LACEY, WASHINGTON — It was a record-setting night for Saint Martin’s University, as celebrity chef Guy Fieri took the 2012 Gala by storm, inspiring a crowd of 550 guests to raise more than $700,000 for student scholarships — an all-time high in the event’s seven-year history.

The annual Saint Martin’s Gala, held Saturday, Nov. 3, featured celebrity chef Guy Fieri, who made his dramatic entrance into a Marcus Pavilion bedecked in fiery red and orange décor. Lit up by Fieri’s humor and rock-and-roll personality, the black-tie affair immediately took on a spirited, celebratory atmosphere.

As the headliner for this year’s Gala, Fieri offered a culinary demonstration accompanied by a five-course dinner, wine pairings and a live auction. The animated chef thrilled the crowd with his spontaneity, frequently venturing into the audience and sweetening auction items with his own add-on features. Several guests had the opportunity to join Fieri on the Viking-sponsored stage, including those whose bids landed them on barstools “in the kitchen.” One lucky bidder had the opportunity to work as Fieri’s sous chef alongside Marilyn Batali, mother of last year’s chef, Mario Batali.

The highest-fetching auction item of the evening was “The Chew for You,” a trip to New York City including the chance to sit in on a taping of ABC’s foodie talk show, The Chew, and dinner at Guy Fieri’s new restaurant, Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar. The item brought in $12,000. Auctioneer Jeff Stokes of Stokes Auction Group, assisted by Elisa Jaffe of KOMO News, led the auction portion of the program.

The evening started off with a surprise for Fieri, who approached the stage to find two special guests—his parents, Jim and Penny — awaiting his arrival. A shocked Fieri, who had no idea his parents would be attending, joked that never before had he been “duped” to such an extent. Fieri’s parents spent the entire evening at the Gala as guests of the table hosted by Bon Appétit Management Company, Saint Martin’s Presenting Partner for the Gala. The celebration ended on a light note, as President Roy F. Heynderickx, Ph.D., presented Fieri with a gift from the University — a framed photo of “Monks in Black,” several monks from St. Martin’s Abbey sporting sunglasses and striking a mock-menacing pose — eliciting laughter and appreciation from the chef.

As in years past, students played a major role in the event, serving as volunteers throughout the festivities. Saint Martin’s senior Rebeka Santos welcomed the crowd to the Gala and introduced President Heynderickx. Later in the evening, senior Crystal Maria shared her story of success and expressed her gratitude for the financial assistance she has received. Inspired by Maria’s remarks, guests “raised their paddle” to make gifts toward the University’s “Feed-a-Mind” scholarship funds. This portion of the program alone raised more than $190,000.

“For the Saint Martin’s community, this is one of the biggest days of the year,” says Heynderickx. “Hospitality is a hallmark of our Benedictine tradition, which is why our student volunteers feel so honored to help welcome our guests, including Guy Fieri, to campus. They are eager to give back to those individuals whose support and generosity have made their Saint Martin’s education possible. For many Saint Martin’s students, scholarships have changed their lives.”

Fieri kicked off the day with a visit to Madigan Army Medical Center, where he spent time cooking in the kitchen with culinary specialists. He also met with wounded, ill and injured soldiers from the Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB).

In the afternoon, Fieri mingled with 150 guests at “Meet the Chef”, sponsored by Merlino Foods and held at the “new” Cebula Hall. The meet-and-greet was one of the first official events in the University’s brand-new engineering building. In addition to connecting with Fieri one-on-one and having their photograph taken with him, attendees received an autographed copy of the chef’s cookbook, Guy Fieri Food: Cookin’ It, Livin’ It, Lovin’ It.

“Year after year, the community’s support for this event has been inspiring,” says Heynderickx. “This is the second consecutive Gala we’ve hosted on campus at Marcus Pavilion, and the response has been overwhelming. We are grateful to our sponsors and guests, who continue to show enthusiasm for both the celebration and the cause.”

The co-chairs for the 2012 Gala were Armandino ’59 and Marilyn Batali and Dick ’64 and Karen Roney.

Saint Martin’s University thanks the Gala Event Sponsors: Bon Appétit Management Company; America’s Credit Union; Berschauer Phillips Construction Company; A. Richard Panowicz, Armandino Batali ’59, Brian Charneski and Terry Monagan ’62; Friends of Saint Martin’s University; Viking Range Corporation; Hanson Motors Subaru; Dr. Richard B. Hecker, DO, FAOCA ’81; Laird Norton Tyee Investments; The Rants Group; Sunset Air, Inc.; Joe and Liz Williams. The University also thanks the Gala Table Sponsors and In-kind sponsors, many of whom have supported Gala every year since its inception.

Next year’s Gala is scheduled to take place Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, at Marcus Pavilion. The focus of the event will again be food and wine. The 2012 Gala sold out quickly last spring. Those interested in attending the 2013 Gala are encouraged to check Saint Martin’s website,, for updates on next year’s celebration.

Saint Martin’s University is an independent four-year, coeducational university located on a 380-acre wooded campus in Lacey, Washington. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 14 Benedictine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 23 majors and seven graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education, nursing and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes more than 1,100 undergraduate students and 375 graduate students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its main campus, and 300 more undergraduate students to its extension campuses located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Centralia College. Visit the Saint Martin’s University website at