Despite the grey clouds in the sky, the only thing interrupting this classy event was a sudden flash mob as GCC celebrated its 85th anniversary on Oct. 20 with a gala fundraising dinner in the San Gabriel Plaza put on by the Glendale College Foundation.
An event three years in the making, a who’s who of Glendale area business and political leaders shelled out a minimum of $250 a plate to raise money for the GCC Student Success Fund, which was established in honor of the 85th anniversary. The fund will be used to pay for scholarships, computer labs, instructional equipment, books, and renovation to the classrooms. Though the total amount raised was not available at press time, organizers had a goal of $250,000.
“We wanted to help the college and celebrate the anniversary in a way that raised money rather than just have a party,” said Lisa Brooks, executive director of the Glendale College Foundation.
The event began with a presentation in the planetarium, an addition to the campus that surprised many returning alumni. Opened in 2005, the planetarium is the most technologically advanced in the California community college system, and has become one of the most recognizable landmarks at GCC. The 20 spectators were treated to a virtual tour of the night sky, starting with Earth and working their way to the far reaches of the known universe.
The night then moved to a reception, which included hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction offering a variety of items, including hotel stays, vacation packages, classes, and home-cooked meals by professional chefs, among other items.
The dinner was an opportunity for the college to show off to investors the talent GCC has to offer. The dinner, which included sirloin steak and chocolate mousse in an edible chocolate cup, was prepared by culinary arts students. The flash mob that marked the end of the silent auction, which included dancing waiters, break dancers, and ballerinas, was choreographed by the GCC Dance department and featured students from the dance program. Throughout the night, student musicians from the college Music department, including members of the jazz band, performed.
The occasion was also a moment to honor some of the people who have made extraordinary contributions to the college. Chief among them were Bhupesh and Kumud Parikh, who received a standing ovation from the audience. Together they received the Philanthropists of Distinction award for donating $1 million for the construction of the Health Sciences and Technology building which bears Bhupesh’s name. Having immigrated from the Gujarat region of India, Bhupesh recounted the numerous immigrant groups in both India and the United States who helped shape both countries through their generosity.
“You came in this world with nothing, like a baby with fists closed, and then you go, you love, and live in this world with palms open,” said Bhupesh at the close of his acceptance speech, quoting a famous Hindu mystic. “So give, give while you are here on this earth.”
Other honorees included Ruth Charles, a GCC alumnus for 65 years who was given a lifetime achievement award for her work furthering music. In addition to her involvement in the Dick Charles Scholarship in Music, she donated a number of musical instruments to the music department.
Sevada Chamras, now a tenured chemistry professor at GCC, was given the Outstanding Alumnus award. Beginning his science education in a prerequisite course for Biology 101, Chamras eventually earned his bachelor of science degree at UCLA, then earning a doctorate in organic chemistry from UC Santa Barbara. Though he was a tenured professor at Cerritos College, he returned to his alma mater in 2007 to teach in the organic chemistry department.
“There isn’t a single day when I don’t feel like coming to work,” said Chamras in a written statement included in the night’s program. “I deal with… young and unbiased minds, and I learn a great deal from everyone here.”
The night’s wealthy attendees managed to snag some very good deals at the live auction. Many of the items auctioned were sold for less than half their retail value, including a seven-night stay at Pueblo Bonito Sunset Hotel in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico which sold for $1,400, and a two-night stay at a five-star hotel in the center of Paris, France, which auctioned for $1,200.
The night closed with a speech from Allan Beglarian, a journalism student at GCC. Coming to the United States at 15, he joined the army and was stationed overseas. Once he returned back to the United States, he was homeless and became diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Since then, he credits GCC for rebuilding his life.
“Without GCC and financial aid, I don’t know where I would be right now”, said Beglarian.