Tiger Take-off




Campbellsville University’s Derby Rose Gala breaks $500,000 in scholarship money raised for students

The 2023 Derby Rose Gala raised $40,000 toward scholarship money for Campbellsville University students. Since its inception in 2009, the Gala has raised more than $500,000. (Campbellsville University Photo by Hector Santana)

By Gerard Flanagan, news writer and photographer, Office of University Communications

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – Working hard, working smart and doing what is right.

Yes, Campbellsville University has done all that and more over the past year, according to Dr. Joseph Hopkins, the university’s president.

But Hopkins says what’s happened in that time is the result of so much more.

“This is what’s happened this year: God has just blessed us,” Hopkins told supporters of Campbellsville University at the 13th Derby Rose Gala on April 21 at Swan’s Landing in Campbellsville.

Campbellsville University’s Advancement Board started the Derby Rose Gala in 2009.

Gwinn Thompson, co-chair of the Advancement Board, said the Gala was started “with the idea of focusing on raising scholarship dollars for the university.”

In 1993, Thompson was invited to join the Board of Advisors (later renamed the Advancement Board). Thompson said, after deciding to focus efforts on raising scholarship funds for students, the Derby Rose Gala was created.

According to Hopkins, this time last year, Campbellsville University had 1,000 fewer students than the prior year. However, in just a year, the university had turned the tide, adding 1,400 students back into its ranks.

“We could be working smart, be working really hard and never see that growth,” Hopkins said. “God blessed this place. I’m not going to miss the opportunity to acknowledge that.”

Hopkins said Campbellsville University has a faculty that is “devoted to their students, and a faculty that’s devoted to that dream of preparing young men and women, sometimes older men and women, to be salt and light for Jesus Christ.”

According to Hopkins, the staff has also helped Campbellsville University put together another year of achievement.

“Let me tell you, that’s the defining thing about this staff is they make sure there’s not a student that’s a part of this institution that isn’t loved on by the staff of this institution. I’m just so grateful for them.”

Hopkins said the university’s Los Angeles Education Center recently moved to a new site and holds “explosive possibilities.”

The university also welcomed its first cohort of students at the Windsor Center in Canada.

“There is great promise and hope for what happens there,” Hopkins noted.

Hopkins said he had been part of higher education since he was 18 as either a student, faculty or administrator.

“I’ve never been a part of anything like this in my life,” Hopkins noted, “and I don’t ask God anymore, ‘What is it you want me to be here in Kentucky for?’ I now understand. He wanted me to come so I could just see this and that I might be encouraged by this, and I hope you are too.”

Hopkins thanked those in the audience for supporting Campbellsville University and its mission.

“Across this room, there are those of you who’ve given to support the dream of Campbellsville University,” he said, “that this would be a place that would reach every deserving student with exceptional education so that they can become salt and light for Jesus Christ.”

Hopkins and his wife, First Lady Suzanne Hopkins, who served as co-chair of the Derby Rose Gala along with Gwinn Thompson, sang a rendition of “My Old Kentucky Home” at the beginning of the Gala.

Dr. Benji Kelly, vice president for development, announced that this year’s Derby Rose Gala had raised $40,000, putting the Gala over $450,000 in scholarship money since its inception in 2009.

“Your financial support is very necessary to allow us to do what we do here at Campbellsville University,” Kelly said. “Each of you that are here tonight, you have given financially for us to be able to minister to these students on a daily basis, so let me say thank you for that.”

Two students who benefited from scholarship money raised through the Gala spoke.

Brianna Staebler, senior from Whitewater, Wis., and member of the women’s wrestling team, said the family atmosphere, woven into every aspect of Campbellsville University, played a major role in her decision to become a Campbellsville student.

“I toured several colleges, and no other college matched the sense of home, love and support that I felt here at CU,” she said.

She told the crowd that her parents have their own college debt, making them unable to help her afford college.

“If it weren’t for people like you giving their hard-earned money to this program, I, as well as so many others, would be unable to pursue our dreams of having a college degree,” Staebler said.

“Thank you so much to everyone here for coming tonight and supporting the organizers of this event in their mission to give as many scholarships as they can to the students here at Campbellsville University.”

From left, Kentucky Heart members Codie Allen, Collin White, Will Whitt and Landon Rodenberg perform at the Derby Rose Gala. (Campbellsville University Photo by Hector Santana)

Collin White, a junior from Campbellsville, Ky., shared that, growing up in Taylor County, Ky., he was very familiar with the university and its mission. In his senior year of high school, White decided to continue his education at Campbellsville University.

“Upon arriving, there was no doubt in my mind that God led me to the right place,” White said. “The environment here at the university has allowed me to grow not only as a student but as a Christian.

“The Christ-like behaviors exhibited here on campus from professors and students create a positive environment that promotes the well-being of everyone who comes here to learn.”

White read from Ephesians 2:19: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.”

Campbellsville University lives out the meaning of Ephesians 2:19, according to White.

