The foggy air inside of the Southern Utah University Centrum Arena March 27 teamed with the vibrant energy of excited Loggins fans lucky enough to acquire tickets before the free Thank You Concert sold out. Though the show wasn’t scheduled to begin until 7:30 p.m., eager concertgoers began trickling into the animated auditorium when doors opened at 6 p.m. in the hopes of snatching up a good seat.
The free Thank You Concert that was organized by SUU administrators was a way of paying back the community for all of their support through the years during the universities The Future Is Rising campaign.
The campaign, that began in 2007 when Michael T. Benson, former university president, took his seat at SUU’s helm. Benson said his goal of $100 million dollars seemed unattainable to many, but his unwavering faith in the school itself and the generosity of contributors, combined with the determined hard work of a skilled staff has more than exceeded expectations.
SUU President Scott L. Wyatt said that there were a total of 8,028 donors who contributed 18, 987 separate gifts to SUU in order to reach the final number of $105.5 million announced by Benson onstage that night.
“In fact,” Wyatt said. “88 percent of the faculty and staff at Southern Utah University donated to this, (and) what some of you don’t realize is those that teach you are donating for scholarships so that you can be here.
“It’s really one of the most heartwarming things, I believe, that a higher percent of the faculty and staff at Southern Utah University donate more to the university – for scholarships for students – than any other university in America,” he added.
According to a press release the money will be used for much more than scholarships. In addition to the new student housing, Cedar Hall, funds will be used towards the building of the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts, and helped to provide the new science facility on campus, the L.S. & Aline W. Skaggs Center for Health & Molecular Science.
The announcement came with a loud bang and red and silver streamers 20 feet long that flew through the air, decorating the rafters and the hungry music fans awaiting Loggins' performance.
Just before the big announcement, Beatles tribute band, The Return took the lively audience on a journey back in time to when Ed Sullivan ruled the television, and four “mop topped” boys from Liverpool, England took America by storm.
Originally from Griffin, Georgia, Return Members said they started as a high school band with a love for Beatles tunes, and evolved into the touring machine they have become.
“We’re trying to keep this music alive,” Michael Fulop, (George Harrison) said. “And it’s really cool to see the generations here, you know, the people with their kids, and their grandkids.”
Though the stadium was packed to the brim with seating across the floor, ensuring enough seats for everyone with a ticket, the aisles were packed with Beatles fans – young and old alike – shaking their hearts out to classics like I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Do You Wanna Know A Secret.
One of the most touching moments of the entire evening occurred before any of the musicians even appeared on the stage. Robert Hardy, a transplant from Montana who moved to Cedar City after meeting the love-of-his-life Deanna Martinez, used the event as an opportunity to publicly propose.
He said he chose the Loggins concert to pop the question; because they were both life-long fans and he thought the timing would be perfect.
“He was always special, but now he’s even specialer,” Martinez – soon to be Deanna Hardy said.
By the time Loggins hit the stage the amped up crowd, who was practically chomping at the bit for the artist of the hour to serenade their hearts, jumped to their feet with anticipation.
From nostalgic favorites like Danny’s Song to famous soundtrack hits like Footloose, Loggins dazzled fans of all ages with his vocal range and his onstage personality. Playing to the audience as if it were a small venue, rather than a stadium filled with over 4,000 guests, Loggins managed to create an intimate dialogue with the multitude of attendees who sang along to their favorite tunes from way back when.
Finishing the show with not one, but two encores, the exhausted fans evacuated the Centrum Arena before Chris Wallace could even take the stage.
Those left behind in the desolate arena – still partially filled with excited college students who remained floor-side awaiting the young pop star – were not left disappointed. Wallace hit the stage with an unwavering exuberance that paid no heed to the fact that it was nearly midnight.
As the night’s festivities came to a close, it was easy to tell that the memories created and shared on March 27 in the SUU Centrum Arena would be the kind that would last a lifetime.