University Gala Raises Record Funds

December 18, 2023

FORT WORTH, TEX. – On Sept. 25, 2023, more than 200 guests, friends and supporters of the university, members of the SWAU Board of Trustees, emeriti faculty, as well as current students and faculty, attended this annual scholarship gala. The evening included a live auction at Van Cliburn Recital Hall in Fort Worth, Tex., that raised $26,750. As part of the event, Bienvenido President Abraham Enriquez presented a surprise $10,000 monetary gift from their education fund to increase the representation of Hispanics in policy and politics. His introduction was made by SWAU alumna and Board of Trustees member Liliana Gil Valletta. Total fundraising proceeds for student scholarships hit this year’s goal of $130,000 in honor of the institution’s 130th anniversary, breaking the record for funds raised at this event. 

An etched-glass plaque created in the university's new Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center was the foundation for elaborate centerpieces in the elegant dining hall. Music was provided throughout the evening by the university’s world-renowned Department of Music. As guests dined, a well-crafted video blending vintage and modern footage provided a visual memory lane. The program was hosted by Stephan Gray, Ed.D., who received a bachelor's degree in education in '85, a master's degree in education in '93, and a doctorate in education in '09. In his opening remarks, he told how God led him to SWAU rather than Westpoint, The US Military Academy in Westpoint, New York. His encounter with Christ at SWAU changed his life and paved the way for his brother to attend SWAU as well.

SWAU Board of Trustees Chairman Carlos Craig, who is also president of the Southwestern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, welcomed the group and offered prayer, asking God for His continued blessings on the university. Afterward, Tony Reyes, SWAU vice president for Advancement, recognized the sponsors of the event and expressed the university’s heartfelt thanks to each one.

Next was Ana Patterson, who was once a student, then a professor, and is now president of the university. She focused the audience on the reason for the evening’s celebration: “The legacy of 130 years of higher education in Keene, Tex., that supports the mission of Christian higher education,” she announced as guests broke into applause. She arrived on campus from New York City in 1995, having never been to Texas before. “It ended up being a very special experience for me, and life-changing,” she reminisced. “I never expected to be in this role, but I know what it feels like to be a student, and I know the potential of what my students can do in the future. This is what tonight is about, providing opportunity for the potential in our students to be fulfilled.” 

Patterson concluded, “We want Southwestern Adventist University to be a place that in another 130 years, we can celebrate that it is still here, unless Christ has come, and we are not on this earth anymore. We want to provide a place that can continue to be a place where students can experience Christ while they are preparing for their future careers, and we pray that they will have a desire to live a life of service for others. If we can continue this mission, there is no way that we will not be successful, because the opportunity lies within the students’ lives that we touch.” 

To learn about other Legacy events planned for this year or to support SWAU’s current and future students, visit SWAU in Keene, Tex., or visit

By Michelle Bergmann