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A Rising Music Star’s Swoon-Worthy Performance Powers Houston’s $1.8 Million Night for the University of St. Thomas

This 75th Birthday Party For a Cardinal Is Full of Happy Surprises

BY // 05.13.24
photography Gwen Juarez

What: The University of St. Thomas Scholarship Gala

Where: The Hilton Americas-Houston

PC Moment: There were two highlights to this splendid evening that raised $1.8 million for student scholarships at the University of St. Thomas. One was the birthday cake surprise for gala honoree Cardinal Daniel DiNardo in celebration of his 75th. The other was the swoon-worthy performance by Matteo Bocelli, the 26-year-old rising music star who is the son of the legendary Andrea Bocelli.

Honorary Chairs Bishop Italo Dell’Oro, CRS and Raye G. White, Honoree His Eminence Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Event Chairs Ginger and John Niemann
University of St. Thomas gala honorary chairs Bishop Italo Dell’Oro, CRS and Raye G. White, honoree His Eminence Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, chairs Ginger and John Niemann

The handsome singer not only played the piano while he crooned but he took a break from the ivories to move into the audience and dance with several lucky ladies. Even gents in the throng of more than 900 were charmed by the talents of the young Italian.

Back to the birthday surprise: Waiters paraded through the hotel ballroom delivering mini birthday cakes for each guest while the Cardinal was presented a two-tiered cake adorned with sparklers and candles.

Dr. Richard Ludwick, Melynda Ludwick
Dr. Richard & Melynda Ludwick at the University of St. Thomas gala

Another surprise for the gala honoree was the founding of  a scholarship in his name, the scholarship funded by monies collected during “paddles up” and in the live auction. That added generously to the gala bottom line. The importance of those scholarships was emphasized by University of St. Thomas students in the audience and in the program.

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  • Bering's Gift's May 2024
  • Bering's Gift's May 2024
  • Bering's Gift's May 2024

“It’s not just about how you walk out of the university with more material in your brain to go out into the world, but how much fuller your heart is for others,” says Calvin Nguyen, who earned a B.S. in cell and molecular biology and an M.A. in theology from St. Thomas. “How much more dedicated and intentional you will be in any location where you find yourself in the future.”

Matteo Bocelli at the University of St. Thomas gala (Photo by Gwen Juarez)
Matteo Bocelli performs at the University of St. Thomas gala. (Photo by Gwen Juarez)

Applause, applause for gala chairs Ginger and John Neimann.

PC Seen: UST president Richard Ludwick and Melynda Ludwick; the Most Reverend J. Michael Miller, CSB, Archbishop of Vancouver and former UST President; honorary chairs Bishop Italo Dell’Oro and Raye White; plus Annie and Bob Graham, Cynthia and Tony Petrello, Denise Castillo-Rhodes and Robert Sergesketter, Isabel and Nacho Torras, Lois and Richard Folger, Craig and Angela Jarchow, and Lois Davis.

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