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Amy Scherzer’s Diary: Weekly Wrap-Up of the Tampa Social Scene

By Amy Scherzer

Broadway Ball

Hello, Judy, Well, Hello Judy, sang the Patel Conservatory Ovation singers, channeling Carol Channing in a musical salute to Straz Center CEO Judy Lisi who celebrated her 25th year at CONGA!, the Broadway Ball. Video accolades from industry colleagues during dinner on Morsani stage Saturday called her "a class act" and "an Italian mimosa," and would cast her as the leading lady in the Unsinkable Molly Brown. All appreciated the "package deal, husband Ernie."

Broadway agent Steve Schnepp emceed the 30th anniversary, black-tie fiesta themed for the season opener On Your Feet! by Gloria and Emilio Estefan who provided the entertainment, the Caliente Band. Another 150 guests arrived for the After Dark party when the band moved to Silbiger Lobby for desserts and salsa dancing. Auctions, STARs scholarships and prize drawings added $400,000 to the $4 million the annual gala has raised to date.

Tampa Bay Businesses for Culture & the Arts

Artists and actuaries, muralists and MBAs, singers and CEOs, all convened to honor five Impact Awardees at Tampa Bay Businesses for Culture & the Arts’ annual dinner Oct. 17 at the Renaissance Hotel International Plaza.

Bealsville’s folk artist Ruby Williams, known for colorful paintings of piano-playing cows and veggies, earned a lifetime artistic achievement award, "for uplifting so many lives," said co-chairwoman Lorna Taylor. Arts patrons Neil and Gianna Gobioff’s micro-grants have macro effects on community projects through the foundation of the late Howard Gobioff, one of Google’s first software engineers. Attorney/musician Peter Zinober makes it his personal mission to "spread the gospel of the arts." The arrival of Maestro Michael Francis seeded the Florida Orchestra to "open up and blossom."

Co-chair Stephen Gay announced seven teen "Stars" scholarships in memory of his partner, Charles Hounchell, "that makes 60 since 2008," he said. Save the date for next year, Oct. 18, 2018, said executive director Susana Weymouth.

Starting Right, Now

A 10-year progress report by Starting Right, Now founder Vicki Sokolik counted 200 high school graduates since she began to mentor one homeless youth. Now the organization fills two residences with nearly 100 students working to become stable, educated, employed adults. Three formerly homeless youth told their intense stories at the annual Lend a Hand luncheon Oct. 12 at Higgins Hall, each crediting Sokolik for the love and resources that let them survive.

"The SRN model will soon be exported to a North Carolina franchise," said board chairman Matt Silverman who received the Lotus Award, along with 10 -year board member, Susan Guttentag for their unwavering commitment. The Chris Sullivan Foundation earned the Soul Award for its support and once again, the Triad Foundation matched the first $75,000 raised while the Columbia restaurant once again donated and served lunch to 600 guests.

USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy

Actor Grace Byers, USF ’06, credited her alma mater for her "trajectory of success" speaking at the 12th annual Women in Leadership & Philanthropy Fall Symposium. The star of Fox TV’s hit series Empire lent her name to her power lunch talk, "Finding Your Grace," following six female-led panel discussions Oct. 20 at the Hilton Tampa Downtown. This year’s Lifetime Achievement award goes to arts advocate Ann McKeel Ross ’79 and the Community Leadership award to Debbie Sembler.

"Put self on a shelf," said executive director India Witte asking the 900 guests to fund scholarships for students like Katherine Garcia whose words helped the event collect $255,000. Save the date: Author Jeannette Walls will keynote the Oct. 19, 2018 symposium.