A love of style and respect for the past prove to still be a part of Grambling State tradition as the Harlem Renaissance-themed 2014 President’s Black Tie Scholarship Gala opened and closed with a packed house.
President Frank G. Pogue said GSU’s growing tuition necessitated the fundraising effort. The lack of sufficient funds for students is a constant concern for the president.
“We’ve been pricing students out of Grambling,” he said in his opening address to those at the dinner.
“That’s why the focus of this dinner, and this performance, is on the needs of our students.”
While the overall goal of the gala is to generate scholarships for GSU students, those in attendance spoke of additional benefits.
“It’s a grand affair,” said Terry Matthews, who is enjoying his first year with the university as a family and consumer science professor. “It brings the university to life… . Dr. Pogue is awesome.”
The president and wife Dorothy waited at the red carpet entrance to happily welcome all guests who attended the 5:30 p.m. social. The room and its inhabitants were all dressed to impress in the transformed lobby of the Fredrick C. Hobdy Performing Arts Center. The fruit and food platters were fresh, and the ice sculpture of a saxophone gleamed coolly.
Attendees then followed the red carpet to the dining hall, where chilled, sparkling juice and a full three-course meal awaited them. Spirits during the dinner were as high as the timbre of the tenor saxophone that – along with the Grambling Show Band and the sultry voice of freshman Shaquayla Jackson – serenaded the diners with music of the ’30s and ’40s.
“This is a great gathering,” said 66-year-old Grambling resident Lindelle Turner. “You get to see people you don’t usually see.”
Turner was chatting gleefully with the dean emeritus of Library Services Pauline Lee, who also had good things to say about the sixth annual gala.
“It’s an excellent cause,” she said. “I love the opportunity to see people I’ve not seen in a while, and it generates scholarships.”
Toward the end of the dinner, departmental chair and director of the Department of Theatre Arts Dr. King Godwin briefed everyone on the night’s play as well as a couple of other interesting pieces of information.
“We walk on the shoulders of our ancestors,” he said. “There are currently only five HBCUs accredited in Theatre Arts, and of those five, Grambling was the first.
“Grambling was also the first, ever, to perform The Great Gatsby using an African-American cast.”
During the conclusion of the play, he stated that because it is important that people walk on the shoulders of their ancestors, the audience should join the cast in singing “Lift Every Voice.”
This was done by candlelight after the cast paid tribute to greats of the ’20s and ’30s, like Zora Neale Hurston, Sweet Georgia Brown and Duke Ellington, via drama, reader’s theatre and song.