Chapman Celebrates! Annual black-tie gala formerly named American Celebration debuts in Musco Center for the Arts

With dazzling performances by a cast of more than 100 talented students and tributes to visionary leaders, Chapman University presented its 35th Chapman Celebrates gala on Saturday, Nov. 5, held for the first time in Marybelle and Sebastian P. Musco Center for the Arts.

The event’s name may have changed – American Celebration was the former title of the glittering stage show and gala dinner – but its tradition of raising millions of dollars for scholarships and showcasing Chapman’s achievements remains strong. Since its founding, the black-tie galas and the Friday evening Opening Nights have garnered more than $28 million in scholarship support for students in every discipline and major across campus.

Such generosity has always been key to attracting the best students and will be for future generations, President Daniele Struppa told the audience.

“We look forward to continuing this tradition of providing critical financial support to our students who need it to realize their dreams of a Chapman education. Thank you for being here and for everything you do,” Struppa said.

More than 600 supporters and community leaders filled the sold-out event at Musco Center, where they were entertained with a glamorous high-stepping musical revue of Broadway and pop classics performed by students from the College of Performing Arts (CoPA).


Students open the show with “Steppin’ Out with My Baby” from
Easter Parade

After opening with “Steppin’ Out with My Baby” from Easter Parade, the limelight fell on Struppa, who continued the presidential tradition of leading Julia Argyros in a dance duet. This year’s selection for the signature dance was “Magic to Do” from Pippin.

With a nod to Struppa’s Italian heritage, show producers also included him as a guest performer in “Cinema Italiano” from the show

“I’ve rehearsed with them for the last 10 days and I have to tell you I have been blown away by their passion, their commitment, their kindness to each other, as well as to Julia and me, and their love for this institution. It really is an honor to share this stage with them,” Struppa said.

Throughout the evening, students who benefit from scholarship support made possible by
Chapman Celebrates
spoke about how donor generosity had made their attendance at Chapman possible.

“We are so incredibly grateful for the generous scholarship support we have received from people like you. We wouldn’t be here without scholarships,” student Sammy Hurst said.


President Daniele Struppa gathers with student performers during a dress rehearsal prior to Chapman Celebrates. The show traditionally features a large cast of students and a signature dance with the University president.

As part of the gala, the University presented its annual Citizens of the Year Award to Trustee Thomas Malloy and his wife Sharon. Together the Malloys have supported many initiatives and programs at Chapman, and three of their four children are alumni and the fourth is a current student.

As a prelude to the award presentation, a short video about their contributions was screened. The video featured heartfelt tributes from their children, grandchildren, business associates and leaders from Thomas Malloy’s alma maters Loyola High School Los Angeles and the University of San Francisco.

“What do you say after a thing like that?” Malloy joked with the audience. “We’re so honored to have children like that.”

The annual Presidential Medal in the Arts Award was presented to Emeritus Trustee Robert A. Elliott, whose early involvement in American Celebration helped it grow into a signature scholarship fundraising event. A tribute video recounted the evolution of American Celebration from the first performance in 1981 to its debut this year as Chapman Celebrates in Musco Center.

In his remarks, Elliott thanked those who had supported the event through the decades and marveled at the new venue that will be home for Chapman Celebrates for years to come.

“As I look around this beautiful Musco Center for the Arts, it reminds me of an old saying — We’ve come a long way baby — from the Anahem Marriott in 1981.”

William Hall, DMA, dean and artistic director of the Musco Center for the Arts,
was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award,
in recognition of his 34 years as music director and conductor of American Celebration performances.

The gala was co-chaired by Ashleigh Aitken and Michael Penn (JD ’04).

Donald Guy, associate professor from CoPA, produced and directed the show, and Alicia Guy, also an associate professor in CoPA, was director and choreographer.

Dawn Bonker

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