March 6, 2009 â€“ It was an intimate evening of dining, dancing, friendly socializing, entertainment and a few speeches last night at Five Oaks Country Club as the university extended its thanks to a number of supporters.
Approximately 46 contributors made up the 2009 Circle of Friends invited to this first such event. Five students from Cumberland were on hand to meet and greet the guests and to extend their thanks on behalf of the student population.
Jonathon Hawkins, executive director of development, opened the event with words of welcome.
"This is a great time for us to say thank you to our most generous donors and friends," he said. "We appreciate all the support we get and welcome this chance to say so. It's a time for us to celebrate Cumberland's successes and the future of things to come."
Hawkins then introduced the five students who he said personified "the heart and soul of CU, Samantha Knowles, Chris Gray, Shauna Holman, Erin Pierce and Keely Lock who addressed the guests on behalf of the student body, telling of her experiences at Cumberland.
"Before coming to Cumberland, I lived eight or nine years in Europe, was 18 and living a fast paced life in California," she said. "I was unhappy and my parents moved to Lebanon about that time. The next thing I knew, I was a student at this small college here. But, by the time my freshman year was over, I was falling in love with CU. After all, where else can you call your professor after nine o'clock at night because you're having a problem? Cumberland changed my life and I'm graduating in May."
Dinner was served and then Hawkins introduced the entertainment for the evening, Connye Florance and her group. Following a few renditions by the group, Florance took the stage to deliver the deliciously smooth jazz vocals that won her accolades as Jazz Discovery's "Vocalist of the Year " in 2000.
Right around that time, her own album, "Turn My Heart," won a Nashville Grammy nomination for "Album of the Year." Her music and creamy rich, but dynamic, style has gained international attention from jazz fans and adult contemporary listeners alike. She won the hearts of the CU attendees and they listened, applauded and danced to her renditions.
CU President Harvill Eaton closed out the evening with a few remarks. He recognized a few people by telling incidents of "their paths crossing" like A. B. McCall whose furniture company used to do commercials on the "Ralph Emery Show" at the same time Eaton's father did his siding commercials. Then, Eaton recognized classic songwriter Curly Putman who lives in Lebanon and is a strong supporter of the school.
"We'll be thanking Curly in May when we present him with an Honorary Doctorate for his achievements," Eaton said.
In closing, Eaton said, "Tonight's about us thanking you for supporting a great little school. Every dollar you give to CU is magnified because it makes such an impact," he said. "Because of people like you, the students are getting three things; an experience that will change their life; a high quality education and they are getting a future because of the quality they're getting in the classroom."
After a bit more socializing, the Circle of Friends, bid each other good night.