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On Saturday, November 12, nearly 300 members of the University community–faculty and staff, alumni, Trailblazer families, and friends–gathered at Newfields to celebrate the 2022 Trailblazer Awards Gala. 

In her opening remarks, Head of School Alicia LaMagdeleine said, “To borrow a phrase from the graduation speech of one of my most passionate students, and someone I am honored to call my friend, [Anthony] Murdock, ‘University makes you feel some kind of way.’ It really does. That hasn’t changed– and if you are here tonight, you are now a part of it – that can make you feel some kind of way.”

The evening began with an opening reception where guests had the opportunity to visit with one another, view a collection of student artwork, and bid on a wine and bourbon pull while enjoying music provided by the University High School alumni jazz combo. The Gala’s Silent Auction included more than 30 items and experiences connected to the University community, such as front row box seating at graduation, a movie night with UHS resident film history experts, Jake Thurman and Henry Johnston, and handmade baskets and paper bead jewelry made by the women of The Ribe Project, donated by Brett Krieble. 

As dinner, accompanied by music from the University string quartet, was completed, English instructor and emcee for the evening Wes Priest introduced the awards program portion of the event. Student and alumni presenters Samriddhi Patankar (’24), Elise Lockwood (’10), Jackson Bledsoe (’24), and Alex Altenburg (’24) gave thoughtful speeches introducing each of the 2022 Trailblazer Award honorees: Kizito Kalima, Damien Geter, Arnetta Scruggs, and Benjamin Hanna. 

“The award recipients we honor here tonight, each in their own way, are representatives of that University spirit, of the values we hold dear, and the indefatigable ideal that pairing the work of the heart with the work of mind can in fact change our world,” said LaMagdeleine. 

The Webster Award was presented by student Steven Scott (’23) to The Oaks Academy CEO Andrew Hart. In addition to honoring Mr. Hart for his contributions to the community, the moment was also an opportunity to honor University founders Chuck and Nancy Webster.

At the close of the 2022-23 school year, Nancy will retire from her position as Director of Admission. Although it is difficult to imagine a reality where there will no longer be a ‘Webster’ on campus each day–a first in the school’s 22-year history–the legacy and love of Chuck and Nancy will always remain.

“Many people had a hand in bringing University High School into being. But Chuck is the one who set the tone for how we teach, how we learn, and how we come together,” said LaMagdeleine. “Thank you Chuck. For all you have taught me, and for all you have taught each of us. You have made this school what it is, and you made it something that will last and stand for good in years to come.”

Director of Admission Taylor Newell had this to say about working closely with Nancy for the past several years: “She has given her life – every part of herself – to University High School to make this place what it always has been, and continues to be today, 20-plus years later. I would be willing to bet that every single person in this room has been touched by Nancy’s grace, kindness, and generosity. In so many ways, I am the person that I am today because of Nancy. And while University will never be the same when Nancy leaves us after this school year, this place will always be what it is because Nancy made it so.”

The event’s success was made possible by several months of planning and work and the meticulous attention to detail of the 2022 Gala Committee Chair Susan Berry, who has chaired the Committee for four iterations of the event, and the Gala Committee members, as well as the University students, faculty and staff, especially Director of Advancement Adrianne Glidewell-Smith.  

Finally, thank you to our sponsors and underwriters for their generous support that continues to support University’s core programs.