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`Lights, Camera ... Oregon!'.

Byline: Mark Baker The Register-Guard

It was a glitzy, black-tie, Oscar-like affair Saturday night that saw another $16 million donated toward the University of Oregon's goal of raising $600 million, the largest fund-raiser in state history.

And only a paltry $284 million to go.

"Is that right - $600 million?" Hollywood comedy star Fred Willard said, glancing around at the 1,100 or so who paid anywhere from $200 a ticket to $10,000 a table for what was billed as the biggest party in school history at the UO's Moshofsky Sports Center next to Autzen Stadium. "That can't be right," said Willard, the master of ceremonies for "Lights, Camera ... Oregon!"

"Seems kinda high."

The audience howled with laughter, as it would again and again.

But the six-year campaign - "Campaign Oregon: Transforming Lives" - that began silently in 2001 and already had raised $300 million for scholarships, endowments and new buildings before Saturday night's grand kickoff, is no joke. And with $15 million - the third-largest academic gift in UO history - from an anonymous donor announced Saturday night, plus another $1 million from UO alums Joel and Colleen McCloud, the amount raised now stands at $316 million.

That's about $66 million more than was raised in the last campaign, from 1992 to 1998, and a university record.

"I think it's a great credit to this institution to have a capital drive like this," said Gov. Ted Kulongoski, after he walked the red carpet with the names of top donors such as Phil and Penny Knight and Carolyn Chambers.

An evening that saw UO President Dave Frohnmayer show off his pipes, singing "It's a Wonderful School" to the tune of Louie Armstrong's "It's a Wonderful World"; the governor hobnobbing with the richest of UO donors; and the Duck mascot himself wearing a black top hat and tux, was a surreal wonder to nearly all who attended.

"I think it's one of the great celebrations in the history of the University of Oregon," said Frohnmayer, stepping out of a black Humvee limousine with his wife, Lynn. "And we're here to celebrate the faculty and the students."

Major UO donor Dave Petrone agreed.

"This is spectacular," said Petrone, a 1966 UO grad and a businessman from Palo Alto. "And to think what's happened for the university, it's been so exciting to watch the progress." Petrone was standing in a section of the Moshofsky Center that was packed wall-to-wall, or black-curtain-to-black-curtain, with those who came to the event.

After entering through the eastside doors onto the red carpet, folks were greeted by the "paparazzi" of 1940s-era reporters and photographers who blinded them with snapshots as they shouted things like, "You're all-stars!" and "You look wonderful tonight!" and "Who are you wearing (Versace?)" and "Is it true? Is it true? Are the rumors true?"

It was all part of the show, as most of these folks, local actors and UO students hired for the event, also eventually ended up with cocktails in their hands later in the evening, laughing it up as Willard led the charge. Taped images of Hollywood stars such as Tim Matheson, who played "Otter" in "Animal House" - filmed on campus in 1977 - and former UO student, current Harrisburg resident and Hollywood actor Sam Elliott played on the huge movie screens all around.

"It's good to be a bit playful," said Lauren Kessler, a UO journalism professor, sipping a glass of wine, mentioning that the Legislature and Oregon's budget process is mostly full of "doom and gloom. But this, this is not doom and gloom," she said, grinning.

Hardly.

Kessler was a graduate teaching assistant at the UO School of Journalism in the mid-1970s when one of the students in that beginning reporting class was Bryce Zabel, who went on to graduate in 1976. Zabel, a former anchor on both KVAL and KEZI before taking a job with CNN in Los Angeles in 1980, produced Saturday's event at the university's request. And Kessler is not surprised that he went on to be successful in Hollywood or that he could help throw a party like Saturday's.

"I hope that what happens is that people walk out of it and they're totally psyched (to donate)," Zabel said Friday, as crews put the stage and lighting and more than 100 dining tables together for the show.

Zabel, who has produced two Emmy Award shows and headed the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences from 2001 to 2003, met Willard when he hosted the College Television Awards in Los Angeles two years ago.

When the UO asked Zabel to produce its public campaign kickoff, Willard - known for his role in "Best in Show" and Will Ferrell's "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" - was the first person he thought of.

And the 65-year-old Willard, along with the UO cheerleaders, the marching band, the gospel choir and the school's jazz ensemble, were apparently a hit Saturday.

"I've never seen this much excitement (surrounding the UO)," Kessler said. "It's simply extraordinary."

CAPTION(S):

Wearing a tuxedo and top hat, the University of Oregon Duck mascot entertains arriving guests at the `Lights, Camera ... Oregon!' fund-raiser Saturday night at the university's Moshofsky Center next to Autzen Stadium. The amount raised now stands at $316 million. UO President Dave Frohnmayer and his wife, Lynn, are interviewed by Rick Dancer and Erin Bruce of KEZI as they arrive at Saturday's event. Brian Davies / The Register-Guard Bryce Zabel, a UO graduate and producer of the event, talks with Gov. Ted Kulongoski. "I think it's a great credit to this institution to have a capital drive like this," Kulongoski said. F u n d - r a i s e r
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Title Annotation:Higher Education; Hollywood celebrities and others help the UO kick off its public campaign in style
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 30, 2005
Words:941
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