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Billed as a “defining moment for the University,” the Celebration of BU, held on September 22, 2012, delighted and dazzled with a pageant of student and alumni talent, from the captivating voices of the BU Symphonic Chorus to the breathtaking jumps
and spins of the BU Figure Skating Club.

Featuring video of BU’s groundbreaking history and music provided by the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, the event was an adrenaline-infused public kickoff to the Campaign for Boston University, BU’s most ambitious fundraising effort ever.

“We have come here to celebrate BU, and we have got a lot to celebrate,” Kevin O’Connor, host of the PBS show This Old House, told the cheering crowd filling nearly three-quarters of Agganis Arena’s 6,300 seats. Among those who attended were President Robert A. Brown and Beverly Brown, BU trustees, alumni on campus for Alumni Weekend, and students outfitted in Terrier red. “Greatness comes from a vision, a dream of what the world could be, and should be,” said O’Connor (GSM’99), one of several celebrities hosting the gala. The celebration marked the formal announcement of the unprecedented fundraising effort. With a goal of raising $1 billion for financial aid, faculty support, research, and facility improvements, the campaign places BU on a list of just 53 universities that have attempted a 10-figure fundraising initiative. Its success will elevate the University’s academic standing, extend its global impact, and make BU more accessible to more students.

BU’s historic inclusiveness and history of giving back was a prevailing theme of the celebration, which included a surprise announcement by Alison Weltman (COM’13), Community Service Center events manager, that she and fellow undergraduates were pledging to complete a million hours of community service by the end of the campaign in 2017. At that, Kenneth Elmore (SED’87), dean of students, urged all the students in the crowd to stand, and BU’s Inner Strength Gospel Choir burst into a chorus of “Amen.”

Over the course of the two-hour event, BU’s praises were sung by several well-known alumni. Erica Hill (COM’98), a CBS News special correspondent, urged the crowd to “help to make BU an even better place tomorrow.” Andy Cohen (COM’90), executive vice president of development and talent at Bravo TV and host of Watch What Happens Live, declared, “I’m so proud.” And conductor Keith Lockhart (Hon.’04) asked the many BU alumni in his orchestra to stand and be recognized.

The orchestra carried the event along with notes both poignant and jubilant, offering renditions of Stephen Sondheim’s “No One Is Alone,” from Into the Woods, as well as former Pops arranger Leroy Anderson’s romp “Fiddle Faddle.” For this piece, Lockhart invited on stage a special guest conductor: Peter Fiedler (COM’77), son of the late Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler (Hon.’51) and BU’s vice president for administrative services. The Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra and the BU Symphonic Chorus blew the crowd away with their finale, the resounding “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

Joining them in setting off figurative fireworks were four aerial dancers provided by Feld Entertainment, courtesy of Kenneth Feld (SMG’70), a BU trustee and CEO of the entertainment giant that owns Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey and Disney on Ice. As the music soared and the dancers were lifted aloft to fly over the ice, actual fireworks erupted from the ice and rained down in front of the stage. And then the BU Marching Band appeared, bringing audience members to their feet as they waved light sticks and sang along to a no-holds-barred, tuba-honking rendition of “Hey Baby,” its lyrics projected on the screen.