University of St. Thomas Mardi Gras Gala Raises “A Miller Million”
The University of St. Thomas 62nd Annual Mardi Gras Gala raised $1 million for scholarships on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 21 at the InterContinental Hotel. The celebratory occasion was marked by a visit from former St. Thomas president, the Most Rev. J. Michael Miller, CSB, archbishop of Vancouver, who was honored for his passion for education and for molding the next generation of Christian disciples.
A fun-loving crowd of 550 people attended the “Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler”Gala, chaired by Kelli Kickerillo and Phyllis Mandola. Instead of a silent auction, guests purchased boas and baubles, and the event raised money for the Fr. Francis E. Monaghan Scholarship Fund to support current and future students. The Monaghan Scholarship Fund is the cornerstone of UST student aid, and the University will award $11.5 million in institutional scholarships and financial aid to about 1,200 UST students in fall 2012.
Numerous student scholarship recipients lent a hand donning guests with beads and sharing their gratitude for generous contributions to the University.
UST students John Ruff and Rosemary Tran, who were honored as this year’s Mardi Gras king and queen, greeted attendees and later thanked donors for making a St. Thomas education possible for themselves and others. Ruff also shared Archbishop Miller’s personal impact on his life, as the clergyman officiated the marriage of Ruff’s parents, Clare (Nietubicz) and Christopher Ruff in 1989.
Ruff encouraged guests to support the Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, Endowed Scholarship Fund with “paddles up” live auction donations, and the University raised more than $100,000 to fully endow the fund.
Other live auction items included a Vancouver visit with Archbishop Miller, a private lunch with Grammy-award winner Steve Tyrell in New York City, a Bacchus Ball XLV Mardi Gras experience in New Orleans, a Johnny Carrabba food demonstration, a luxury vacation package to Los Cabos, Mexico, and an Ultimate Texans’ Fan Package with Coach Gary Kubiak.
The Fat Tuesday dinner finished with Archbishop Miller's favorite dessert, Blue Bell ice cream, and guests received goodie bags with New Orleans’s favorites, Community Coffee and Brennan's Pralines.
Serving as master of ceremonies was Don Nelson, KTRK Channel 13 traffic and entertainment reporter. The Ronnie Renfrow band provided Dixie-land jazz entertainment.
Party-goers in attendance included UST President Dr. Robert Ivany and his wife Marianne, Margaret Alkek Williams and Jim Daniel, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Mary and Vincent Kickerillo, Kelli Kickerillo and Todd Forester, Phyllis and Tony Mandola, Alice and Keith Mosing, Raye White, Lois and Carl Davis, Gloria and Frank Kalman, Susanne and Bruce Wilkinson, Trini Mendenhall Sosa and Frank Sosa, Shelby Hodge and Shafik Rifaat, Carla Valencia and Alex Martinez, Gina and Devinder Bhatia, Martha Long, Carolyn Farb, Elyse and Bob Lanier, Alexandra and Brady Knight, Cathy and Giorgio Borlenghi, Cora Sue and Harry Mach, and Joella and Steve Mach.