By Mary Burger – Staff Writer
On Fri. Jan. 31, Centre College held the 24th annual Associates Dinner at the Seelbach Hilton in Louisville. Centre Associates is a society that recognizes those individuals who donate $1000 a year or more to Centre College. The majority of these funds go toward the financial aid program.
Faculty, staff, and retirees who donate $500 a year can be Centre Associates. There is also a discounted rate for younger Centre alumni; current students and recent alumni can donate $100 their first year out of college, $200 their second year, and so on until they hit the $1000 donation mark around the time of their tenth college reunion.
This year’s dinner housed a record number of attendees – around 370 total in attendance.
“The crowd has grown from about 200 attendees in the beginning, to now almost 400,” Director of Parent Programming Mona Wyatt said.
“Our young alumni get to take advantage of a discounted rate to belong to the Centre Associates, and this event gives them a chance to network with our trustees and alumni from all over the country. It’s a nice way to say thank you to our major donors.”
The dinner occurs every year in January in conjunction with the Board of Trustees meeting. There is always entertainment provided, and this year it was provided by The Lovin’ Spoonful, a band popular during the 1960s. The dinner is normally held in Louisville because of the large number of alumni who now live there.
The Seelbach Hilton has the feel of a “classic, old downtown, old Louisville hotel,” Associate Vice President for Development & Alumni Shawn Lyons said. The hotel is full of history. “In their 5-star restaurant, The Oak Room … Al Capone used to play cards and billiards during Prohibition. There’s still a secret passageway that led to tunnels under the city so the gamblers could escape during a raid! Just the incredible ambiance of the hotel has been a huge draw for the Centre crowd. It’s a gorgeous and historic setting, which really suits Centre,” Wyatt said.
The Associates Dinner began in 1989 and has only missed two years since it began. “At that point our new president was Mike Adams. He came from Pepperdine University in California. They did a very similar dinner in Los Angeles, and so he came in and his idea was to try to boost the number of $1000 donors,” Lyons said. “For years we had been one of the national leaders in alumni giving. But we had a lot of people who had been giving the same amount they had given all those years. Mike’s idea was to bring this glamorous, black-tie function with entertainment to Centre.”
Before 1989, there was the Isaac Shelby Society to recognize the $1000 donors. This recognition occurred with a dinner at the Norton Center in May. In the first year of the Associates Dinner, the number of $1000 donors doubled.
Each year a specific member is spotlighted for extraordinary work the previous year or throughout his/her lifetime. The choice for Associate of the Year is made by the staff in consultation with President John Roush.
This year’s Associate of the Year was David F. Ray, Class of 1959. He worked with the United States Secret Service and was instrumental in behind-the-scenes work to help keep Centre’s campus secure for not just one but two Vice Presidential debates.
The Young Centre Associate of the Year was Stephen A. Dexter, Class of 2004.