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Enchanting Le Grand Bal honors Becky and Chuck Mason March 24

Romance. Elegance. Tropical paradise.

It is the party of the year, and, this year, Le Grand Bal – “Some Enchanted Evening” – promises to transport guests to another time and place where romance reigns supreme and cares are washed away by the gentle winds of the South Pacific.

Presented by Lamar University’s Friends of the Arts, Le Grand Bal is the major annual fundraiser for the College of Fine Arts and Communication. The gala evening, Saturday, March 24, will feature a silent art auction and reception in the Dishman Art Museum followed by a gourmet buffet, dancing and entertainment in the Montagne Center.

Sandra F. Clark and Nell McCallum Morris are chairing this year’s event in honor of Chuck and Becky Mason of Beaumont for their contributions to Lamar University, the community and the arts.

Charles "Chuck" Mason Jr. graduated from Lamar in 1972 and represents the third generation at the helm of Beaumont-based Mason Construction. His wife, Becky, who graduated from Lamar in 1971, oversees safety and human resources for the company, which is now a leading petrochemical and industrial construction contractor.

“Becky and Chuck have been generous supporters of the arts throughout Jefferson County,” said Clark. “They have participated in leadership roles in so many organizations. Both are very willing to serve selflessly when called. I am so glad their contributions are being recognized this year.”

The Masons have been active in United Way, Beaumont Community Players, Symphony of Southeast Texas, Junior League of Beaumont, Young Audiences of Southeast Texas and the Beaumont Chamber of Commerce, to name a few. At Lamar, they serve on several committees and advisory boards. Chuck is a member of the Lamar University Foundation Board, the Investing in the Future Campaign Cabinet and the Reese Construction Management Advisory Council. Becky has served on the LU Alumni Affairs Advisory Board, and they both serve on the Friends of the Arts Board for the College of Fine Arts and Communication.

In addition to their volunteer efforts at Lamar, the Masons endowed the first privately funded Mirabeau Scholarship, one of the most prestigious scholarships the university offers. Each scholarship recipient earns tuition, fees and room and board – worth a total of $60,000 during a four-year college career.

“It’s particularly appropriate to be honoring Chuck and Becky Mason, who have greatly supported the arts and culture in Beaumont,” said Russ Schultz, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication. “They are people who have contributed time and resources to ensure that Beaumont is a special place.”

Le Grand Bal provides valuable support for the College of Fine Arts and Communication. Funds generated by the Bal enable the Friends of the Arts to contribute to scholarships and educational enhancements such as master classes, visiting artists and trips to clinics and workshops that expand learning opportunities for students and add to faculty members’ academic credentials. The funds provide faculty enrichment and enable students to expand their horizons.

“Each year it’s always something special to work with the Bal chairs,” said Schultz. “Sandra’s been particularly fun to work with as she has an interest in the arts. She’s worked diligently to increase our underwriting, which is very important in years like this one when state funding for our programs has been reduced.”

Clark, an accomplished and well-known lawyer in the Beaumont area with MehaffyWeber PC, earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Texas Tech and her master’s degree in English from Lamar. In 1980, she earned a Doctorate of Jurisprudence degree from the University of Houston. Clark sings with the Beaumont Symphony Chorus, the Interfaith Choral Society and with the choir at Trinity United Methodist Church. She was so impressed by the Lamar students who sing in the Trinity choir with her, that she endowed the Sandra French Clark Scholarship in Choral Music to provide funds for music majors participating in the choral music program.

“I wanted to chair because Le Grand Bal is a fabulous event for such a good cause,” said Clark. “The fundraising benefits students in the College of Fine Arts and Communication. These students bring us entertainment and share their talents; they are an absolute joy in our community and we really need to support them. Nell and I personally wanted to support them by chairing Le Grand Bal and making sure it’s a success.”

Bal co-chair, Nell McCallum Morris, is a businesswoman, community leader and long-time supporter of the arts at Lamar. She is on the executive committee of the Lamar University Foundation and is a past president of Friends of the Arts. Clark asked Morris, a previous Bal honoree in 2004, as well as prior chair of the event, to help make this year’s Bal a success.

