From guest emcees to guest performances, President Gearan’s Garage Band to standing ovations, this weekend’s Centennial Gala marked a boisterous and often poignant celebration of 100 years of William Smith College. Dressed to the nines, members of the HWS community from all over the world – faculty, students, staff, trustees and alums – entered Robert A. Bristol ’31 Field House to find it transformed into an elegant event hall.
“Tonight we celebrate our proud history, one forged in the cradle of the women’s rights movement and one marked by accomplishment and perseverance,” said President Mark D. Gearan during his opening remarks at the event. “As we anticipate the next century of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, tonight offers us a moment to thank and pay tribute to those who have bolstered these Colleges for 100 years, who continue to do so because they believe in the power of a Hobart and William Smith education.
“Tonight, we honor a founder who invested his life’s work into a bold venture – to educate women to be leaders.”
During the evening’s program, the 100 year history of William Smith College was celebrated with heartfelt tributes through video and performances. The evening began with a video montage narrated by Gearan, chronicling the founding of the college. “Today,” Gearan said, “William Smith’s legacy is now a reality.” Using historic and modern photo and video, the film recalled early days at the Colleges when women were not allowed to walk across the Hobart Quad, to today when women can use all of the Colleges’ facilities.
“Over the past three years I’ve met with hundreds of women – and a few good men – many of whom I had the pleasure of admitting to the Colleges,” said William Smith Centennial Campaign Assistant Vice President and the evening’s emcee, Mara O’Laughlin ’66. “Our goal for the project – to establish and endow the new Centennial Center for Leadership – was pegged at $8 million. Some wondered if we could do it. Well, I am thrilled to announce that as of just one week ago, we achieved that goal!”
The night was also a celebration of 100 years of coordinate education. In that spirit, O’Laughlin welcomed her surprise co-emcee to the stage, first showing a photo of him from his Romulus High School yearbook, where O’Laughlin taught him history, and then playing a film clip from the movie “Happy Gilmore.” To thunderous applause, film and Broadway star Christopher McDonald ’77 took over the mic, tossing punch-lines about everything from Tina Fey to geography know-how that McDonald, as O’Laughlin said, “seemed to have forgotten.”
The two then recognized many in the crowd with live images displayed on a huge screen hanging from the field house ceiling. These included Lib Eaton White ’33 and Alta Boyer ’36 who were the oldest William Smith alumnae in attendance; the Centennial Fund Committee; past and present William Smith deans; former directors of the Alumnae Association; the current Board of Trustees, including Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees Maureen Collins Zupan ’72, P’09 and Chair of the Board of Trustees David Deming ’75; fellowship and scholarship award winners, including Julia James ’04, Jane Erickson ’07 and Katie Bush ’06; recipients of the Elizabeth Blackwell Award; and the women of the William Smith Congress, William Smith honors societies and all Herons sports teams.
The Centennial was also celebrated in song and dance. The night included a performance of the William Smith alma mater by 3 Miles Lost accompanied by the Hobartones; a special William Smith-versed cover of Salt and Peppa’s ‘Whatta Man’ by 3 Miles Lost; and a rhythm-packed dance performance by the Hip~NotiQ’s Step and Dance Team.
After a fine dinner and dessert provided by Dining Services Catering Manager Pat Heieck P’88 and her staff, the entire Gala came to a stand-still then a roaring ovation as President Mark D. Gearan – keyboardist and front man for Gearan’s Garage Band took the stage with a little help from his colleagues on the faculty and staff including the deans of William Smith and Hobart – Cerri Banks and Eugen Baer P’95, P’97, HON ’07, Director of Academic Opportunity Programs Jim Burruto, Assistant Director of Residential Education Dave Reiner, Professor of Economics Bill Waller P’99, P’04, Associate Professor of Political Science Kevin Dunn, Director of Student Activities Robert Pool, Professor of Art Elena Ciletti, Professor of Sociology Jim Spates P’00, P’11, Assistant Professor of English Rob Carson, Associate Professor of Economics Jo Beth Mertens, Information Technologist Stan Weaver and Sodexho Employee Betty Walther. But Gearan’s motley band had a few special Centennial additions who vamped it up for the roaring crowd, including Field Hockey Head Coach Sally Scatton P’02, P’06, William Smith Lacrosse Head Coach Pat Genovese P’01, P’03, P’05, P’08 and William Smith Soccer Head Coach Aliceann Wilber.
The headlining Garage Band was supported by the internationally known cover band, Atlas, who played a set ranging from Motown and Hip-hop to soft rock, helping guests dance the night away.
“The Gala was the perfect culmination of the Centennial Weekend’s events,” said Director of Alumnae Relations Kathy Killius Regan ’82. “There was no better way to celebrate the history of William Smith. Tonight’s Gala let us look back on our founding, acknowledge our many, recent accomplishments, and turn our attention toward a future of William Smith College that will, no doubt, be stronger than ever before.”