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Lighting The Candles of Tomorrow

College is a stepping stone, a true place for testing one’s determination and drive to pursue a goal and accomplish it, the formational field for so many hopes and dreams about a future waiting to unfold as the whole world of possibility seems to stretch out endlessly toward unlimited success. For some, the path to college is an easy road, paved by financial security that allows them to cross into the hallowed halls of higher learning without concern. But for far too many, the cost of tuition and books is well outside the realm of possibility, and so college becomes an unattainable dream or one faced with a great deal of struggle.

In an effort to help deserving students ease the financial burden of it all, it was the true generosity of retired Army Brigadier General and former Austin Peay State University Vice President for Development and University Relations Wendell H. Gilbert that inspired him to found the APSU Candlelight Ball 35 years ago. Over the course of those three and a half decades, the event has proven that a little bit of help and hope can truly light the world and make the future bright for students whose dreams might otherwise be darkened.

Since its inception, more than 25 APSU students have been provided with much needed financial assistance and scholarships through the generosity of underwriters and guests at the Candlelight Ball, raising upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships to be awarded to students who have met the scholarship’s criteria. In addition, proceeds from the Candlelight Ball have provided financial support for the restoration and renovation of the Pace Alumni Center at Emerald Hill as well as funding for the APSU Center for Teaching and Learning.

In his selflessness and passionate dedication to APSU and his efforts of reaching out to the community to offer a better future for students, Gilbert is emblematic of a “true Governor,” embodying the very nature of what it means to be a leader and a champion of the people. And so it is with that very spirit in mind that the Candlelight Ball also includes the annual bestowing of two awards—the Wendell H. Gilbert Award and the Spirit of Austin Peay Award—to individuals based on the merits of their character, their actions, their notable accomplishments, and the ways in which they have contributed to the university and inspired those around them.

Held on March 16, 2019 at the Omni Hotel in Nashville, the 35th Annual Candlelight Ball will include a cocktail hour followed by a sumptuous dinner. The 2019 recipients Dr. Jeannie Beauchamp and Len Rye of the Wendell H. Gilbert Award and the Spirit of Austin Peay Award, respectively, will be presented with their awards; and a live auction will be held to help raise additional funding for the scholarships. Keeping the night lively and festive, the dance floor will be open until the evening is over and the last attendees have worn out their dancing shoes.

“The 2019 Candlelight Ball Committee is already hard at work to make this upcoming event one of the best and most successful yet! The support from the Clarksville community, along with our presenting sponsors at F&M Bank, First Advantage Bank, Q Realty, Cumberland Surgical Arts & Associates and all underwriters and attending guests, has turned this event into something very special, year in and year out,” says APSU Alumni Relations Director Nikki Loos Peterson.

And so, it is with high hopes each year that attendees put on their finery for the Candlelight Ball—hopes that their generosity will open doors to endless potential and that they will be part of something greater than themselves. For who knows what one little candle can do when it is lit with the spark of possibility?

For more information on the 35th Annual APSU Candlelight Ball, visit or call (931) 221-7291.

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