More than 500 donors, friends and supporters of Weber State University attended the Eccles Conference Center on Jan. 7 to eat, laugh and celebrate WSU’s 125th anniversary.
With the party theme of steampunk, which combines an antiquated yet futuristic attire, WSU President Charles Wight said it’s “sentimental but visional, where old technologies stretch out abilities for new possibilities.”
As guests mingled they were able to take a trip through the steampunk photo booth to capture their own memorable moments.
Wight announced the public phase of the Dream 125 campaign, which many of the attendants have been a part of.
“More than 10,000 people have already contributed to our comprehensive campaign to raise $125 million for Weber State,” Wight said. “This is really going to secure the future of Weber State.”
Wight also talked about the three strategic priorities of the campaign. The first is to provide opportunity. Wight gave the example of the gift that established the Kem and Carolyn Gardner Opportunity Scholarship, which allowed WSU to expand its Dream Weber program, and some of the other scholarships dedicated to specific programs, such as the Bergeson & Knowles Family Scholarship for aspiring teachers.
The second priority is advancing knowledge. Wight discussed the endowment by the Sid & Mary Foulger School of Music, which helps students and faculty make sure they have the support they need so that young musicians will be successful not only in their careers at WSU but in their lives. Guests were able to witness the opportunity this scholarship provides to students, as WSU graduate Fan-Ya Lin was in attendance. Lin has gone on to Juilliard, where she is featured on the school website and has been offered a teaching position after graduation.
The third priority is enhancing the campus. Wight talked about the Robert L. and Annette Marquardt Field House, the George S. Eccles Field and the Weber County Sports Complex, which were made possible by the contributions of the Marquardt family, the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation, and former WSU football athlete Roger Trinchero.
WSU also has plans for this summer to build the Tracy Hall Science Center, made possible by the Utah State Legislature and the Hall family.
Alan E. Hall, chair of WSU’s board of trustees and of the university’s capital campaign committee, said he is pleased to be a part of WSU’s growth and advancements, as WSU gave him so many opportunities as a young man.
“We are just honored to be a part of Weber and glad that we can contribute,” Hall said. “It is one of the most wonderful and humble things you can do in your life. At the end of the day, I just want to share what I have learned and give back.”
When WSU originally planned to launch the public phase of the campaign, the hopes were that it would raise $75,000,000. Wight announced on Tuesday that donations have passed the $100,000,000 mark. “Due to your generosity, we have raised — through gifts, pledges and request — exactly $101,960,975.82,” he said.
WSU’s 125th anniversary celebrates a strong connection between the university and the Ogden community. Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said WSU has been a significant part of his family for many generations, and that he recently got a compliment from a woman who said, “Ogden City and Weber State has its swagger back.” Caldwell said he is proud to be part of WSU.
“This is absolutely, I think, a phenomenal example of the city and Weber State coming together, and I think it is amazing,” he said. “Weber State has set my family up in such a unique way, filled with dedication and opportunities. I just feel really lucky to be a part of that.”
After the celebratory dinner, guests were whisked away to Peery’s Egyptian Theater to watch WSU performing arts program director Jim Christian’s “kaleidoscopic adventure” of the success of WSU students and the institution, featuring illusionist Paul Draper. Wight exclaimed before the show, “It is going to be a theatrical extravaganza. It is going to be amazing.”
The performance included musical numbers, videos, and special guests such as Eladio Bobadilla, J.R. Westmoreland, John Mukum Mbaku and Jessica Brooke. Hall ended the show by talking to the attendants about how they can donate to WSU to make students’ dreams come true.
Wight encouraged guests to “reflect on the past, enjoy the present, but most of all, think about the future.” He asked them to envision what they would see if they had their own steampunk time machines and could go 125 years into the future.
“Well, my friends, that depends on what we do today,” Wight said. “I want you to think about the roles you plan to play at Weber State University and how you will embark on this institution and what you will do to make a difference in the students and future of Weber State.”