The Felix Event Center was almost at capacity with formally dressed donors for APU’s annual Dinner Rally fundraiser. Nearly 1,000 alumni, staff, faculty and friends of the university gathered for the 65th event last Friday in hopes of raising a goal of $1.3 million. The Board of Trustees alone committed $745,000.
The event combines a gourmet meal, alumni success stories and music by various student choirs and orchestras to showcase the campus and help attendees visualize the unique types of students the donations will impact.
“Really, APU is as good as its alumni. To be able to tell the story of three alumni: Lindsey Rehfeld, businesswoman, successful, entrepreneur. Stephen Vogt, whose heart is on a national stage as a baseball player but is known really for his character. Margarita [Ramirez], who came here with all the intellect in the world and had faculty come alongside her. When I hear those stories and nearly 1,000 people hear those stories, the people that they give so much to make all this happen, it made it a perfect night,” Acting President David Bixby said.
Bixby said he believes Dinner Rally is important because it tells the APU story and shows the essence of what the university aims to be. He said the alumni’s achievements are the return of the donors’ investments.
“Our idea would be that APU is a place where students would come to be mentored and discipled and are involved in rigorous scholarship with faculty,” Bixby said. “For an evangelical Christian institution, we must do that now and we must do it in the years to come. Our commitment is to remain who we are in terms of putting Christ first.”
Board of Trustees Chair Peggy Campbell said she believes Dinner Rally’s long-term impact is to cultivate future generations to sustain Azusa Pacific’s mission.
“They will touch generations that I never will. So when I give, I am multiplying my impact,” Campbell said. “I think that is really the essence of it. It is a visual and palpable sense of what APU’s mission is and when you give, this [is] what happens.”
The event highlighted three alumni’s stories, including their ‘Life on Film’ and interviews with each individually.
“It’s so weird, it’s so surreal. I am just incredibly honored and humbled,” alumna of the year Rehfeld said.
Rehfeld spoke in chapel the same morning, sharing that she never expected to be recognized with the award but was grateful for the opportunity to share her story with students. Both her chapel sermon and her interview highlighted her belief that all people are born with an “unfair advantage,” meaning all people have gifts and talents specific to them.
“I hope that they just remember we are all gifted and we are all different. Thank goodness we are different. [I hope they do] not feel out of place. God has a plan for all of it,” Rehfeld said.
Office of Alumni Vice President Emeritus Cliff Hamlow, who has served in many leadership roles on campus since 1952, said he has been to 64 of the 65 Dinner Rallies. He began attending when he was a student before he graduated Pacific Bible College, now APU, in 1956 and has made a habit of attending ever since.
“It all comes back to student involvement,” Hamlow said. “It hasn’t changed. The heart is still there. The reason and the purpose for Dinner Rally is still there.”
Hamlow said the major change in the event from when it first started is the number of attendees. He recalls there were about 200 people at the first Dinner Rally.
“I think it gives a face to the APU students, that the benefactors and donors have a face they are giving to,” sophomore allied health major Erica Steuer said.” It is important to share with them the gifts that God gave us.”
This was Steuer’s second year performing in the Dinner Rally as a member of the choir. She said the event comes and goes quickly despite the months of preparation. Her greatest hope is that the audience knows how appreciative she is for what they do.
“It is always a surprise when you get in here. It is great hearing the stories and being able to relate the stories to the songs that you are singing. Like with ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness,’ we started standing up as the instrumental started and it was absolutely beautiful. I looked into the audience and could see people really related to it and loved it and just joined in with us. I almost teared up,” Steuer said.