The party was going strong.
The appetizers with gourmet names (crostini or caprese, anyone?) had been passed. The signature cocktail — with refreshing cucumber overtones, to counter the summer night — had been imbibed. The sit-down dinner had been devoured.
Guests were grooving as the Patrick Lentz Band belted out dance-floor fillers, from recent hits like “Uptown Funk” to disco classics and 1990s R&B.
The mission of the night, defined by Vice President for University Advancement William Brent Dunn, had been fulfilled: “We are here for two reasons: raise money for students and have fun!”
MarooNation Ball galas, black-tie optional events with live entertainment, mingling, dining and dancing, are fast becoming a Missouri State tradition.
The first one was held in 2013 in St. Louis, since a large number of alumni live there. It was repeated in 2014 and 2015.
“They just continued to get bigger and bigger,” Dunn said.
Three years later, the MarooNation Ball has expanded into three cities. Kansas City’s first gala was held in 2015.
“I heard from people over and over again: Bring this to Springfield!” Dunn said. In June 2016, guests gathered at the Old Glass Place downtown for Springfield’s first MarooNation Ball.
“This is a special way for Missouri State to celebrate our institution and our students,” Dunn said, joking that he expected people to keep the dancing going until about 4 in the morning.
The MarooNation Ball has two purposes: promote Missouri State spirit and raise funds for a good cause.
All proceeds support future Bears. A MarooNation Ball scholarship benefits students who have financial need and also embody the university’s public affairs mission.
Proceeds also go to a scholarship created for students with emergency needs, similar to the university’s emergency scholarship fund. That fund assists students facing unforeseen personal crises including the death of a legal guardian, a natural disaster or a fire.
“We started the emergency scholarship after the Joplin tornado,” Dunn said. “After a tragedy like that, the very last thing students need to be worrying about is how to pay tuition.”
Tickets are sold for the events, and businesses and individuals also contribute by becoming sponsors.
“BKD Wealth Advisors wanted to be involved because for many years, MSU has contributed to our growth,” said BKD Wealth Advisors Managing Partner Jack Thurman, who spoke at the Springfield event.
“It’s been an amazing source of new talent. Many alumni work for us, and many of our clients are alumni.”
James B. (Jim) Wingfield, ’78, drove from Joplin to attend the inaugural Springfield event.
“This is my first time at a MarooNation Ball. I’m on the board of the MSU Foundation, so I’ve gotten to know some of the people here really well. It’s fun hanging out with everyone. This is a good time!”
Leia Breithaupt, ’12, a senior advisor at BKD Wealth Advisors, said the event made her want to be part of everything going on at MSU and proud to be a young alumna.
“It was very fun, down to the last detail. From the food, drinks, photo booth, characters dressed up, live band and giveaways on the table, no detail was left untouched.
“It went beyond what I thought the night might be.”
Breithaupt encourages others to attend when the MarooNation Ball comes to their towns.
“This is a great way to connect with other Bear alumni, and it is a night you will definitely relish.”