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Lamar University celebrates 40 years of Le Grand Bal

Le Grand Bal

Lamar University’s 40th anniversary celebration of Le Grand Bal will be an exciting evening of dinner, dancing and surprises in honor of the "Legends of the Arts" in Southeast Texas on Saturday, March 28, 2015. Presented by LU’s Friends of the Arts, it is the major annual fundraiser for the College of Fine Arts and Communication.

Artists, community supporters and campus leaders from the last 40 years will be showcased for their service to LU and Southeast Texas arts at the gala event. The evening will begin in the Dishman Art Museum with a silent art auction featuring work from dozens of renowned artists including John Alexander, Keith Carter, Michael Kennaugh, David Everett and many others. After the art auction, the festivities will move to the Montagne Center for gourmet dining, dancing and entertainment, including an artistic salute to the arts and a special tribute to Russ Schultz, retiring dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication.

"This is our 40th anniversary of Le Grand Bal, and it has all the earmarks of being one of the most extravagant events we’ve ever had," said Schultz. “From a headlining band of national stature to the lavish decorations and outstanding menu, this event will undoubtedly be the party of the year. Best of all, it is in support of a great cause - scholarships for our talented fine arts students."

John AlexanderThe silent auction and reception at the Dishman will be held from 6 - 8 p.m. Guests will have the opportunity to bid on more than 200 pieces of original artwork by alumni, faculty, students and special friends of LU – a diverse range of original paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, ceramics and jewelry. Read more about select artists included in the auction here.

Renowned artist and LU alum John Alexander ('68) will be the honorary guest artist, and his work will be included in the silent auction. He and his friend and business partner Dan Aykroyd are the creators and co-owners of Crystal Head Vodka, which will be featured at the Bal. Alexander plans to be in attendance.

Headlining band Party Crashers, billed as “America’s Best Party Band,” will provide the entertainment from 7 p.m. to midnight. The nation’s premiere large-event band, they have performed internationally and cover everything from classic rock to country and today’s current pop hits. Beaumont’s own Night & Day Orchestra will perform at the Bal as well.

Guests will dine on a sumptuous feast prepared under the direction of Stephen Gary, executive chef for Chartwells, the Lamar catering service. Main dishes include spring vegetable risotto with shaved parmesan cheese, homemade petite gnocchi, whole carved beef tenderloin with cracked peppercorn sauce and cabernet butter, chicken Milanese with arugula and roasted pepper salad, seared sesame-crusted Saku block tuna with sweet Thai chili noodles and bok choy salad, and, of course, the ever-popular jumbo boiled shrimp accompanied with spicy remoulade or cocktail sauce. Sides include assorted grilled vegetables, Caesar salad, a variety of rolls, an assortment of decadent dessert bites and chocolate chip cookie martinis. There will also be a new "Midnight Bites" feature this year with mini-sliders, fries and other treats that will be served at 11 p.m.

Mitch and Michele SmithEach year the Le Grand Bal committee selects someone to honor at the event for their patronage of the arts and valued support of Lamar University. This year’s honorees will be Michele and Mitch Smith, pictured right, for their leadership in promoting the arts at Lamar University and throughout Southeast Texas.

“Mitch and Michele are two wonderful local attorneys whom we are honoring for the outstanding service they provide to the arts and Southeast Texas,” said Schultz.

The Smiths have both served on the Friends of the Arts board and were chairpersons for Le Grand Bal in 2011 and for the Art Museum of Southeast Texas Gala in 2012. The Neches River Festival named them Citizens of the Year in 2013. Michele, an attorney with MehaffyWeber, graduated from LU with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in accounting and received her Juris Doctorate from Baylor University School of Law. She has served on numerous boards of civic and charitable organizations.

Mitch Smith, a principle attorney with the Germer Law Firm, holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas and Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from Baylor University School of Law. He is a past president of the Art Museum of Southeast Texas, a former member of the School Board of St. Anne Catholic School and a former chair of Leadership Beaumont. The Texas Association of Defense Counsel honored him with its President’s Award in 2010 and 2013.

Mandie and Dr. Garrett Peel are co-chairs of this year’s Bal. Both are very active in LU’s Friends of the Arts. Dr. Peel is chief of cancer surgery at Baptist Beaumont Hospital and CEO and president of Previty Clinic for Surgical Care. He serves on the board of directors for several community organizations in Southeast Texas and is also president of the Jefferson County Medical Society.

"It is particularly special for my last Bal as dean to have been able to work with Dr. and Mrs. Peel to make the event special and to provide the recognition for Mitch and Michele and for their service," said Schultz.

The Friends of the Arts organized in 1973 and staged its first Bal in 1975. Over the years, Lamar talents have shared the spotlight with nationally known entertainment headliners. Activities, décor and entertainment are designed to reflect the talents of Lamar art, theater, music and dance and students.

Since 1975, the Bal has raised more than three million dollars for the college. 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.

Mandie and Garrett PeelIn addition to chairpersons Mandie and Dr. Garrett Peel, pictured right, other committee chairs for "Legends of the Arts" include Kelly and Justin Jackson, atmosphere; Kayla and Chef Scott Fisher, culinary arts; Karen and Judge Bob Wortham, hospitality; Jennifer and Eric Harris, lighting and sound; Sharon Forret, publicity; Albert Nolen, reservations; Tara and Justin Audilet, social media; Echo and Eric Sullivan, visual arts and advertising; and Lamar University liaisons Tammy Hebert, Russ Schultz and Kim Steinhagen.

This year’s underwriting committee includes Sandy and Joseph Fertitta, Pat Avery, Lisa and Dr. Ray Callas, Sandra Clark, Sherrene Danks-Cook, Kristi and Don Dodd, Gillian and Will Jenkins, Nell McCallum and Dr. Terry Morris, Angie and Colburn McClelland, W.L. Pate, Kim and Roy Steinhagen, Rusty Chimeno and Dean Terrebonne, and Shelly and Carl Vitanza.

"Our executive committee is planning and executing a one-of-a-kind evening, as we salute the Legends of the Arts of Southeast Texas and honor our friends Michele and Mitch Smith and Dean Russ Schultz. We look forward to sharing it together and promoting Lamar University, while raising money for these students who have great minds, exceptional talents and bright futures,” said Dr. Peel.

Le Grand Bal has run the gamut of motifs over the years. Recent themes include "An Evening of Art" (2014), honoring Mary Jane Garth; "Cardinal Express" (2013), honoring Sallye Keith; "Some Enchanted Evening" (2012), honoring Chuck and Becky Mason; "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; and "Viva Las Victor" (2003), honoring Vic Rogers.

Tickets are $150 per person, with underwriting opportunities available at levels ranging from $750 to $10,000. For additional information or reservations, call the College of Fine Arts and Communication at 409-880-8137. Tickets may also be purchased online.