“Nell brings her wealth of experience with Le Grand Bal, Lamar University and many other organizations to assist in making this a very elegant and successful event,” said Clark.

Clark was also happy to work with the theme of this year’s Bal: “Some Enchanted Evening.” “The theme is so romantic,” Clark said. “The honorees, Becky and Chuck, loved beautiful show tunes when they were teenagers, and “Some Enchanted Evening” was their favorite song. It meant so much to them in their courtship and marriage that we wanted to incorporate it into the Bal.”

This beautiful evening begins with the silent auction and reception at the Dishman Art Museum. Guests will have the opportunity to bid on original artwork at the silent auction from 7 – 9 p.m. The art auction features more than 200 works by students, faculty and alumni – a diverse range of original painting, drawing, print-making, photography, ceramics and jewelry.

“The art auction is going to have a few new twists this year,” said Clark. “We’ve tried to make it more accessible so everything flows better and people can view the art more easily. We’re also excited to feature some wonderful yard art this year, created by the Lamar art students.”

The entertainment at the Bal, from 8 p.m. to midnight, will be provided by Eclipse, a popular Houston-based band, and by The Night & Day Orchestra, directed by Wayne Dyess, professor of music at Lamar.

Guests will dine on a sumptuous feast prepared under the direction of Ricardo Saldana, executive chef for Chartwells, the Lamar catering service. Dishes include carved prime rib with horseradish sauce, the ever-popular jumbo boiled shrimp accompanied with spicy remoulade or cocktail sauce, sushi with Iris Nathan’s own ginger sauce, Hawaiian chicken, gourmet mashed potato bar, Caesar salad, fresh bread and rolls, and desserts, including decadent flourless chocolate cake, crème brulee with berries, and a delightful brandy freeze drink.

The Friends of the Arts organized in 1973 under the leadership of then-Dean Brock Brentlinger and staged its first Bal in 1975. The event continued with Jimmy Simmons at the helm when he was dean of the college. The event has raised millions of dollars for Lamar. Over the years, Lamar talents have shared the spotlight with nationally known entertainment headliners. Activities, decor, entertainment and the overall evening are designed to reflect the talents of Lamar art, theater, music, dance and communication students.

Event committee chairs for “Some Enchanted Evening” include Melissa Edwards and Lynda Moncla, atmosphere; Michele and Mitchell Smith and David L. Red, art auction and exhibition; Iris Nathan and Allison Getz, food; Melanie Dishman, invitations; Sharon Forret, publicity; and Marsha Hoffer and Albert Nolen, reservations.

This year’s underwriting committee includes Barbara Barron and George Perrett, Judy and James Black, Johnnie Broussard, Betty Greenberg, Gerald Farah, Beverly and Carl Parker, Susan McCartney Reese, and Paige and Morris Windham.

Le Grand Bal has run the gamut of motifs over the years. Recent themes include “Rhapsody in LU” (2011), honoring Judy and James Black; “A Night in Casablanca” (2010), honoring the Renaissance of Lamar University; “Red and White Le Grand Bal” (2009), honoring Jo and Tommy Vance; “Renaissance of the Arts” (2008), honoring Gay and Bill Scott; “Treasures of the Gulf Coast” (2007), honoring Sheila and Walter Umphrey; “A Toast to the Arts” (2006), honoring Frank Messina; “Passport to the Arts” (2005), honoring Judy and George Dishman; “Spring into the Arts” (2004), honoring Nell McCallum Morris; “Viva Las Victor” (2003), honoring Vic Rogers; and “King of the Road” (2002), honoring Jerry Reese.

“The Bal is an elegant party, but so much more. It gives the public an opportunity to appreciate the artwork of the Lamar students, and support these fine students and faculty,” said Clark. “We hope everyone will join us. Of course, no night at the Bal would be complete without partaking of the famous jumbo boiled shrimp!”

Tickets are $150 per person or $300 per couple, with underwriting opportunities available at levels ranging from $750 to $10,000. For additional information or reservations, call the Lamar University College of Fine Arts and Communication, (409) 880-8137.