For more than 20 years, Molloy College has hosted a gala for alumni and community that provided top-notch performances and brought people together, while raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship funding. This year, despite an ongoing pandemic, the upcoming gala on Nov. 28 promises to be just as spectacular, although it has shifted to a virtual format.
“We had a very solid format that worked for us for two decades,” Ed Thompson, vice president of Molloy, said. “We wanted to maintain the same level of quality and entertainment, minus the sit-down dinner.”
The virtual gala will take place on Saturday, Nov. 28, at 7 p.m. and will celebrate the alumni and community leaders who have been on the frontlines fighting against the pandemic. It will recognize nurses, respiratory therapists, social workers, business postgraduates and others who have invested in Molloy and its four schools of learning: Arts & Sciences, Business, Education and Human Resources, Nursing & Health Sciences.
“In a difficult time for our country, our colleges, and for Molloy, we wanted to celebrate the many accomplishments of our students and alumni,” Thompson said. “We totally revamped our primary external fundraising event of the year and can now reach alumni all across the country. Our alumni include nurses, social workers and other who did an outstanding job and deserve to be recognized.”
It will also aim to impress as in years past, with entertainment from Paul Shaffer, Melissa Manchester, Lillias White, the South Shore Symphony and cameo appearances by additional entertainers, students and alumni.
“We are confident in Molloy’s mission and want to express our gratitude for our alumni, our gratitude for the support of friends,” Thompson said, “and are confident we can enjoy an evening together in a year that’s been difficult to say that.”
Angelo Fraboni, artistic director of the Madison Theater at Molloy College, said he thought the idea of shifting the format would be the best way to showcase Molloy’s talent and success.
“It will be formatted kind of like a telethon,” Fraboni said, “and we’ll make it about Molloy, with a section devoted to each of the colleges.”
A big challenge faced with the virtual format, Fraboni said, was figuring out how to create the opening number. Fraboni said they took five pop songs, changed the lyrics to reflect Molloy and created a music video that includes a montage of people getting prepped, Molloy getting prepped and moves into the opening segment.
“It has taken an army to put this on,” Fraboni said of the recorded production. All of the colleges and deans were involved in producing the segments, which were filmed across the campus, with final number on stage at the Madison Theater.
The gala is the annual student scholarship drive, the biggest fundraiser of the year, generally raising $325,000. With all of the financial hardships facing the college because of the pandemic, “We felt it was important to still support the students,” Fraboni said.
Preregistration is requested, though not required, and donations are suggested. Typically, tickets cost $500 apiece, and while it brings in the money, Fraboni acknowledged that this prohibits many people from attending. The hope is that by inviting the entire community to a free virtual gala, the number of smaller donations will be equivalent to what is typically raised through a smaller number of higher ticket prices. “I’m hoping people will have watch parties,” he said. “Hopefully getting more attendees will mitigate the lack of bigger dollar amounts with smaller donations.”
While the gala is recognizing front line workers, it will also honor Rockville Centre residents Wayne and Karen Lipton as the Lifetime Achievement Honorees, recognized for their years of strong leadership and corporate citizenship.
“Wayne and Karen Lipton have done a lot for the college,” Fraboni said. “Wayne and I have worked together a lot and I’ve brought him into my productions. He and Karen have been huge supporters and we felt it was time to honor them. No one is more deserving than them.”
The Liptons have lived in Rockville Centre for the past 40 years and have been actively involved in the schools and village over the years. Karen, a former assistant district attorney, said she is honored to have the award bestowed upon them, though for her, she doesn’t consider it so much about what she’s done for the college as it is about her active role in the Rockville Centre community, including involvement with the PTAs and the Education Foundation. Wayne served as deputy mayor, is on the board of Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital, former member of the Rockville Centre Community Fund Board of Trustees, chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Rockville Centre, president of the RVC Guild for the Arts, president and principal cellist of the South Shore Symphony.
“We’ve watched Molloy move from a modest sized college to fulfilling an important role on Long Island,” Wayne said.
About 10 years ago, the Liptons became involved with helping to make the South Shore Symphony’s home at Madison Theater and outreach to support the arts. Wayne has collaborated for the past nine years with Fraboni, and has done a variety of performances including operas, musicals, and galas, and has performed with stars like Judy Collins, Keith Emerson, and Tony Danza. “We’ve had a nice collaborative effort in growing the arts through the orchestra and its outreach,” Wayne said, “and have also secured funds to grow the programs, and even donated a Steinway grand piano last year.”
The virtual format is an “interesting twist” and Wayne said he hopes people will tune in and catch the surprise: a duet between him and Dr. James Lentini, president of the college.
“People should tune in just to get a sense of what is going on at Molloy,” Wayne said. “It’s such a vibrant place and has turned into a rather substantial college. The gala will be happy event and we could all use some happiness in our lives right now.”
The event can be viewed at molloycollegegala.com, and those interested in donating can call the live call-in center during the event: 516-323-4750.