Vanessa Williams dazzles at annual Chapman Celebrates Gala

Vanessa Williams perform “Colors of the Wind” from Disney’s “Pocahontas.” PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF CHAPMAN UNIVERSITY

Grammy Award-nominated Vanessa Williams’ robust, melodious vocals illuminated the annual Chapman Celebrates Gala on Nov. 2 as she serenaded her iconic number “Colors of the Wind” from the film Pocahontas, while graceful Chapman University dancers whirled around her like leaves in the breeze.

This was just one of many remarkable moments of the elegant affair, which raised $1.5 million for student scholarships in the opening and gala night. The gala kicked off with a cocktail hour before leading its attendees to the Musco Center for the Arts for a full bloom show of over 100 talented theater arts and dancer students performing numbers by female icons, such as Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” 

The evening paid tribute to women in the arts, with the theme Celebrating the Female Voice, and honored Williams with the University’s 2019 Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award prior to her two-song performance (her 1991 hit “Save the Best For Last” was the finale). 

Chapman President Daniele C. Struppa also presented philanthropists Ron and Sandi Simon with the Citizens of the Year Award, and announced the $9 million gift from the Simon Foundation which will support the new Simon Scholars PA program. The program will enable future students in the Chapman’s Physician Assistant Program the opportunity to complete their education tuition-free. 

After the high-energy, entertaining production, guests enjoyed a beautiful fine dining reception with dancing, open bar and live music. Check out photos from the dazzling, charitable evening:

The 40th year for the scholarship gala will be next year, and the Gala Night is set for Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. For more info, visit


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