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For Chapman College, Annual Extravaganza Is an Educational Affair

November 10, 1988|JAN HOFMANN | Jan Hofmann is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

From students to the board of trustees, it seemed as if the entire campus pitched in to make Chapman College's seventh "American Celebration" a success Saturday night.

For proof, you needed to look no further than Bob Elliott and his wife, Debbi Zander Elliott, the event's co-chairs. He's on the board; she's a graduate student at the school, the only independent private college in the county.

She took time out from her mid-term studies to help coordinate the 850-guest, $125-a-person gala at the Anaheim Marriott. And nearly 200 other harried Chapman students who performed in or worked behind the scenes in the lavish production could easily identify with that burning-at-both-ends feeling.

That's 200 out of about 1,500 full-time equivalent students, as acting Chapman president Jim Doti said, "a large proportion of our student population. Every department, every program has a student somewhere involved in this show."

It may have taken precious time away from the books, but the show was still an important part of the students' education, Bob Elliott said. "It's one thing to have a textbook and learn how to put on a production. But to see that hands-on learning experience, that's another thing entirely."

The Orange County centennial was the theme for this year's extravaganza, which featured performances by the Chapman Symphony Orchestra and the Chapman College Concert Choir as well as a stage full of dance and drama students. Communications students were represented by their work: video production and kaleidoscopic multi-image visual presentations narrated by students and Chapman music professor William D. Hall, who also served as emcee.

As if that weren't enough, the production, coordinated by communications professor Ron Thronson, had a sub-theme: the 100th anniversary of motion pictures. At times, the two themes were merged--a slide of '50s screen rebel James Dean found its way into the Orange County history presentation, for example, with the narrators pointing out that parts of "Rebel Without a Cause" were filmed at Dana Point.

The historical theme was certainly appropriate, said Chapman alum George Argyros, board chairman since 1976, because "this institution is an important part of Orange County's history." Argyros earned his bachelor's in business back in 1959, then put it to work to build an empire that has earned him a place on the Forbes 400 list.

The annual dinner and show serve as the centerpiece of the college's fund-raising efforts, which have brought in more than $56 million since 1981, according to Argyros. This year's event grossed about $250,000, and Bob Elliott said he expects a net of more than $100,000, to be used for student aid and equipment.

Everybody may have chipped in, but as the show began, Hall proclaimed that audience participation was out. "Snap your fingers, tap your foot, even whistle a little, but for goodness sake, don't sing," he admonished.

Through "Blue Skies" and "Zippity Doo Dah," the crowd behaved, but not everyone could manage such restraint by the time the performers got around to "Over the Rainbow."

The celebration concluded with a tribute to the late Nellie Gail Moulton, whose gift of 250 acres in the south county in the early '70s helped the college's endowment fund increase to $25 million from $8 million, and the late John L. Davis, who served as president of Chapman College from 1957 to 1971.

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