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Joining me at Chapman University's 32nd Annual American Celebration are its gala chairs Twyla and Chuck Martin

Joining me at Chapman University’s 32nd Annual American Celebration are its gala chairs Twyla and Chuck Martin

AmCel, the shortened name for American Celebration if you’re a Chapman University supporter, was another win-win fundraiser for the revered institution. It not only raised $2.2 million for college scholarships and financial aid, it also bestowed a Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award on the Bridges acting family – including the late and famous father, Lloyd Bridges, and his two sons Beau and Jeff Bridges. Beau, who is currently starring in the CBS-TV comedy, “The Millers,” and his family attended to accept the honor for the family (their son Zeke is a student at Chapman’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts). Also recognized as the university’s Citizens of the Year were longtime Chapman supporters Suki and Randy McCardle, two of the most engaging and philanthropic people you will ever meet.

Add a spectacular performance by more than 100 talented students from the university’s College of Performing Arts telling “The Chapman University Story” in song and dance, as well as a magnificent dinner dance in a stunning see-through gala tent alongside Memorial Hall, where the students performed, and you have experienced one of the most popular black-tie galas the county espouses. I know. I’ve been to all of them!

This year’s extravaganza was chaired by a terrific couple, Twyla and Chuck Martin, who are longtime Chapman supporters. They started working on AmCel right after the past gala and never wavered from their commitment to raise of lot of money for Chapman, make it a fun affair with a minimum of speeches and to introduce a fabulous online luxury auction filled with fairytale offerings, including exotic trips to the Caribbean, Thailand, Tuscany, and a cattle ranch in Montana. Add to that an Iron Chef showdown between Chapman President Jim Doti and Chef Alessandro Pirozzi of Cucina Alessa fame in a pizza cook off. It’s an Italian thing!

Speaking of President Doti, he once again made his annual “surprise” appearance in the students’ musical production, this time as Liberace, complete with the sparkly suit, cape and black pompadour toupee, dancing with Chapman supporter Julia Argyros to “Hello Doti.”

One of the best moments at the event was when Beau Bridges came on stage right after the hour-long student performance for the award honors and said, “You could be on 42nd St. and Broadway (in New York) and not see a better show!”

I must make a comment about the gala dinner dance. The Italian-style four-course feast with its osso buco entree was delicious, and the silver and gold decor under woodland canopies of gold eucalyptus branches was magical.

Before I sign off, I did want to mention that actress Connie Sellecca and her dashing musician/radio and television personality husband John Tesh were one of the 800+ guests. They were very impressed with the student production. Also, President Doti acknowledged the recent $15 million gift from longtime Chapman supporters Harry and Diane Rinker, whose gift will name Chapman’s new health science campus in Irvine. The gifts keep coming. It’s pretty amazing what’s happening at Chapman.

In short, Chapman University’s 32nd Annual American Celebration was a showstopper!

Selected photos courtesy of Chapman University