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Bidding on Black and Gold

By Kari VanDerVeen
February 15, 2011

A glider ride with Associate Professor of Political Science Patrick Dale. A ticket to watch Fourth of July fireworks from the roof of Regents Hall. A handcrafted bench made with wood from Norway Valley.

These are just a few of the 149 uniquely Ole items that will be on the auction block at this weekend’s Black and Gold Winter Gala at the Minneapolis Hilton. An additional 15 items — ranging from a St. Olaf mailbox to having President David R. Anderson ‘74 visit your town for dinner — will be up for bid in the days leading up to the event as part of the first online auction to accompany the gala.

Heading into its third year, the Black and Gold Gala has cemented its status as an event that makes supporting current St. Olaf students fun. In addition to good food and warm camaraderie, it features a live and silent auction comprised of items donated by alumni and friends of the college. All proceeds from the night go directly to Partners in Annual Giving, the St. Olaf annual fund, which supports a wide variety of needs on campus that range from financial aid and library resources to faculty salaries and student-faculty research.

“There is a sense of magic to the Black and Gold Gala created by the alumni, parents, and friends of the college who come together to share in each other’s lives and the joy of giving back,” says Nathan Soland ‘04, director of Alumni and Parent Relations. “It really is an evening of connection and celebration.”

Attendees at the 2010 Black and Gold Winter Gala place bids during the silent auction. Click here for a complete photo gallery of last year's event.

The Black and Gold Winter Gala started several years ago as an idea from Randy Betcher ‘79, then a member of the St. Olaf Alumni Board and now chair of the Partners Board. He had seen other organizations hold similar fundraising events to great success. At the same time, the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations at St. Olaf was looking to hold an event in the Twin Cities that would annually gather alumni, parents, and friends of the college. “This seemed like the perfect opportunity to connect our alumni, celebrate the community, and raise a significant gift for Partners in Annual Giving,” Soland says.

Alumni Board members Kate Bollman Pearce ‘01 and Greg Steeber ‘70 agreed to co-chair the first Black and Gold Gala, held in 2009. With the help of several dozen volunteers, they drew more than 200 people to the event that raised $75,000 for the college. But the most valuable aspect of that first gala was the excitement it generated for future events. In 2010 attendance at the event increased by more than 100 people, and the gift raised for the college topped $100,000.

This year organizers hope to draw 400 alumni, parents, and friends of the college to the gala and raise $150,000 for Partners in Annual Giving. It’s an ambitious goal, but one that is possible thanks to the experience of Pearce and Steeber, who this year added Alumni Board member Brock Metzger ‘03 to their leadership team and had a network of nearly 40 dedicated volunteers.

This year’s event also will have the added feature of an online auction. Online bidding will begin Wednesday, February 16, at noon and will close Friday, February 18, at 5 p.m. — just 24 hours before the Black and Gold Gala begins February 19.

Organizers are hoping that the online auction will increase the number of Oles who participate in the spirit of the Black and Gold Gala, even if they aren’t able to return to Minnesota. “We recognize that it’s difficult for the entire St. Olaf community to return to Minneapolis, so we’re offering an opportunity to still get a prized item and simultaneously support current St. Olaf students,” Soland says.

Other popular items up for bid this year include a gourmet cooking class with award-winning St. Olaf food-service provider Bon Appetit, an Apple iPad loaded with the entire digital collection of St. Olaf Records, and a “farm-to-fork dinner” at Northfield’s Open Hands Farm.

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or