2-01-01AMCEL3-01AMCEL4-01AMCEL5-01