Three students dancing at the gala

Bengala 2024: What to Know, Why to Go


Bengala, Buffalo State University’s annual foundation scholarship gala that raises crucial funds for Buffalo State students, returns Saturday, April 13, with some exciting changes. 

Perhaps the biggest difference is that this year’s Bengala is not a formal gala; it’s a cocktail party with no reserved tables. The event start has also been moved up to 4:00 p.m., running through to 8:00 p.m.

Event coordinator Elizabeth Grady said the changes are a direct result of past attendee feedback. “We wanted to change things up, get people engaged,” she said. “This way, we can bring in more people and a more diverse community.” 

This year’s theme, “Connecting the Past with Our Future,” was devised by event co-chairs Judy L. Elliott, ’82, Ph.D., and Tracy A. Sawicki, ’84. It’s highlighted by the venue, E. H. Butler Library (which will be closed April 12–13 for preparations), site of the first Bengala 26 years ago, which will feature a display of items from its vast Archives and Special Collections.

What to Wear
No need for a long gown or a tux rental—the dress code is cocktail attire. 

When to Arrive
“You can get here anywhere from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.,” Grady said. “The do-not-miss moments don’t start until 5:30. People shouldn’t feel like they have to get here at 4:00 on the dot.”

However, early arrival allows more time to be interviewed on the “orange carpet” by Buffalo State media production students and emcees John Di Sciuillo, WBBZ program director, and alumna I’Jaz Ja’ciel, ’19. 

Di Sciuillo and Ja’ciel will host a live stream of the event on Buffalo State’s YouTube channel beginning at 5:30 p.m. Alumna Kate Glaser, ’10, from Hope Network, will be the broadcast’s executive producer. 

While in-person attendance is ideal, Grady said, the live stream—also available for post-event viewing—grants greater accessibility.

Two smiling students holding drinks at the 2022 Bengala

Attendees of Bengala 2022 enjoy the party.

What to Expect: Rich History
“Our chairs prioritized engagement with students and our rich library archives,” Grady said. “The Buffalo community is reflected in these archives; they illustrate the growth and commitment Buffalo State has to higher education and discourse.” 

There will be opportunities to learn about the campus’s rich and unique archival collections, including the Dr. Madeline Davis LGBTQ Archive of Western New York, the Butler Family Papers (the library was named for Buffalo Evening News founder Edward Hubert Butler), the Monroe Fordham Regional History Center, Buffalo’s theater history (Shea’s and Studio Arena), and the Buffalo Courier-Express newspaper collection.

“The archives are truly an undiscovered treasure,” Grady said. “Students can learn their own history, the history of Western New York, and take that into the world with them.” 

‘Stand for a Student’
At 6:00 p.m., attendees will enjoy a dance and spoken word performance from current students, choreographed by assistant professor Naila Ansari and featuring guest performer, alumna, and recently named Buffalo Poet Laureate Aitina D. Fareed-Cooke. Fareed-Cooke also helped establish Buffalo State’s GRIT (Guts, Resilience, Impact, Tenacity) Scholarship, which is not limited by GPA or financial aid eligibility. At Bengala, she will share a “letter to her past self,” in which she explores Buffalo State’s impact on her life. 

The performance kicks off the “Stand for a Student” paddle raise, where in-person and virtual attendees are asked to donate to student scholarship and financial aid funds. “Some students make dire financial decisions to receive their education at Buffalo State,” Grady said. “It’s within our power to help.”

Dancing begins at 6:30 p.m., following the conclusion of the performance and “Stand for a Student.”

“Some students make dire financial decisions to receive their education at Buffalo State. It’s within our power to help.”
— Elizabeth Grady

Silent Auction
Rather than a live auction, this year’s Bengala will have a mobile silent auction. Online bidding opens March 30 and closes at 7:00 p.m. April 13. Anyone can bid; Bengala involves alumni locations across the country, and items can be mailed to non-local winners.

Featured items include getaways to the Dominican Republic (sponsored by the Michael and Nancy Chicola International Professional Development Schools Consortium) and the Lakehouse on Canandaigua; a backstage tour of the Whitney Museum in New York City; fly fishing with Scott Feltrinelli; fine woodwork by Tribute Woodworks; an array of Buffalo theater, arts, and entertainment offerings; Tops gift cards; reserved rows for any of the three 2024 upcoming Commencement ceremonies; and much more.

“We are so grateful to our committee and community members for providing such an incredible array of experiences for bidding,” Grady said. “There’s something for everyone!”

Why You Should Attend
Bengala not only raises crucial funding for Buffalo State students but also provides an evening of community celebration.

“Bengala is special because it unites students, alumni, and the community,” said Jim Finnerty, vice president for institutional advancement and external affairs. “Everyone who cares about Buffalo State students can show support while experiencing firsthand what Buffalo State has to offer.” Finnerty is serving as co-host for this year’s event, alongside Interim President Bonita R. Durand, Ph.D.

“It comes down to the students,” Grady said. “Having to decide whether or not you can go to school or pay a bill is something our students face that Bengala alleviates. If more people participate in Bengala, we will have less of that.”

How to Get Tickets
Register online at Tickets are $250; $150 for faculty, staff, and young alumni (2020–2023). For more information, please call (877) BEN-GALA.