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'Cheers to Joe!' Brings Tributes, Outpouring of Generosity

June 27, 2014

Woman in purple dress holds photo while singing on stage

Senior theatre arts major Ellie Wyman sings "Funny Honey" while holding aloft a portrait of Joe Arnold during "Cheers to Joe!" Photos by Greg Andersen

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A cadre of arts patrons, campus members, family and friends recently gathered on campus to celebrate the 41-year CSUF career of Joe Arnold, who steps down at the end of July as dean of the College of the Arts.

"Cheers to Joe!" began in the Quad with a social hour and dinner, followed by an evening of music, dance and theater preformed by more than 50 alumni, students and faculty members in the Little Theater, where Arnold has directed many campus productions.

The occasion prompted a dozen College of the Arts supporters to donate more than $437,000 in gifts and pledges, in salute to Arnold. The festivities — a fundraiser of the MAMM Alliance for the Performing Arts — netted an additional $25,000.

"I join you via video to share in the celebration of a truly outstanding Cal State Fullerton career," said CSUF President Mildred García, who was unable to attend. "Thank you for all you have done over the past four decades, and thank you for supporting a new president so completely."

On-Stage Tributes

Her videotaped message ushered in a variety show showcasing the talents of College of the Arts students and alumni: Brooke Aston '02, Cherie Brown '76, Rafael Durán, Eve Himmelheber '95, Jennifer Hubilla Quinn '02, Erin McNally '02, Kate Peters '79, Chris Roque, Andy Scott '07, Kevin Symonds '87, Ray Thompson '77 and Kirsten Vangsness '02. Among them are veterans of Broadway, Old Globe and television shows, members of national and international touring productions and choral groups.

In between performances, comments from the stage were laced with humor and poignant reflections of grads from their college days, prompting the audience to laugh and applaud throughout the evening.

"Cherie and I have known Joe since dinosaurs roamed the halls of the Theatre Department. In those prehistoric days you could still smoke anywhere on campus — even in the classrooms," recalled Thompson, a seven-time Emmy winner for his lighting direction for the daytime drama "Young and the Restless." He and Cheri Brown performed a montage of words by James Thurber, one of Arnold's favorites, to "honor Joe's amazing contributions and to launch him into the next chapter of his life," said Brown.

Class of 2002 grad Vangsness, known to fans of the CBS hit drama "Criminal Minds," spoke of Arnold's ability to connect with insecure student actors and delivered a quirky monologue based on his encouraging words: "There's something kind of wonderful you just did in this moment."

James Taulli, associate dean of the college and a Class of '94 M.F.A. theatre arts-directing grad, served as master of ceremonies. He was joined at the podium by Doug Simao, chairman of the CSF Philanthropic Foundation Board of Governors.

Donors Step Up

"We're here, of course, to honor a remarkable professor, a brilliant man and a wonderful friend," said Taulli. "This college wouldn't be the same without him and the help of our amazing partners — the people who have gifted us, over the years, with the funds to keep creating."

Noted Simao: "In honor of the retirement of our esteemed colleague, Dr. Joe, some of our longtime contributors have decided to make additional, new gifts to the College of the Arts."

They recognized many of the longtime donors in the audience, including Mary Moore and Jim Young, honorary chairs and distinguished sponsors of the event; and top donors Lee and Nick Begovich, whose planned gift of $250,000 was announced during the program. Previous gifts by the couple led to the naming of the campus art gallery in their honor.

Young, founding chair of the Theatre and Dance Department, was recognized for his latest gift of $76,000, and Moore, a founder and board member of the Marcy Arroues Mulville Memorial Foundation, for her $50,000 donation.

Also announced was the launch of the Joseph Arnold Endowed Scholarship Fund in Theatre. Recipients will be "only those individuals who show the highest implementation of intelligence and artistic merit," noted Taulli.

"Joe has, indeed, left an indelible mark on the Theatre Department and this University," Simao added. "He has been a wonderful influence on so many of the students, the faculty and the benefactors." Other benefactors in attendance included Bill McGarvey, who contributed the lead gift to the fund, and Trulette Clayes, trustee of the Joseph A.W. Clayes III Trust, and her husband, Jeff Partrick.

Outgoing Dean's Reflections

The program ended with brief remarks from Arnold, who thanked MAMM for hosting the event.

"Tonight, you saw some magnificent, magnificent performers. To those who give to the college and to the university, I wish you had the chance that I have every day — to see this, to see what happens and what you make happen." Sharing a quote that resonated with him as dean, he noted: " 'Vision without resources is a mirage', and all of you have made it not a mirage, but a reality.

"I have had more fun in these 41 years than anyone could possibly imagine," he said. "I've had great mentors, people like Jim Young, Jerry Samuelson. I've had great colleagues. ... and I've met wonderful people. I've hung out with Edward Albee and Jason Robards and José Quintero, but the most wonderful part of my career has been with you and with the students."

Arnold received a standing ovation following his parting comments: "As we all know as you go through life, you have the family you're born into, the family you marry into and the family that you pick up along the way, and so many of your are here tonight. I can't tell you how humbled I am to have been able to be with these remarkable students, these wonderful colleagues and these members of the community that care so deeply about the arts, and with that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Arnold announced that he plans to return to campus in the spring to teach and may add to the roster of 30 campus productions he's directed between 1973-2014.

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