Fine food and dancing, music and acrobats: WMed's 2nd Annual Imagine Gala had a little bit of everything

"."It was an event filled with fine food and wine, good music and Cirque du Soleil-style performers. It offered those on the guest list – a who’s who of the Kalamazoo community – a chance to give back, to buoy the medical school’s pipeline programs for underrepresented and disadvantaged youth.

And it was a night marked by the chance to honor retiring Western Michigan University President John M. Dunn and the announcement of a $2.2 million scholarship fund bearing his name that will benefit WMU students who continue their education at the medical school.

In many ways, the 2nd Annual Imagine Gala, which was held Saturday, May 20, at WMed’s W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus, had it all.

MORE: Check out more than 200 photos from the 2nd Annual Imagine Gala

“The opening of a medical school really is a testament to the dedication of this community,” WMed’s founding dean, Dr. Hal B. Jenson, said to the crowd of more than 200 people who attended this year’s gala. “Your participation in this gala helps raise funds to support our pipeline programs and helps us to advance these programs to ensure their sustainability for the future so we can continue to have this positive impact on the youth and the future of this community.

“With you, we can do great things together.”

The Upjohn Campus underwent a transformation for this year’s gala and guests were given the red-carpet treatment as they arrived for the event. Outside, in the campus courtyard, guests shared food and drinks under a clear-top white tent, filling it with conversation and laughter.

The first floor of the Upjohn Campus featured room for dining and guests ended the night in the auditorium where they relaxed with dancing and music courtesy of the Simone Vitale Band. The night's menu, provided by the Millennium Restaurant Group, featured a heirloom tomato bisque and an organic greens salad dressed with a citrus and serrano chili vinaigrette and fresh spring vegetables. The entree for the evening was a coffee and truffle rubbed petite filet mignon paired with a rosemary and garlic roasted chicken breast, and accompanied by marbled potato whip, roasted heirloom carrots and grilled kale. After dinner came dessert, a silky butterscotch custard with salted caramel, pineapple flowers and fresh mint.

The annual gala raises money for WMed’s student pipeline programs for elementary and high school students. The programs are designed to champion the biomedical science and healthcare career aspirations of underrepresented and disadvantaged youth in Southwest Michigan.

The pipeline programs provide science education and enrichment with the goal of increasing diversity among youth who purse careers in bioscience and healthcare.

President Dunn who, along with his wife, Linda, were the hosts for this year’s gala, said he and Linda were honored to to take part in the event and proud to be a part of helping support WMed’s pipeline programs.

“Tonight is about imagining all the good that we can continue to make happen,” President Dunn said. “Opportunity, education, innovation, the life sciences and community partnerships are part of the Kalamazoo DNA and this extraordinary school of medicine is a tangible representation of all of those qualities. Tonight’s fundraising, the cause that we’re here about is an example of the commitment all of you have made to doing the right thing for our young people, for our community and, clearly, for the future.

“Linda and I could not be more proud to be part of this initiative and we will always feel a very special kinship with all of you and with the faculty, the staff and the students who are part of WMed,” added President Dunn, who is set to retire July 31. “At the end of the day, that’s what this is all about, the people in our community, the students we serve and the future, collectively, that we are building.”

President Dunn, whose vision and leadership led to the establishment of the medical school in 2011, was honored during the gala with the announcement of the John M. Dunn Endowed Scholarship, an award that each year will cover more than $100,000 in tuition for eligible WMU graduates who are admitted to WMed’s MD degree program.

William D. Johnston, a member of the WMU Board of Trustees, led the crowd at the gala in a toast to President Dunn, calling him “a transformational figure.”

Ken V. Miller, chair emeritus and current member of the WMU Board of Trustees, had the honor of announcing the new scholarship fund at Saturday’s gala.

“John, we honor you, we love you,” Trustee Miller said. “Linda, thank you so very much for all that you have done for this medical school, for this community, for this university.”