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Mardi Gras Gala: A Knight to Remember

Gladys KnightThe University of St. Thomas King of all Mardi Gras Galas featured the Empress of Soul Gladys Knight as its headliner entertainer. Revelers sang and danced at this up close and personal concert performance by the seven-time Grammy Award-winner.

Top donor table hosts had front-row seats to the concert and the opportunity to attend a back-stage photo-op with Ms. Knight.

Over-the-top Money Raised for Scholarships

Revelers also gave generously with nearly $1.5 million in proceeds for student scholarships, one of the over-the-top records for a Mardi Gras evening. Mardi Gras proceeds benefit The St. Thomas Fund, the cornerstone of UST’s premier student financial aid program. The St. Thomas Fund provides more than $15 million per year for student scholarships and program excellence. Seven out of ten students depend on UST’s scholarship support, and as record-breaking enrollments continue, UST needs to do more to support its promising students.

Over-the-top Attendance

The 70th Mardi Gras Ball was held on Saturday evening, Feb. 22, at the Hilton Americas.  A record-breaking number of guests attended. More than 720 were in the house, wearing flashing beads that lite up the room with purple, green and gold.

To view all photos click here.

Mardi Gras King and Queen with Honoree Dr. Mauro FerrariMardi Gras King & Queen and Past Mardi Gras Queens

UST students Andrew Tran ‘20 and Marisa Giandinoto ‘20 were crowned Mardi Gras King and Queen. This time-honored tradition crowns students who epitomize the University’s mission and values. Fifteen past Mardi Gras queens were recognized at the event including Annette Strake, 1957, Dr. Elizabeth J. “Betsy” McMillian, 1969, Cimela Kidonakis, 2009, and Samantha Loos-Polk Quintana, 2016.

Gala Chairs, Honoree, Live Auction

The event was chaired by UST Board Members Denise Castillo-Rhodes MBA ‘92, Dr. Bert Edmundson ‘69, Robert F. Corrigan and Edward L. Tyrrell.

Gala Chairs and Honoree: Ed Tyrrell, Denise Castillo-Rhodes, Dr. Mauro Ferrari, Dr. Bert Edmundson, Bob CorriganDr. Mauro Ferrari, President of the European Research Council and UST Board Member, was the honoree. Dr. Ferrari is a globally-renowned nanomedicine scientist whose groundbreaking research has led to new technologies in drug delivery and cancer therapy. In 2017, Pope Francis appointed him to the Pontifical Academy for Life, which advises on ethics and scientific matters including biology and medicine.

The Master of Ceremonies was King Rex, performed by Michael Morrison, MFA, assistant professor of Drama at UST.

Two fabulous European trips, stunning diamond earrings created by Italian Jeweler Massimo Palmiero, valued at $32,000, and a dinner for 20+ people at the penthouse home of Francis Dunleavy with Archbishop Michael J. Miller, CSB, former UST beloved president, were part of the Live Auction. Auctioneer for live auction and paddles up was Vincent Montalbano.

Dr. Ferrari and his wife Paola, offered two of their homes – one in Calabria, Italy, and one in Brussels as live auction gifts with the Italy trip selling multiple times!

Trini Mendenhall donned her Massimo earrings for a party picture after the auction was finalized.

Ambience: Louisianna Brass Band Sets the Stage

Bunk Johnson Brazz Band greeted Mardi Gras guests as they stepped into the event space. Signature hurricane-style cocktails were handed to guests along with flashing beads, batons and top hats.

Lenny the Lion, UST MascotBunk Johnson and his Brazz Band also led the Second Line as students, former Mardi Gras Queens and guests held parasols and swung hot pink handkerchiefs wildly as they paraded through the seated crowd to the tune “When the Celts Come Marching In.” Even the University’s mascot, Lenny the Lion, donned a tux and brought up the parade line.

The sequin gold, hot pink, purple and green table decorations with towering flower stands were spectacular.

The delicious dinner menu was New Orleans-style shrimp and grits, short rib, sweet potatoes and collard greens. Guests could purchase a king cake with the promise of one cake holding a diamond and gold cross as the prize! Blue Bell Mardi Gras King Cake ice cream was served as a midnight snack.

Dr. Ferrari gave a keynote address “Find Your Greatness” and serenaded the crowd crooning his Louis Armstrong rendition of “It’s a Wonderful World.”

And, the evening was wonderful, actually, it was magical.