One of Orange County's most dynamic and capable women retired a few years ago after leading an organization known as the Orange County Business Committee for the Arts for some two decades.
Betty Moss brought together not only the leaders of the Orange County business community but also figures of national stature in an effort to support culture and the arts. In Orange County, Henry Segerstrom was a major supporter of the Moss platform. Other formidable names came on board and helped transform Orange County into one of the country's most culturally enriched communities.
Last week, organizers at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts launched a new program, taking inspiration from the former Business Committee for the Arts led by Moss. It was the inaugural Arts and Business Leadership Awards Dinner.
The 2014 honorees were John R. Evans, retired regional managing director of Wells Fargo Bank, receiving the Distinguished Leader Award, and Lisa Vogel, co-president of RAJ Manufacturing, honored with the Rising Leader Award. More than 200 guests, mostly from the O.C. business community, came together for cocktails and dinner in the center's Samueli Theater.
The July 10 event, chaired by center board members John Ginger and Mark Perry, raised an impressive $250,000 to launch the Arts and Business Leadership Program for the center.
The evening was a gathering of friends and family supporting the honorees and the cultural foundation of Orange County, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Many in attendance have dedicated time, talent and resources to the creation and evolution of the world-class property.
Ruth Ann Evans, wife of honoree John Evans, joined their son Trent Evans and his friend, Gabriela Macias, in paying tribute to the patriarch. Vogel's parents, Raj and Marta Bhatal, were in the Samueli to applaud their daughter, as were her sons, Vaughn and Charlie Vogel.
Segerstrom Center board Chairman Lawrence Higby, joining wife Dee Higby, set the tone of the evening, welcoming the crowd, which included distinguished guests Kelly and Jim Mazzo, S.L. and Betty Huang, Jack and Shanaz Langson, and Chris Rommel and his wife, Julie Green-Rommel.
Also front and center for the Arts and Business Leadership Awards were Cindy and Steve Fry, Missy and Chris Callero, Elaine and Gaddi Vasquez, and Parker Kennedy. Toni Ginger, wife of evening co-Chairman John Ginger, joined Carol Perry, wife of co-Chairman Mark Perry, in supporting their husbands. VIP guests in attendance included center President Terry Dwyer and Councilwoman Angelica Amezcua.
The party began at 5 p.m. on the Samueli Theater patio with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Patina Catering served dinner in the theater, beginning with a wonderful wedge salad followed by a main surf-and-turf course and a decadent profiterole dessert.
The awards ceremony followed dinner with speeches kept to a minimum. Both honorees shared their personal motivation for supporting the arts as an outgrowth of their business success and a desire to improve humanity. The audience of more than 200 people sat silently, taking in the comments, unheard of in most large gatherings during speeches. The silence was perhaps the finest tribute to the honorees and their purpose.
The evening had only just begun as dinner concluded and the crowd was ushered across the plaza and into Segerstrom Hall for an 8 p.m. curtain call and a performance of "Jersey Boys." The rousing musical, about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, had the crowd reminiscing over song after song created by the group, which in the 1960s dominated the musical world right along with those four young men from Liverpool.
When the curtain came down around 10:30, the party moved back to the Samueli Theater for late-night bites hosted by Maggiano's Little Italy. Besides sampling late-night pizza and pasta, guests danced to the music of the Jersey Boys until the clock hit the Cinderella hour. Just another Thursday night on the Orange Coast social circuit.
THE CROWD runs Fridays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.