For the first time in two years, members of Harper College's Educational Foundation held a formal gala to raise money for student scholarships, calling it the President's Ball.
Dr. Kenneth Ender, Harper's president, called it something different. He described the gathering of 300 guests from across the Northwest suburbs as a "great example of a public-private partnership."
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"It used to be that any kid could work in the summer at a part-time job to pay their tuition to a public university," Ender said. "We've got to make that reality happen for our students, but we cannot do it with public support alone.
"This is the kind of public-private partnership that can make that happen," Ender added.
Foundation board member Lane Moyer said they expected to raise $100,000 from the gala for student scholarships. Last year alone, more than 300 Harper students were awarded scholarships through the foundation.
One of them, Elisa Galvan of Hoffman Estattes, spoke to the crowd. She is the recipient of a Motorola Solutions Foundation Award for Excellence.
"I am so fortunate to be given this opportunity," said Galvan, whose parents came to this country from Mexico 11 years ago. "I just want to represent Harper the best way that I can."
The evening started on a whimsical note, with Harper theater students greeting guests like movie stars on the red carper as they arrived. A 1934 Rolls Royce parked in front of the hotel set the tone.
Guests ranged from Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod and Hanover Park Mayor Rodney Craig, to area business leaders, including Bruce Crowther, president and CEO of Northwest Community Hospital, who described the long partnership between Harper's nursing program and the hospital.
"Harper does a great job of finding out what employers need -- and then they develop programs to make that happen," Crowther said. "That's how they stay relevant."
Jack Lloyd, market president of BMO Harris Bank, agreed, pointing to Harper's new advanced manufacturing program, which was announced last week, as a result of $12.9 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Labor.
"I've been introducing all my manufacturing clients to Harper," said Lloyd, of Palatine. "That's the kind of program they're interested in because they can't find enough talent."
Nearly a dozen Harper students worked the event as volunteers. Sophomore Andy Robinson of Palatine did everything from welcome guests to help with the silent auction items.
"It's cool to see how many people that are here for us," said Robinson, who competes on Harper's speech team. "I didn't expect this big of a crowd. You see how embedded in the community Harper is."