'All That’s Jazz' raises more than $95K for student scholarships

By Jacqueline Dell, senior in communications at Penn State Greater Allegheny

The Nittany Lion stood at the door of the Student Community Center at Penn State Greater Allegheny, as the house grew full for the 11th annual All That?s Jazz scholarship benefit.  As guests entered the building, they heard the melodic voices of the Penn State Greater A Capella Melody Lions, led by Doretta Whalen, adjunct instructor in music.

All That?s Jazz is an annual scholarship fundraising event that hosts donors from around the state. The event, which raised $95,476, included improvisational musical-comedy group Broadway?s Next H!T Musical, a silent auction and fine Italian cuisine.

Jazz music filled the air as students and alumni mingled and met the people who helped make their education at Penn State possible. The beautiful jazz was provided by a trio of musicians:  David Pellow, Mark Strickland, and Benny Benack, Jr.

?The first year we raised $20,000 in scholarships,? said Clifford Wise, president of the Penn State Greater Allegheny Advisory Board. ?I do it because of the scholarships for students like you. This is the biggest social event in the city.?

Later in the evening, a few individuals were called to the stage, including Nancy Seifert, who has been a volunteer and donor to the event since its inception, for special thanks. ?It?s a labor of love,? she said. ?We?ve worked 11 years, and we?re proud to have made this all possible.?

Nancy Herron, the campus? interim chancellor, announced that the campus will purchase a commemorative brick to be placed in the ?Pathway to Success? on campus in honor of Seifert?s service.  ?This event is important because it assists students with great financial needs,? said Herron. ?Nancy Seifert?s continued dedication so generously helps to fulfill those needs.?

The stage in the Student Community Center, where All That?s Jazz takes place, is named in memory of Seifert?s husband, William A. Seifert Jr. He was a drummer and a member of the Nemacolin Bird Dogs, along with Benny Benack Sr., trumpet player, and James Pellow, saxophone player. Their love of jazz created the common bond that brought them together. Their music lives on in the spirit of this event.

After the special thanks, the Lion Ambassadors of Penn State Greater Allegheny filed onto the stage. Betel Gebre, a Lion Ambassador and scholarship recipient, was interviewed on stage about why she chose Penn State, alongside Matthew Curcio, Lion Ambassador president and scholarship recipient as well. ?Diversity is the most important thing for me,? Gebre stated when elaborating on her love for the campus and the tight-knit and diverse student community.  Curcio added, ?Scholarships from All That?s Jazz help me and other students so that we can afford a quality Penn State education. We can concentrate on our classes without having to spend all of our time worrying about how we will pay for college.?

The Lion Ambassadors are the faces of the campus; their goal is to instill Penn State Pride in current and future students, alumni and friends and to foster the idea that involvement with Penn State is a lifelong commitment.  The Ambassadors helped with the reverse auction, which raises money to help students to purchase textbooks. Tuition and fees can form a substantial obstacle for a student of limited means to overcome. But even when that obstacle is surmounted, the students face two additional hurdles: the costs of textbooks, and the cost of a computer. The financial burden that this can present often discourages a student from purchasing all the books they need.  Donors in the crowd were asked to help students overcome these hurdles. 

Event emcee Bill Flanagan, Penn State Greater Allegheny Advisory Board member, executive vice-president for corporate relations for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and host of the weekly television program "Our Region?s Business," kicked off the reverse auction, explaining that in an ordinary auction, buyers compete to obtain a good or service, and the price typically increases over time. In the reverse auction, the roles are reversed and prices typically decrease over time. As the price comes down, more and more people offer bids to help fund this worthy cause. The students get assistance to purchase books and perhaps a laptop, and the bidders leave with the satisfaction that comes with helping Penn State Greater Allegheny students get the most out of their education. After just 10 minutes of ?bidding,? the reverse auction made $10,050. 

?The music and food is wonderful, but the purpose of the event is to raise money for student scholarships which makes the event even greater,? said Vice President of Commonwealth Campuses Madlyn Hanes, who was in the crowd enjoying the food and entertainment.

As the night was beginning to wind down, the guests were served dessert and coffee, and the floor began to fill with couples dancing to the jazz music. 

?It?s a wonderful night and it?s wonderful to be here,? said Mark Gruskin, advisory board member and donor who provided funds for the campus? Gruskin Learning Center, which provides free academic support for all students. ?It?s nice when they keep the energy up by changing the entertainment each year.?

As the night came to a close, the Lion Ambassadors once again were ushered on stage, along with the check holding the total of the 11th All That's Jazz event. The crowd erupted in applause when the total was revealed, a whopping $95,476 raised in one evening for student scholarships. Since 2004, the All That?s Jazz event has raised $820,000 for students.

In addition to the beautiful jazz music, delicious food, and fun atmosphere, All That?s Jazz has established a tradition of generosity, excitement, and spirit that is unique to Penn State, and particularly the Greater Allegheny campus.  As Nancy Seifert often says, ?It?s a different party every year!?