From guest emcees and guest performances to President Gearan’s Garage Band and standing ovations, the 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 – friends, faculty, students, staff, trustees and alums – gathered in the Robert A. Bristol ’31 Field House on November 8 for the party of the century.
“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. “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.”
Throughout the evening’s program, the 100 year history of William Smith College was celebrated through heartfelt tributes and remembrances.
“Over the past three years I’ve met with hundreds of women, many of whom I had the pleasure of admitting to the Colleges,” said Mara O’Laughlin ’66, assistant vice president for the William Smith Centennial Fund, former director of admissions and the evening’s emcee. “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. To thunderous applause, film and Broadway star Christopher McDonald ’77 took the stage.
The two recognized many leading women in the crowd, including Lib Eaton White ’33 and Alta Boyer ’36, the earliest William Smith alumnae in attendance; the Centennial Fund Committee; past and present William Smith deans; past and present Alumnae Association leaders, including President Kate MacKinnon ’77; the former directors of Alumnae Relations; the current Board of Trustees, including Vice Chair Maureen Collins Zupan ’72, P’09 and Chair 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 William Smith Congress, William Smith honors societies and Herons sports teams.
The Centennial was also celebrated in song and dance. The night included a performance of the William Smith alma mater and a William Smith-versed cover of Salt and Peppa's ‘Whatta Man’ performed by 3 Miles Lost and the Hobartones; and a rhythm-packed dance performance by the Hip~NotiQ’s Step and Dance Team.
After dinner and dessert provided by Dining Services Catering Manager Pat Heieck P’88 and her staff, the entire Gala came to 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 faculty and staff colleagues.
The headlining Garage Band was supported by internationally-known cover band Atlas, who played a set ranging from Motown and hip-hop to soft rock, providing the background for guests to 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 allowed us to look back on our founding, acknowledge our many accomplishments and turn our attention toward a future for William Smith College that will, no doubt, be stronger than ever.”