Celebration Of Lights Illuminates SMU

December 6, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Kellis Cunningham

The Celebration of Lights at SMU began 33 years ago, and this festival of lights continues to bring large numbers to Dallas Hall.

Students and people from around the area gathered on Dec. 5, 2010 to view the annual event that features singing, stories and of course, lights!

The event began at 6 p.m. with candles lit along the walkways leading to Dallas Hall, and free hot chocolate for all to enjoy. Once the crowd began to grow, Student Foundation President Andrew Conwell welcomed all who attended.

SMU lights up in the celebration of lights on Sunday Dec. 5th. (PHOTO BY KELLIS CUNNINGHAM / SMU DAILY MUSTANG)

From there, a variety of singing groups and individual performances led the audience in popular Christmas carols like Joy to the World and Hark the Herald Angels Sing.

Later, SMU President Dr. R. Gerald Turner took to the stage and read The Christmas Story to help educate and remind all for the reason why we gather together on this joyous holiday.

And of course, the night ended with the candles going out and the Christmas lights glowing the nights sky. Campus Events Chair Staci Talamonti gave the closing statements for the celebration, and thanked everyone who came to enjoy tradition.

The event was a hit, thanks partly to a few of the Student Foundation Officers who decided share information about today’s festivities on Wednesday with a free preview of the hot chocolate that would be handed out.

Vice President of Programming for Student Foundation, Cathleen Good, was part of that group. She felt that the turn out was going to be hit.

“Everyone loves this event,” Good said. “It’s really traditional. It brings out faculty, staff, students, and people from around the surrounding community, so it’s a good time had by all.”

SMU sophomore Kevin Grenier was enjoying the event for the first time after taking a break from studying for finals.

“It’s a great event to just come hang out with your friends at. I mean I had fun,” Grenier said.

In the end, it was a good time for all and everyone went back to work in preparations for finals that are coming up soon, and a nice way to lead into the holidays.

Student Foundation Brings in the Holiday Season

December 2, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Anna Kiappes

The day starts bright and early and so does the crew. Men are lifted across Dallas Hall like passing clouds across the sky. Strings of lights fall down the building’s columns like a shower of stars. It is not long before the columns shimmer in the sunlight as if they had been dusted with glitter. The trees nearby have snakes of lights wound tight around their branches and trunks.

Students begin to wander to classes after weekend activities, but the crew from Facilities Management and Sustainability brings SMU’s annual Celebration of Lights to the forefront of students’ minds.

Holiday lights line the trees on the main lawn days before the Celebration of Lights. (PHOTO BY ANNA KIAPPES / SMU DAILY MUSTANG)

Celebration of Lights is held annually the Sunday before finals week. The celebration is meant to welcome the holiday season with the lighting of the Christmas lights on campus. Mark Miller, the founding president of Student Foundation, came up with the idea of the event in 1977.

Miller established an endowment for Celebration of Lights in 1999 before his death in 2007. The account collects the interest off his original donation. Though it does pay for some, the endowment does not support all of the celebration. Right now the celebration is supported by Student Foundation, Student Senate and the President’s office, but Student Foundation plans for the day when it will be self-sufficient.

“Our goal is that one day [the endowment] will fully fund the program,” Dawn Norris, director of Student Activities and Multicultural Student Affairs said.

Miller also started the tradition of the celebration being planned and run by the students.

“From our general members, to the Campus Events committee, the Student Foundation Board and Exec, we strive to make Celebration of Lights a success,” Campus Events Chair Staci Talamonti said. “Celebration of Lights could not happen without every single member’s voice and hard work. The event is a true reflection of the spirited work of the entire 100 member organization and it could not happen without any one person.”

The plans for Celebration of Lights begin in August and take most of the fall semester to put everything together, from the entertainment to the food served. The Student Foundation plans for upwards of about 3,000 students, faculty and residents around SMU to come.

“The campus events committee meets once a week in a separate committee meeting after the general member meeting to plan the event and countless hours are dedicated to planning during any given week in the fall semester,” Talamonti said.

Miller’s original ideas of coming together and celebrating the holiday season have played major parts in the celebration for the past 33 years.

“I would say that Celebration of Lights is a pretty consistent event and no major changes have taken place over the years,” Vice President of Programming Cathleen Good said. “The event is centered around President Turner reading The Christmas Story, carols being sung and Dallas Hall being lit up with lights.”

Source: Student Foundation

Students also take this time to reach out to the community to bring joy to local children. The Student Foundation created a partnership program with children attending Cesar Chavez Elementary School.

“Every year, we bus in kids from Cesar Chavez. This year there are 50 and all are sponsored by SMU students: they meet each other, see the Celebration of Lights together and give the kids a present,” Norris said. “It’s a great opportunity for those kids to get to see SMU and a great example of how generous SMU students can be.”

Celebration of Lights is an event that also leads students to get involved and join Student Foundation.

“I have always wanted to be involved with Celebration of Lights since first learning about it as a high school senior applying to SMU,” Talamonti said. “I love all things related to the holiday season and being chosen as the campus events chair was and is a huge honor and joy. We work diligently with all of the Student Foundation members to make Celebration of Lights not only a successful event, but a reflection of the holiday spirit that every member has.”

Many of the Student Foundation members and staff have special memories of the event, whether it is attending the celebration with family or just the joy of being there.

“That day is my favorite day on campus all year,” Norris said. “I have been here for 10 years and my favorite moment is flipping the lights. I love the lights flipping during everyone singing “Silent Night” and everyone going “Ohhhh and Ahhh” at the lights.”

As the days begin to get shorter and colder, the Facilities Management and Sustainability crew continue to string and test lights on and surrounding Dallas Hall. The feel of the holidays weaves its way through the lights and decorations and into the hearts and minds of SMU students, faculty and staff.

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