Momentous milestones reached at Savoring Excellence

 In Inspiring Stories, News

The confetti fell from the rafters late in the show as Clark College Foundation CEO Lisa Gibert announced a combined $1.5 million in new gifts since the spring as part of the organization’s Promising Pathways campaign. The event was the foundation’s annual Savoring Excellence gala that took place virtually on Tuesday, October 20.

The pandemic brought the event to a television studio with several recorded segments, while Gibert and Eric Merrill, foundation board chair, appeared live before virtual guests. Normally, the event fills a room with hundreds of people including Clark students, faculty, staff, student performers, community members, donors, alumni and other friends. This year was different given the circumstances surrounding a global virus, but the enthusiasm from those writing comments online was inspiring.

Merrill spoke to those who questioned whether such an event should be held this year. Given the pandemic and the disheartening and divisive conditions happening in the world, some believe Savoring Excellence should have been canceled.

“If now is not the most opportune time to pull together in support of each other and our college…then when is the right time?” Merrill said.

Several awards were announced throughout the night, including the highest honor the foundation bestows on a partner, the Award for Excellence. The Cowlitz Indian Tribe has committed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Clark’s Veterans Resource Center and other services at the college focused on providing access to food for students experiencing food insecurity over the last few years. Their financial commitments to Clark are keeping student-veterans in college, helping them prepare for a civilian career and civic duties.

“They remind us of the obstacles and injustices the first peoples have faced, while at the same time demonstrating the exciting future they are building. Clark College has become a partner in this journey of understanding,” said Gibert, before introducing a recorded thank you from Philip Harju ’74, chairman of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s General Council, and Tanna Engdahl, spiritual leader of the Tribe.

The surprising news of the evening was when Gibert announced $1 million in trust gifts to support Clark’s sciences program, the McClaskey Culinary Institute and Clark College Foundation’s unrestricted fund. Additionally, another $100,000 gift in support of student programs and scholarships was revealed.

She also talked about a fall community fundraising effort that realized more than $20,000 in one day for Clark students. The Give More 24! event was led by the Community Foundation of Southwest Washington. Separately, generous friends and alumni have contributed more than $500,000 since March to help fund emergency grants, Penguin Pantry and other critical programs through Clark’s Guided Pathways initiative, a national endeavor to make community colleges more effective by creating clear pathways in education to employment.

All of the gifts are part of the foundation’s $35 million Promising Pathways: The Campaign for Clark College fundraising effort. Gibert announced that the total raised is now at $27.5 million. The campaign is expected to conclude in late 2021.

These announcements, along with musical performances by Clark soloist Christina Bulanov, accompanied by pianist Eric Rozhko, alumnus, and nursing student Denis Karnaukh on guitar, which included a sweet-sounding rendition of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” were part of an evening highlighting the many positives at Clark College during a difficult year. The evening also included an overview of college priorities from new Clark president Dr. Karin Edwards, video highlights from this year’s six Outstanding and Rising Star alumni and a  video of maestro Don Appert’s 30-year teaching and conducting career. Savoring Excellence 2020 was an evening of momentous milestones and an evening to remember.

Each of the Outstanding and Rising Star alumni for 2019-2020 reflected —in their own words—on what Clark and the award means to them and their reasons for doing the community work that they do. Click on the recipients’ names to watch their videos: Lucy Estrada-Guzman ’90, Alexis Madrigal ’00, Gina Mosbrucker ’88, Ophelia Noble ’98 and George Oberg Jr. ’58. The Rising Star recipient is Gabriel Foster ’12.


Click here to watch the full show on YouTube.


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Clark College Foundation’s Award for Excellence for 2020.