Ten full-tuition scholarships announced at Chapman Celebrates

President Daniele Struppa announced this year’s Citizens of the Year Award winners, Sandi and Ron Simon. Starting in 2021, the Simons will provide $9 million in scholarships to the university. Photo by Kento Komatsu, staff photographer

The scholarships will be awarded to students in the Physician Assistant program

Nov. 1 marked the continuation of a 39 year-long legacy of Chapman Celebrates, an extravagant theatrical performance that incorporates over 130 students of all departments in the College of Performing Arts, from vocal performance to dancing to acting.

Amidst the glitz and glamor of a Broadway-esque production, the show served as the opening entertainment to the gala hosted Nov. 2, an initiative to encourage donors to provide scholarship funds for future Chapman students. This year’s gala reached a climax when President Daniele Struppa announced this year’s Citizens of the Year Award winners, Sandi and Ron Simon. Struppa also announced their recent $9 million commitment made by the Simon Foundations, an organization dedicated to helping underprivileged high school and college undergraduates accomplish higher education. Starting in 2021, the foundation will provide 10 full-tuition scholarships each year for five years to students who wish to be a part of Chapman’s University’s Physician Assistant program, which currently holds a 6 percent acceptance rate for general applicants.

“As you know, Southern California has a rapidly growing need for additional healthcare,” Struppa said to a packed theater of donors. “Knowing that, we began a conversation with Ron and Sandi about how we could meet this need. We felt it would be a good way to build on the incredible work they had done with the Simon scholars and maybe together we could provide a career path (for students).”

The show promoted themes of feminism and the female voice, and featured an eclectic mix of songs tributed to influential female artists, such as Aretha Franklin and Lady Gaga. Sophia Vidali, a senior vocal performance major, soloed on Peggy Lee’s “Fever.”

“I try to embody and bring out what I’m singing about, and really engage the audience in that way so that I can connect the narrative through what’s happening through the dancing,” Vidali said.

The collaborative narrative woven through different art mediums distinguished the performance from all others that Chapman hosts according to Azuki Umeda, a senior dance major.

“Having everything live was just so eye-opening and made me realize that there’s more than just dance,” Umeda said.

Both nights of the show also featured the presentation of awards to women in the arts. Emmy-winning television producer Brenda Brkusic Milinkovic, a Chapman alumna who graduated in 2004, received the 2019 Alumni Achievement Award during the opening night of Chapman Celebrates, and reflected on the ways in which Chapman met her needs as a young filmmaker.

The following night, Vanessa Williams received the 2019 Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award for her accolades as a top-charts reaching singer, actress and dancer. Being the mother of a student who attends Chapman, Williams followed the honor by performing “Colors of the Wind” on the Musco stage. The impact of the financial assistance of events like Chapman Celebrates can be seen by taking a closer look at the students performing on stage. Junior vocal performance major Danny Sanchez has performed in the event for the last three years as a scholarship recipient of the event itself.

“It shows that the university wants you here when they offer you that scholarship,” Sanchez said. “It’s a recognition of your talent and what you can do, which is important to feel from a university.”