Chefs Evening provides good food and scholarships
Chefs Evening is an annual event hosted as a fundraiser in order to raise money for different departments and scholarships for students. This night has been held since 1984, and is considered to be one of the most important fundraisers held at the university.
“This is the 33rd annual Chefs Evening,” said University President Dr. John L. Crain. “We’ve been doing this every year to raise money in support of academic programs and student scholarships. So, this is one of our biggest fundraising events. It’s really to raise funds for our academic programs, like I said, and it has been really successful. Over the years, it’s been more successful every night. We keep kind of raising it a notch and more and more people come, and it is just a wonderful event.”
This event has been a school tradition in its 33 years, and many of the school’s patrons attend. Ruth Kenelly, wife to the late Pat Kenelly, the namesake of the baseball diamond, also attended this. Kennelly shared some of her memories of her husband and the event.
“He started out as the girl’s softball coach, and he eventually became the athletic director for the university,” said Kenelly. “He’s known as Coach Kenelly, and I remember coming to these events every year with him and how much we enjoyed it. And let me tell you, the food just keeps getting better and better.”
Wendy Lauderdale, Vice President of University Advancement, talked a little bit about the benefit of the night and how it’s been so successful over the years.
“The money goes into scholarships and into all the different departments,” said Lauderdale. “Last year was the most ever. We had over $100,000 and this year we really hope it’ll be over $100,000. This event is a tradition, and so what we provide is an opportunity for Southeastern family and friends to come back and get reacquainted. And people tell me all the time that they just like to come just to see people they haven’t seen all year long. The cause is also great so it’s kind of a dual win-win. And the restaurants and just so many people come together and help it be successful.”
Eric Summers, Vice President of Student Affairs, shared some of his thoughts on the fundraiser as an attendee.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Summers. “All this great food and they’re all here to help us help students raise money for school with scholarships. So wonderful food, wonderful people, great door prizes, just a great event.”
The main sources of money for the fundraisers were a live auction and a silent auction. Prizes for the live auction included Bruno Mars tickets, a $100 gift certificate to any John Besh restaurant, some vacation time in a condominium in Destin, Florida or a Napa Valley trip. All of these things come together to give students, faculty, and alumni a way of expressing both their pride and fondness of the university.
“People are proud of Southeastern,” said Lauderdale. “Southeastern’s continued to grow. Our students are so successful. But they need scholarship dollars. The departments need money too, so this all helps around. But really, our number one goal is scholarships. And so we have many different scholarships, we have the completer scholarship for students who have 10 hours left and they are out of TOPS. And we really just try and be as creative as we can.”
Chefs Evening gives to students through funding of scholarships and also through several departments.
“It’s a fundraiser, so it’s really about raising those resources for our students but it’s also a great opportunity for Southeastern people and alumni to reconnect,” said Crain. “There are plenty of people who have never been here before, and I met several individuals who hadn’t been back to campus in a long time. One gentleman hadn’t been back for over 30 years. So it’s really a good opportunity for them to reconnect, and rekindle that love for the university.”
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