Baker Gala raises scholarship money, entertains


This year, Baker got it right.

There was a buzz of entertainment that saturated the first floor of the Sheraton Overland Park Hotel, with entertainment being the key word.

In the past, the Gala has been a bit dry at times or a tick too long. This is something that shouldn’t be happening at an event where the guests buying tables and donating money should be having a fun time.

In the case of the Gala this year, laughter and fun were two words that characterized the entertainment for the evening.

Baker had a trick up its sleeve that made the night memorable. A series of three short videos were played throughout the dinner alongside the two emcees, Johnny Rowlands and Jerry Weakley.

These videos provided a lot of humor at the cost of some of the more important elements of Baker. No doubt this was done in a positive way, but it got the whole room having a little fun; how could you not laugh when University President Pat Long is seen in a Panda Express uniform behind the counter at the fast food restaurant?

The Panda Express reference was because of Baker alumnus Andrew Cherng, founder of the Panda Restaurant Group, who once again gave a challenge donation to match all donations up to $100,000.

Such alumni are hard to come by and Baker is very lucky to have someone willing to do so.

With the Cherngs match, the Gala raised over $200,000 for BU students.

The ‘Behind the Scenes’ theme of the Gala really provided room for some on-cue mishaps as Long and company spoke on stage.

A noticeable difference this year was how people seemed to be very generous, and it was likely due to the fact they were having a good time. Even a 2011 graduate donated to the Fund-a-Scholar portion of the Gala, where donors give money to the unrestricted fund for student scholarships.

The Fund-a-Scholar portion of the night raised a whopping $50,000.

But the generosity wasn’t all a result of live and silent auctions.

Immediately following the live auction of a vacation stay at Baker graduate Ross, and his wife Christine, Hartley’s home in Wyoming, an incredible announcement was made.

The Hartley’s donated $1.6 million to the Mulvane Transformation. Their generosity resulted in a standing ovation for the two, who attended the Gala seated at Long’s table. As people once again seated themselves, Ross could be seen wiping his eyes with the napkin at his table.

It is people like the Cherngs, the Hartleys and even that 2011 graduate who make students at Baker lucky; we are lucky to have them as donors and we are lucky to have them as role models.