More than 200 guests, friends and supporters of the university, Board of Trustees members, emeriti faculty, and current faculty, staff, and students attended the Southwestern Adventist University (SWAU) Legacy Annual Scholarship Gala on September 25, 2023. At the renowned Van Cliburn Recital Hall in Fort Worth, Texas, the evening held for guests a live auction that raised $26,750 during the event’s program. It also held a surprise monetary gift of $10,000 from the education fund of Bienvenido, an organization dedicated to increasing representation of Hispanics in policy and politics, presented by Bienvenido President Abraham Enriquez. He was introduced by notable SWAU alumna, Board of Trustees member, and endowment supporter Liliana Gil Valletta. Total fundraising proceeds for student scholarships hit this year’s goal of $130,000 in honor of the institution’s 130th anniversary, breaking the record for funds raised at this event.
In the elegant dining hall with windows for walls, a stunning 130th anniversary etched-glass plaque created in the university’s new Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center was the foundation of elaborate centerpieces on each table. Music was provided throughout the evening by Southwestern Adventist University’s world-renowned Department of Music. During dinner a well-crafted video blending vintage and modern footage took guests down a visual memory lane on the stage’s big screen. Educator Dr. Stephan Gray, who earned three degrees at SWAU, his bachelor’s degree in education in ’85, his master’s degree in education with an emphasis in science in ’93, and his doctorate in education in ’09, hosted this year’s program. He set the evening’s tone by sharing how God led him to Southwestern Adventist University instead of Westpoint, The United States Military Academy in Westpoint, New York. His encounter with Christ at SWAU changed his life and paved the way for his brothers to also attend.
SWAU Board of Trustees Chairman, Carlos Craig, who is also president of the Southwestern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, welcomed the group and offered prayer, asking God for His continued blessings on the university. Afterward, Tony Reyes, SWAU vice president for Advancement, recognized this year’s sponsors of this event (listed below) and expressed the university’s heart-felt thanks to each one.
Then Ana Patterson took the stage, who was once a student, who became a professor, and who is now serving as president, all at Southwestern Adventist University. She focused the audience on the reason for the evening’s celebration: “The legacy of 130 years of higher education in Keene, Texas, that supports the mission of Christian higher education,” she announced as guests broke into applause. She arrived on campus from New York City in 1995, having never been to Texas before. “It ended up being a very special experience for me, and life-changing,” she reminisced. “I never expected to be in this role, but I know what it feels like to be a student, and I know the potential of what my students can do in the future. This is what tonight is about—providing opportunity for the potential in our students to be fulfilled.”
Special guests of this year’s gala were recognized and presented by President Patterson. “These people represent the past, the present, and the future of our institution,” she said as she introduced a table full of emeriti faculty from all disciplines. “You have played a part along with your spouses in building the legacy of Southwestern Adventist University. Thank you for your years of service and for still being such an important part of our community,” she said.
President Patterson concluded, “We want Southwestern Adventist University to be a place that in another 130 years, we can celebrate that it is still here, unless Christ has come, and we are not on this earth anymore. We want to provide a place that can continue to be a place where students can experience Christ while they are preparing for their future careers, and we pray that they will have a desire to live a life of service for others. If we can continue this mission, there is no way that we will not be successful, because the opportunity lies within the students’ lives that we touch.”
For information about other Legacy events planned this year or to donate to further impact SWAU’s legacy by supporting current and future students, visit Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, Texas, or go to www.swau.edu.
To view the digital photo album from this event, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/southwesternadventist/albums/72177720311544261
Lane and Renee Sensabaugh
Southwestern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
Texas Health Huguley Hospital Fort Worth South
Civitas Senior Living
Southwestern Adventist University Board of Trustees
Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
Texico Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
Arkansas Louisiana Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
Tyton Holdings, “Frain and Friends”
Valletta Gil Family, Faith, Family, Fun
Tom and Melinda Goodman
Oklahoma Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
Southwest Region Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
Tony and Bethany Seery