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Emerson LA dazzles community with gala

Emerson College’s spectacular new home on Sunset Boulevard officially opened with a dazzling celebration that was attended by more than 600 alumni, parents, students, and friends and viewed by thousands via the Internet.

Attendees were treated to a tour of the new facility led by current Emerson students, followed by a reception, and a formal program. The Emerson Board of Trustees and Board of Overseers, chaired by Jeffrey Greenhawt ’68 and Daniel H. Black, P ’07, respectively, and Alumni Board, headed by Patricia Peyton Martell ’84, were also well represented at the gala.

“We gather here this evening not merely to inaugurate this brilliant facility, but also to celebrate and bear witness to the remarkable evolution of Emerson College from its more modest beginnings in the Back Bay to what it has become and perhaps, more important, to what it will be: the world’s hub for arts and communication in higher education,” said President Lee Pelton.


Mutchnick, Coolidge, Fisher

Max Mutchnick '87, Jennifer Coolidge '85, Joely Fisher '88, and Erik Hyman. (Photo by Alex J. Berliner)

Kevin Bright ’76, Emerson College Los Angeles Founding Director, served as the evening’s master of ceremonies, welcoming guests and teeing up various segments of the ceremony, including live musical performances from current students and alumni; an address by alumni Vin Di Bona ’66, H’94, and Norman Lear ’44 in which they recognized the more than 40 donors who have generously made gifts of $10,000 or more to the LA campaign and encouraged everyone else to consider giving; comedy from host committee members alumna Maria Menounos ’00 and Tom Bergeron, P ’12; a routine including former EVVY hosts Joely Fisher ’88, Miguel Sagaz, Gabi Conti ’09, and Pat Lambert ’12; and speeches by Pelton, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, 13th District Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, Greenhawt, and Emerson President Emerita Jacqueline Liebergott.

Video clips shown during the gala included segments featuring Larry David, P ’12, Sofia Vergara, P ’16, and a hilarious take on Emerson’s famous alumni connections often jokingly referred to as the Emerson Mafia.

David, Mutchnick, Pelton, Coolidge

Larry David, P '16, Max Mutchnick '87, President Lee Pelton, and Jennifer Coolidge '85. (Photo by Alex J. Berliner)

“Emerson students here will join the most talented artists and editors and producers anywhere,” said Mayor Garcetti. “It is my honor to welcome Emerson College to the City of Los Angeles. This campus will play a leading role in unleashing a new golden age for Hollywood,” he said.

During the evening, the Emerson Board of Trustees announced that the fifth-floor terrace of Emerson College Los Angeles is being named to honor the many contributions made to the project by Emerson College President Emerita Jacqueline “Jackie” Liebergott.

A series of free events open to alumni, parents, and friends is taking place in the days following the gala, including building tours throughout the week; a lecture by the building’s architect, Thom Mayne; a panel discussion on comedy; a screening of documentaries in Emerson’s 4K state-of-the-art screening room with Academy Award winning filmmaker Jeff Consiglio; and a discussion on the evolution of TV in the digital age. Emerson alumni, parents, and friends who live in the Los Angeles area are encouraged to register for the open house events this week featuring free talks, screenings, and building tours.

Emerson continues to raise money for the new Emerson Los Angeles Program. The Future Has Your Name on It! is a fundraising campaign for Emerson College Los Angeles. It is Emerson College’s first multi-year effort to secure $20 million or more in private support from individual donors, foundations, and corporations. Reaching this lofty goal will require the most ambitious fundraising effort in the College’s history—one that will touch and transform every aspect of the College.


Pelton, Garcetti, OFarrell

President Lee Pelton with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Councilor Mitch O'Farrell. (Photo by Alex J. Berliner)

Performing in the gala’s opening number were Emilie Mirvis ’14, Shea Gomez ’14, Danielle Lussier ’14, Chrystee Pharris ’98, Sara Collins ’07, Caitlin Linney ’11, Jordan Kai Burnett ’08, Ben Fuller ’04, Marc Pierre ’13, and Jake Novak ’14. Performing Arts Chair Melia Bensussen, General Manager David Colfer, and Associate Professor Scott LaFeber assisted with the performance; Brenda Varda was the evening’s musical director.

Gala executive producers were Kevin Bright ’76 and Amy Grill, G ’05. Other members of the production team were: gala producer Cara Ostrow ’13; tech producer Eric Sagotsky ’09; ground floor display Whitney Lowdermilk ’12; writer Gabi Conti ’09; announcer Dan Perrault ’09; and Emerson Mafia movie producers Chris Cullari ’09, Micah Levin ’08, and Elie Smolkin ’08. Special thanks went to Claudia Bright and Jan Black, P ’07, for volunteering and managing the Memorabilia Project; Rob (The Balloon Guy) Balchunus '09; and to the Emerson College Los Angeles student volunteers.

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