This gala is one of Chicago’s signature and premier social events of the year with support from corporate leadership, sponsors, dignitaries, civic leaders, public officials, alumni and other guests that believe and help fund the UNCF mission. The UNCF Chicago office has held this amazing gala for 15 years! Collectively this event has raised over $11 million.
The UNCF Gala 2016 “A Mind is….. “ event was held at the Hyatt Regency on Saturday, June 25th in the Regency Ballroom. Emceed by Terrell Brown, morning anchor at ABC 7 Chicago Eyewitness News, this event brought together business, civic and education leaders in support of UNCF’s work in providing Chicago students the resources to get to and through college. Three-time Grammy®-nominated recording artist Angie Stone performed as well as Chicago’s very own Terisa Griffin and Ashton & Ryan Clark accompanied by Elizabeth Norman Sojourner.
The event was chaired by Tyronne Stoudemire, Vice President of Global Diversity and Inclusion for Hyatt Corporation. Gala hosts were Mike & Kristina Mc Grath, President and VP, McGrath Automotive Group. Honoree David Casper, President and CEO of BMO Harris Bank, received the Harold H. Hines, Jr. Benefactor’s Award. The “A Mind Is” Award for dedication to and support of UNCF’s work was presented to Deirdre C. Drake, Senior Vice President, U.S. Cellular; Gary and Denise Gardner of the Gary and Denise Gardner Family Foundation; Quintin E. Primo, III, CEO of Capri Investment Group; and Diane Primo, Founder and Chairman, of Intralink Global. This year’s sponsors included BMO Harris Bank, Hyatt Corporation and ITW.
The event featured a VIP reception hosted by LeeAnn Trotter, news and entertainment reporter at NBC 5 Chicago; which took place before the main event. At the VIP reception, I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Michael L. Lomax, UNCF’s president and CEO, who has been with the UNCF since 2004. Prior to that he was the president of Dillard University in New Orleans and also a literature professor at UNCF-member institutions Morehouse and Spellman Colleges. He also served as chairman of the Fulton County Commission in Atlanta, and was the first African American elected to that post. My first question to Dr. Lomax was totally food related! Once I learned that he had lived in New Orleans for a period of time, you know me…I had to talk about food! LOVE NAWLINS!!
So I asked where his go to spot was for one of my favs chargrilled oysters?
He spoke about how he is an oyster fanatic but for New Orleans they have different oysters from different places. But his absolute favorite way to have oysters are fried and in a po’boy! He does like Oysters Rockefeller but prefers his fried. He went on to say he could not pick an exact place because it would be like choosing between great and great since there are so many great places to eat in New Orleans. While at Dillard, the University received a million dollar gift from the legendary Ray Charles who requested that the grant be in food studies, not music. Dillard is one of the only universities in the country that has a Ray Charles program where the mission is to research, document, disseminate and preserve the culinary patrimony of African Americans and to celebrate African American culture through the study of food and food ways in the South.
Tell the readers of NDIGO why the UNCF and fundraisers like tonight’s gala are so important?
“Our fundraisers are special events. UNCF hosts 70 fundraisers throughout the year and they are important because they do two things – engage people and raise funds.” Said Dr. Lomax. UNCF raised $132 million in the last fiscal year, and it is the first time they crossed the $100 million dollar mark since he has been there. . “To get the community to support our kids helping them realize their dreams of a college education is something we all can do,” he added.
I asked, “For those of us that aren’t philanthropists and who may not be able to donate a lot of money, what’s one thing that we could do to help tonight or in the coming weeks?”
“Everyone is a philanthropist! You do not have to give a million dollars – you can give $10 or $1 and absolutely still be able to make a difference. Everyone should have a tradition of giving because that is just the right thing to do” continued Dr. Lomax, “I think that being involved is very important because if you cannot afford to give, you can still mentor a young person, or you can give advice, by helping them select a college or university. ”He added, “You can be there to listen in their time of need. Lending time, treasure and talent, those are the three T’s we ask people to contribute. So even if you don’t have treasure, we all have time and talent.”
During dinner there was a live auction with some amazing trips and experiences. The crowd was animated as auctioneer David A. Goodman used his skills to keep the crowd bidding and buying until the very end. After the bidding was complete Michael J. Cox, Chicago’s regional development director for UNCF came up and provided the closing remarks.
Angie Stone took the stage and the party part of the evening began. It closed out with Chicago’s own DJ Boolu Master keeping the guests moving and grooving.