For the 16th time, Lincoln University played host to visitors from Mid-Missouri and beyond, to raise money for the LU Foundation.
"We do this because our students need money, our university needs money and our foundation services the university in a number of ways," said Foundation President Hardy Dorsey Sr., a 1969 LU graduate. "We raise money for specific interests that will help the university," such as helping outfit the new weight room in The Linc wellness center, creating an endowment to complete the Soldiers Memorial on the quadrangle and helping keep the President's House, 601 Jackson St., as part of the school when some proposed to sell it about a dozen years ago.
"So, we're responsive in a number of ways," Dorsey added, "so (the university) can recruit, enroll and graduate more students.
"We deliver close to $300,000 in scholarships annually, and then there are a number of additional ways in which we make sure the students stay in school and graduate."
The foundation also helps some students with getting the books they need for the classes they take.
The gala began when David Henson was Lincoln's president and has become the foundation's biggest fundraiser, Dorsey said.
About 500 tickets were sold, generating an estimated $50,000 before expenses.
A silent auction was held for the second year.
"It was a really big hit (last year)," he explained, "and we raised almost $30,000."
This year's gala also offered people a first chance to meet Jerald Jones Woolfolk, chosen last month as LU's 20th president, who begins her official duties on June 1.
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Dorsey was a member of the search committee that considered applications from nearly 60 people and recommended two for the Curators to consider.
"We are excited about Dr. Woolfolk," he said. "She is the right person at this time.
"She comes with a variety of skill sets — not just fundraising and leadership, but she's done enrollment management and turned schools around, which we sorely need."
Dr. Thomas Cooper, a now-retired physician who also is an LU graduate, was a curator when Henson was hired.
After visiting with Woolfolk, he said: "I think things will work out.
"It looks like she wants to move in the right direction."
Since he left the board, Cooper said, enrolling and keeping students, and raising money from alumni, have become bigger challenges — and that's one of the reasons he came to the gala, "to see if we can work to give — even if it may be meager — to get this thing started."
Hugh and Janett Flowers were impressed with Woolfolk's personality.
"She's just so friendly and outgoing," Hugh, a 1959 LU graduate, said. "I'm looking forward to wonderful things happening as a result of her coming."
In addition to the gala, Dorsey said, the foundation is looking at other ways to raise money for the 152-year-old, historically black university.
"We go around the country speaking to what the university is about," he said, "building its brand and certainly recruiting and supporting our students once we get them here."
A St. Louis native, Dorsey now lives in Atlanta. He is a past National Alumni president.
He said the Presidential Gala is more of a regional event, but noted there are other galas in areas with strong alumni chapters.
Earlier galas were held at the Capitol Plaza Hotel, but this was the second year for the event at The Linc, the wellness center jointly operated by LU and Jefferson City's Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department.
The gala took over the main floor basketball courts area, with carpet protecting the hardwood and blue and white curtains and streamers decorating the sides and ceiling.
"I like this," Dorsey said. "It's a little larger and is on the campus itself.
"And we have, as you see, room to grow this."