As if his booming baritone wasn't enough to capture the crowd's attention, HCC President William Messner crashed the metal lids of two large buffet servers together like concert cymbals to emphasize the importance of his imminent proclamation.
"We are here today," he said, "to say thank you to Elaine Marieb -- again -- for her generosity to HCC."
Looking a little uncomfortable about all the fuss, Marieb stood beside him wearing a corsage as the guest of honor at a lunchtime barbecue celebrating the success of her $1 million donation challenge.
In March, Marieb, a former HCC professor, alum and best-selling textbook author, challenged the HCC community to donate money to the HCC Foundation's Building Healthy Communities Campaign. She said if 1,000 donors made contributions before Dec. 31, 2014, she would give $1 million.
The challenge, called "Mission: Marieb," was met in early June.
"What's even better," said Messner, "is we had a campaign goal of $5.3 million and today we stand here because of your gift and many others -- faculty, staff, trustees, alumni, community members and, yes, even students -- over 100 students contributed to the campaign."
The total raised so far: $5.5 million.
"That's more money than we have every raised at the college," Messner said.
The Building Healthy Communities Campaign will support two HCC building projects: the new Center for Health Education on Jarvis Avenue, future home of HCC's nursing and radiologic technology programs; and the Center for Life Sciences, which will be located on the first floor of the school's main science building, which already bears Elaine Marieb's name.
Marieb taught anatomy and physiology at HCC for more than 25 years, retiring in 1995. She is also the author of more than a dozen textbooks on anatomy and physiology, many of them international best-sellers. Over the years, she has been one of HCC's most significant benefactors.
After the barbecue, Marieb met with Kathy Hankel, dean of Health and Natural Sciences, Bill Fogarty, vice president of administration and finance, and James Knapp, biology professor and recipient of the 2014 Elaine Marieb Faculty Chair for Teaching Excellence, to look over blueprints for the two building projects.
"I think you're on the right track," Marieb said.
She also stopped in the Marieb Center study lounge to meet with a standing-room only crowd of students and alumni from the Pathways and New Directions programs who all took turns introducing themselves.
When asked if she had any words of advice, she said she had only one: "Persevere."
"No matter what," she continued. "It's not that you're not going to have struggles. Everyone has struggles. Keep going. Even it it's two steps forward and one step back, you're still going forward."
Photos: (Left) A banner hanging from the Marieb building offers thanks to HCC's most generous benefactor. (Right) HCC President William Messner offers talks about the success of the "Mission: Marieb" challenge at a celebration barbecue in honor of Elaine Marieb.