“We act as one big family here at this University, just the way God intended,” White said. “For these reasons, I chose Campbellsville University and would choose it again. I wouldn’t want to attend college anywhere else!”

White is majoring in social work and minoring in music. He intends to pursue a master’s degree and open his own social work practice.

He performed as part of the Kentucky Heart Bluegrass Band along with Will Whitt, a sophomore from Eminence, Ky.; Codie Allen, a senior from Campbellsville, Ky.; and Landon Rodenburg, a junior from Campbellsville, Ky.

“By receiving this scholarship, I am able to perform in my classes and fulfill the dreams that I have in store for the future,” White said. “Because of you, I no longer need to worry about the obstacles that I once faced in my educational career.”

Stephen Horner, vice-chair of the Advancement Board and a 1965 graduate of Campbellsville College, presented the Faculty Recognition Award to the Louisville Education Center.

Tami Dugas, director of administration and finance and instructor of business at Campbellsville University’s Louisville Education Center, accepts the Derby Rose Gala’s Faculty Recognition Award on behalf of the Louisville Education Center. (Campbellsville University Photo by Alexandria D. Dalton)

The Campbellsville University Leadership Award was presented to Gwinn Thompson.

Kelly said the award has its roots in “the pioneering spirit that brought higher education and its succeeding growth to Kentucky.”

The award is cast in bronze and depicts the great seal of Campbellsville University, consisting of an equilateral triangle that contains the words fellowship, leadership and scholarship.

“Following the university’s legacy of more than a century of commitment to Christian principles in higher education, the Campbellsville University Leadership Award is presented to Gwinn Thompson in recognition of her entrepreneurial spirit,” Kelly said.

Kelsey Overall, a sophomore from Loudon, Tenn., gave the invocation. Natalie Burdette, director of annual giving, gave the benediction.

Walker Campbell, a senior from Dunnville, Ky., performed the call to the post to open the Gala.

The CU String Trio, consisting of Randall Olson, adjunct music instructor; Dr. Denis Santos, assistant professor of music; and Dr. Saulo Moura, instructor in music, provided pre-dinner music.

Gwinn Thompson, third from left, receives the Campbellsville University Leadership Award. Making the presentation were, from left, Dr. Joseph Hopkins, president of the university; Suzanne Hopkins, first lady; and Dr. Benji Kelly, vice president for development. (Campbellsville University Photo by Alexandria D. Dalton)

A history of the Derby Rose Gala at Campbellsville University

By Gwinn Thompson, contributing writer

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. –  “The Sun Shines Bright On My Old Kentucky Home …”

Springtime in Kentucky means the running of the Kentucky Derby.

But, for Campbellsville University, spring brings one of the more significant events on campus – the Derby Rose Gala, which was held this year at Swan’s Landing in Campbellsville.

The formal campus event has featured numerous well-known speakers and entertainers, among them former UK basketball star Jeff Shepperd; jockey Pat Day; writer Byron Crawford; Churchill Downs President Kevin Flannery;

Churchill Down Communications Director John Asher; performers Amy Grant, the Gatlin Brothers, the Collingsworth Family and CU alumnus composer/pianist Johnny Dean.

At this year’s Gala, Kentucky Heart, a talented group of CU students, provided Bluegrass entertainment. Clint Sapp and the Pioneer Food Service provided the meal for the Gala.

Dr. Benji Kelly, vice president for development and master of ceremonies for this year’s Gala, introduced scholarship recipients Brianna Staebler and Collin White, who expressed appreciation to donors for the scholarships they’ve received to attend Campbellsville University.

“This year’s Gala brings us the $500,000 mark in money raised for student scholarships,” Kelly noted. “The effort of the Advancement Board has made a difference in some students being able to attend CU.”

First Lady Suzanne Hopkins, who will chair the 2024 Gala, expressed her appreciation for the event.

“It was my pleasure to serve as co-chair for the long-standing tradition of the Derby Rose Gala,” she said. “The lovely evening celebrates the Advancement Board’s continued support of students at CU.

“These scholarships continue the mission of giving every deserving student an opportunity to receive a Christ-centered education so they can be salt and light to a world in need. I’m thankful for everyone who came in support of this event.”

The Derby-themed decorations for the Gala were provided by Hopkins and fellow co-chair Betty Hord.

The Advancement Board, a volunteer board at Campbellsville University, was organized in the early 1990s as the Advisory Board. CU alumnus Terry Black, with the support of then President Ken Winters organized the Advisory Board, which was chaired by Sara Curry. The name was later changed to the Advancement Board, with a focus on a scholarship fund and continuing the presentation of a yearly Teaching Excellence Award to a member of the CU faculty.

In 2019, the Advancement Board became the sponsor of the Bridge To Success Scholarship event.

CU Alumni Gwinn Thompson and Steve Horner currently serve as chair and vice-chair of the Board.

Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university that offers over 100 programs including doctoral, master, bachelor, associate and certificate programs. The website for complete information is www.campbellsville.edu.