50th Anniversary Gala Amazes and Raises Scholarship Funds

By Suzanne Seyfi and Devon Martinez, Staff Writers

On Oct. 27, PPCC celebrated its 50th anniversary. The party was “so good it can only happen every fifty years,” exclaimed PPCC Foundation Executive Director Lisa James.

And a party it was, with live music, fine dining, and a lack of consensus on how to pronounce “gala.” See the pictures.

The location was the Broadmoor International Center. The focus was PPCC. The organizer was the PPCC Foundation, which provides scholarships to about 400 students every year.

The end result was a night of fine dining and both silent and live auctions on behalf of the Pikes Peak 50th Promise Endowed Scholarship, a new full-ride scholarship for students “who demonstrate outstanding endurance and grit in their effort to receive a degree,” said PPCC President, Dr. Lance Bolton.

“I would really want our students to know how people in our community came out to support this event, raised money, because they really believe in our mission – and ultimately what our mission is, is our students. You know, I wish every student at Pikes Peak could have been here to see what and feel what this was, this outpouring of support from our community for them,” said Bolton.

He continued, “I think our students don’t know this, how many people in our community really care about their success and want them to be successful and are willing to put their money into it.”

A feature of the event was the distinctive centerpieces, each of which was available as a silent auction item.

“We asked faculty and department heads and chairs to come up with centerpieces to say something about their disciplines, and frankly I thought from the outset that this could go off the rails in a lot of different ways. You’re asking very busy people to do things they don’t have time to do. But I think that both their dedication to the college and their competitive spirit kicked in, and [the centerpieces are] really amazing things,” said Warren Epstein, Director of Marketing and Communications, and a table sponsor for the gala.

His favorite centerpiece was Pharmacy Tech’s giant pill bottle.

“I’m proud of the work that they did,” Epstein said.

The Music Department brought their best with two PPCC Student Instrumental Ensembles, the PPCC Choir, and the PPCC Faculty Ensemble.

“I feel honored to be a part of it,” said student Nathan Marken, representing the Jazz Band on drums. Marken was impressed that the event focused on people donating money to PPCC.

Before the program started, there was a silent auction. Attendees bid on such varied items as spa luxuries, private photo shoots, and of course the centerpieces.

The dinner portion of the gala kicked off with soup and a beautiful performance by the PPCC Choir, who will be performing at Carnegie Hall soon. They were conducted by PPCC Professor, Gayle Grace.

Some facts the gala guests learned about PPCC over dinner (short ribs or cauliflower steak): the college serves 20,000 students (about 5,000 of whom are military members); in eight years, PPCC has gone from the lowest retention rate in the Colorado Community College System to the highest; and, the economic impact of PPCC on the Colorado Springs economy is nearly  $400 million a year.

Susan Edmondson, CEO of The Downtown Partnership, commented, “We appreciate what PPCC means to our whole community and how they continue to grow in really thoughtful directions and are really helping our city’s economy and creating a great work force for the future.”

While the audience savored their three miniature desserts, Bolton presented the first-ever Pikes Peak Community College Honorary Degrees to Jay Gust and Brother Luck, for their contributions not only to the culinary world but also to PPCC and the Colorado Springs community.

After the honorary degree presentation, two PPCC students, Erica Lancaster and Andres Velez, were featured in a special video. Lancaster talked about her pathway to becoming a nurse through PPCC Nursing, and Velez hilighted how important PPCC has been to helping him achieve his dream. Velez is the owner of the popular Pig Latin food truck and restaurant in Colorado Springs.

“[PPCC has] become an incredible asset for the community,” said Colorado Springs’ Mayor, John Suthers, who taught at PPCC as a young Deputy District Attorney in 1977. “It fills a really important niche in the community, and I’m delighted at the progress we’ve seen over all these years.”

The celebration wasn’t just about what PPCC has accomplished, but about ensuring the school can do more for its students into the future.

After meals were concluded, the live auction and donations portion began. Gala attendees bid on a dinner by bus, a Borealis Fatbike designed by a PPCC student, a party hosted by Gold Hill Mesa, free estate planning services, iron gates custom-made by the PPCC Welding Department, and a private dinner with President Bolton.

With individual donations as high as $5,000, and the Pikes Peak Club offering an astonishing $150,000 to PPCC, the outpouring of support was substantial. One hundred percent of funds from both the silent and live auctions, as well as donations, will go directly to the Pikes Peak 50th Promise Scholarship.

Representing the Pikes Peak Club, Rod Wells explained their mission: “We decided let’s make sure the dollars we raise are going right here to help young people get a better education.”

Amilia Poling represented the Housing and Building Association at the gala, which was one of five silver sponsors. “We help promote higher education on many, many levels,” she said.

A quick survey showed that many people agreed the gala was a hit.

James exclaimed, “I think it was amazing, and I am just blown away by the generosity of everyone in this room, and how many students are going to be touched by what we did here tonight. Isn’t it unbelievable? I’m actually in a sort of a daze right now because it doesn’t seem quite real.”

Yemi Mobolade, President’s Advisory Council member and local business owner (co-owner of The Wild Goose Meeting House and Good Neighbors Meeting House), said, “The gala was extraordinary. Extraordinary. You know, we’ve never done this, we didn’t know what we were doing, and this event was on par with any gala in town, with folks that do this every year. So yeah, it was more than beyond what we expected.”

Mobolade was the co-chair gala organizer with CJ Moore, who also serves as a PPCC Foundation board member. Moore said, “I think it was amazing. We sold out, and nobody left early. Usually – I mean, I go to a lot of these events, and usually by the time they do the ask, half the room is gone. And they all stayed to the bitter end!”

Bolton was also thrilled. “Just wonderful. Just a wonderful evening. I think successful beyond our dreams, and I’m so pleased with how it went.”

The gala ultimately raised over $200,000 for the Pikes Peak 50th Promise Endowed Scholarship.

To donate to the PPCC Foundation or the PPCC 50th Promise Scholarship, contact lisa.james@ppcc.edu


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