By: Teresa Sarkela –
On November 14, the gymnasium in Rocky’s Fortin Education Center was transformed into a swanky, glossimer night venue full of fun and generosity for RMC’s biggest fundraiser of the year – Black Tie Blue Jeans. In order to help students pursue and achieve their degrees in higher education, the annual event has been one of the most effective ways to develop outreach and provide pivotal funding for student scholarships. The national average cost of tuition for one year of education at a private institution is estimated at over $30,000. The donations and support received through Black Tie Blue Jeans alleviate some of the costs for Rocky students.
“This event is our largest student scholarship fundraising event [that brings] together RMC supporters to further the college’s mission of educating leaders through academic excellence, transformational learning, and shared responsibility and stewardship,” said Vice President of Institutional Advancement Kelly Edwards. “Through continued philanthropy from our supporters, RMC is able to award over $11,000,000 in scholarships every year, making a valuable education affordable to all students.”
Beginning in 1987, the event was originally hosted by area supporters of the college. The plan was to create an event that would promote advancement for education and assist students in need. In its beginning, donations were gathered by auctioning and judging livestock donated from local farmers and ranchers. Now in its 27th year, “one thing that has never changed over the 20-year life of this event is its goal: to raise money for student scholarships,” said Edwards. Last year, Black Tie raised over $250,000 toward RMC scholarships.
Going into the event, RMC estimated achieving $280,000 in donations. This year, RMC not only met last year’s amount but surpassed their anticipated goal. Auction items included a luxury vacation to Belize, superbowl tickets, a girls’ weekend, house cleaning, and gourmet chef services. This year, Goldsmith Gallery jewelers generously donated a diamond ring worth $14,000, which was hidden among 100 champagne glasses attendees could purchase for $100. All glasses sold.
The event is not complete without the help of student volunteers. Black Tie needs an average of 100 student volunteers for set up, serving, and tear down. Volunteer Junior, Tessa Fraser, was glad to get involved this year and meet those who support student scholarships. “There are people who believe in this school, have graduated here, and continue to support it. I was happy to volunteer because it gave me an appreciative perspective.”
Some students were also able to be part of Black Tie by performing in the RMC Jazz Ensemble and Jazz combo. “I think its great that the Jazz band is involved,” said Junior Anne Glines, who played alto saxaphone at the event. The ensemble primarily played hits from the big band era while guests enjoyed cocktails and a silent auction. The group is comprised of 15 musicians under the direction of Professor Anthony Hammond. Later in the evening, several students continued to play improvisational-based jazz selections throughout dinner. Glines further commented, “It really adds to the night having student musicians provide entertainment for supporters.”
RMC Event Coordinator Kelsey Daer also wished to express her gratitude toward guests, students, and staff who helped make the night a success. “I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank each and every student that helped in one capacity or another,” said Daer. “Black Tie Blue Jeans is the largest fundraiser that Rocky has each year, and the money raised directly affects the lives of students here on campus. With over 99% of our student population receiving some sort of financial assistance, this fundraiser allows us the opportunity to provide that funding. We nearly had 100 student volunteers this year, and with their assistance we are able to save around $15,000. This was the most successful event we have ever had, and I thank those that dedicated their time to this cause.”
Thanks to the generosity of area business and supporters and the effort put forth by coordinators and volunteers, Black Tie Blue Jeans continues to positively impact Rocky Mountain College. The donations raised from the night make it possible for the mission of the college to drive forward and, more importantly, help students achieve their goals of higher education.