USC Aiken mixed music and holiday spirit for Jingle and Jazz, an annual event that honors the impact of the university's donors for funding scholarships, education programs and more.

"This has been a thrilling year for us," said USCA Chancellor Dr. Sandra Jordan to the crowd of sponsors gathered at the Aiken Center for the Arts on Wednesday night.

Jordan listed the university's numerous accomplishments this year, such as new degree programs, accolades for the Veteran and Military Student Success Center, and the new front entrance constructed for the campus.

She claimed the university's $281 million impact on the Aiken community would not be possible without donor contributions.

"All that we have accomplished – and all that we have planned – would not be possible without your tremendous support," Jordan said. 

Mary Driscoll, vice chancellor for advancement and external affairs, also spoke at the event. Driscoll noted the Aiken Partnership Foundation currently has assets totaling nearly $30 million. 

"In countless ways, all you here tonight share your time, talent and resources with the university and, ultimately, with our students," Driscoll said. "Our collective mission is to ensure their educational and professional dreams come true. You are critical to mission accomplishment."

Driscoll said the Aiken Partnership Board allocated around $1.5 million last fiscal year for student scholarships, university programs, and "much needed" equipment and renovations.

"These efforts are the direct result of the investments of almost 670 donors, including many of you who are celebrating with us tonight," Driscoll said.

During the event, Driscoll presented the 2019 Volunteer of the Year Award and the 2019 Distinguished Citizen of the Year Award.

Ben Cox was named Volunteer of the Year for his impact on the lives of music students at USCA over the past 10 years, a lasting impact that Driscoll said would "long outlive all encore performances."

"In 2009, Ben Cox started bringing accomplished pianists to the Etherredge Center stage to share his love of the piano and to benefit the music program at USC Aiken," Driscoll said. "The showpiece of Mr. Cox’s support has been the Winter Nocturne concert that individuals have now enjoyed for a decade," Driscoll said. "This special concert has become a tradition, during which we welcome the new year with an enchanting evening of brilliant music … All proceeds from the concert benefit the music program at USC Aiken."

Among his many other projects, Cox also helped fund a scholarship for piano students and organizes education outreach in music to local schools.

The 2019 Distinguished Citizen of the Year Award went to Gail and Reggie Ebner, who are heavily involved with USCA. Reggie Ebner helped create the industrial process engineering program at USCA, and Gail Ebner serves on the Aiken Partnership Board. They both established the Gail and Reggie Ebner Engineering Endowment Fund.

USCA officials invited students Q'May Qourters – student body vice president, chancellor ambassador and scholarship recipient – to speak during the event.

Qourters shared her story about the opportunities USCA has given her and how they would have not been possible without the generosity of donors such as those present at the event.

"This university has blessed my family tremendously, and I owe it all to the generosity of each of you here tonight," Qourters said. "I can’t think of a better way to celebrate this special season, the season of giving, than by saying thank you."

After the program, donors were treated to a performance by the USC Aiken Jazz Band, which played several holiday songs.

Kristina Rackley is a general assignment reporter with the Aiken Standard.