On A Night of Stars, the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) shined.
Moving its annual Founders Week Gala to a virtual format because of COVID-19 restrictions, UMB delivered an event with a mix of fun, philanthropy, and gratitude Oct. 10. The Saturday night stars included Broadway performers, a chef, a mixologist, UMB students, and an array of award winners from the University’s six professional schools and interdisciplinary Graduate School who are fulfilling UMB’s mission to improve the human condition and serve the public good.
Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS, wearing a tuxedo and presiding over his first Gala as UMB’s president, was joined by emcee Denise Koch of WJZ-TV for the 1-hour, 15-minute event, which was livestreamed on YouTube. Jarrell noted the uniqueness of the event, titled A Night of Stars, as he and Koch stood at socially distanced podiums in front of a backdrop photo of the Hippodrome Theatre, where the Gala originally was scheduled to be held.
“This Gala is a celebration of our past, of the way we are now, and certainly of the way we want to be in the future, and I’m just grateful every year to see how many donors support UMB, both large and small. But it’s especially meaningful this year because of the pandemic,” said Jarrell, who became UMB president Sept. 11 after an eight-month tenure as interim president.
“UMB is going the extra mile in terms of COVID-19. Our health care professionals are working overtime. Our researchers are looking for new cures. Our staff members, our social workers, and our legal experts are contributing to the fight. I’m optimistic that we’ll find great medical and social cures for this disease.
“This is what UMB is all about. We rise to the occasion, and we take care of business as well and as efficiently as possible. This is a resilient institution.”
Singing the Praises of Philanthropy
Jarrell thanked those watching the livestream, noting that the virtual event was the “safest way possible” to celebrate during the pandemic. He also offered appreciation to the donors who’ve pushed the Catalyst Campaign fundraising initiative past $575 million, more than 75 percent of the $750 million goal.
“Great institutions like UMB achieve success through the talent, expertise, and dedication of countless faculty, students, staff, alumni and friends,” Jarrell said. “The Catalyst Campaign continues to attract the interest and support of loyal alumni and benefactors to enhance faculty excellence, student scholarship aid, research, clinical initiatives, entrepreneurship, and community engagement.”
The Gala featured fundraising appeals and five raffles, all of which combined to raise over $200,000. There were video testimonials from three people who’ve seen the benefits of philanthropy up-close — Tim Parker, a School of Nursing student who received a full scholarship in 2018; Chris Turk, principal of UMB partner school James McHenry Elementary/Middle; and Stephanie Weber, MSW, a 2020 graduate of the School of Social Work who appreciated getting financial support from the Student Emergency Fund.
“When COVID-19 hit, things fell apart for a lot of students,” Weber said. “A lot of students felt financially insecure, unsure if they could pay for rent or food. That fund helped me and many other students continue to pursue our dreams and complete our master’s degrees.”
Even a virtual Gala isn’t complete without food and drink, so Linwoods restaurant owner and chef Linwood Dame contributed a videotaped demonstration of how to prepare and grill a Tuscan steak, and Classic Catering mixologist Krisztina Little demonstrated via video how to make the Gala’s signature cocktail, Thyme Will Tell, a mix of rye whiskey, maple syrup, and lemon juice.
The show also featured three impressive videotaped performances by Norm Lewis, a Tony and Grammy award-nominated performer who sang “Stars” from Les Miserables, “Unforgettable” as a duet with fellow Broadway star and concert soloist Nikki Renee Daniels, and a stirring rendition of “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera to close the show.
Award Winners Are True Stars
Among the evening’s other stars were the Founders Week award winners, four UMB faculty members who were recognized in the areas of entrepreneurism, research, teaching, and public service, and whose accomplishments were featured in a six-minute video.
Joseph R. Scalea, MD ’07, associate professor in the Department of Surgery at the School of Medicine (SOM) and a multi-organ transplant specialist, was honored as the David J. Ramsay Entrepreneur of the Year, an award renamed in honor of the former UMB president who died in June. Scalea and his business partners are working to improve the logistics and delivery of human organs for transplant. In April 2019, Scalea’s team performed the first transplant of a human organ transported by drone, drawing national attention and acclaim to UMB and the University of Maryland Medical System.
The Researcher of the Year, Jay S. Magaziner, PhD, MSHyg, professor and chair of SOM’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, is a leading scholar on the epidemiology of aging. His research focuses on three interrelated areas to improve the quality of life of older persons — the consequences of hip fracture, health and long-term care, and methods for studying older populations. He also is the director of the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center.
Russell A. McClain, JD ’95, honored as Educator of the Year, is regarded by his students and colleagues as one of the best professors at the Francis King Carey School of Law, where he also is the associate dean for diversity and inclusion and director of the Academic Achievement Program. McClain is passionate about increasing diversity among law school students and the legal profession and is an expert on how implicit bias thwarts the academic progress of students from under-represented groups.
The Public Servant of the Year, Maureen A. Sweeney, JD, is another standout professor at the Carey School of Law. She directs the school’s Immigration Law Clinic, where she teaches students to combine legal theory with practice and gives them opportunities to help poor or marginalized members of the community who lack access to justice. Sweeney is highly respected for her innovative and tireless advocacy for clients and her work on broader issues impacting immigrant communities.
Two more stars, Marco and Debbie Chacón, were honored with UMBF’s Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes the achievements of volunteers who have substantially contributed to enhancing and sustaining the University. Marco Chacón, PhD, joined UMBF as a trustee in 2014 and has been an advocate, leader, and mentor regarding the strategic direction of the Graduate School. Most recently, the Chacóns founded the Alicia and Yaya Foundation, which has been a generous benefactor of UMB as it supports science, education, children, and the less fortunate.
UMB also recognized another set of stars as Catalysts for Excellence, chosen for exemplifying powerful advocacy for success, achievement, and philanthropy for their respective UMB schools while serving as visionaries for future progress:
- Doctor of Dental Surgery Class of 2020, School of Dentistry
- Elva Elizabeth Tillman, JD ’87, Carey School of Law
- Howard S. Brown, School of Medicine
- Ruth J. Lee, DNP ’10, MBA, MS ’04, RN, School of Nursing
- Daniel E. Wagner, JD ’62, School of Pharmacy
- Positive Schools Center, School of Social Work
Jarrell thanked the Catalysts for Excellence for their philanthropic efforts and reiterated the theme of appreciation in his closing remarks, calling his first Founders Week Gala as UMB president one to remember.
“I will remember how we were able to be flexible and pivot from an in-person Gala to a virtual one like this,” Jarrell said. “I’ll remember the incredible generosity and support you’ve shown to UMB through your donations tonight, and I think the message is that people remain so supportive of UMB in spite of all the difficulty surrounding us.
“And so I hope that you all stay safe and well at home, so that we might be able to party in person next year.”