A suit, dress shoes and well-kept hair were replaced for one night by platform shoes, bell-bottoms and big hair as President Fred Slabach and his wife Melany Neilson slipped on their dancing shoes to raise money for the Fort Worth Sister Cities International organization Nov. 1.
Slabach made an appearance in his dancing costume on Oct. 25 in the faculty assembly to help motivate faculty members to donate funds to the annual Wesleyan fund. Slabach said his goal was to raise $1,000 in votes for Sister Cities, and if the faculty gets to that amount, Slabach will make a personal additional contribution of $1,000 to the annual fund, which he did.
“Apparently it was quite a shock to the faculty when I walked in,” Slabach said. “They all got out their camera and started taking photos.”
According to the website, the organization was incorporated in 1985 after a group of volunteers performed research to bring the dream of a strong, non-profit, citizen diplomacy organization to life in the city of Fort Worth.
“We are just trying to make some additional energy and excitement about the Wesleyan annual fund by doing this,” Slabach said.
Joe Ramirez, vice president and chief operating officer of Fort Worth Sister Cities said that the event was a huge success.
“Everyone did a great job,” Ramirez said. “It was a lot of fun, and that is the main thing, that everyone enjoyed themselves.”
Ramirez said Slabach raised $700 for the organization in votes. For every person who made a $10 donation to the organization a single vote was allowed be cast on one of the 16 couples who participated in the event.
Ramirez said the highest amount of funds raised was $6,000 by Travis DeVault, Sister Cities board memeber.
Slabach said what Sister Cities does is identify cities in countries around the world that they would like to pair up with and be “sister cities.” They do this primarily for cultural exchanges, but there is also a certain amount of business exchange.
The sister cities chapter is responsible for working with the city to try and identify various cities throughout the world that would like to be sisters with developing programs around that city.
They then try to have cultural exchanges bringing people from that city to Fort Worth, and then people from Fort Worth go there.
Slabach said he thinks the Fort Worth chapter has about seven or eight sister cities they work with. One of them is in Italy and another is in China.
Slabach said Wesleyan has worked with the Fort Worth chapter for a number of years. One year the Fort Worth chapter assisted a student in the graduate education program with funds to go to Italy to see where Maria Montessori was from.
Slabach said the Wesleyan Chamber Singers impressed the mayor of Guilyang so much that he requested their presence at the Guilyang signing agreement in China and paid for all of their accommodations while they were in China.
“They just had a fabulous time,” Slabach said. “It was apparently quite extraordinary.”
Jerome Bierschenk, director of choral activities, said the Wesleyan Chamber Singers have been participating with the Sister Cities organization the past six years.
Bierschenk said the ceremony is proceeded by the Wesleyan Singers singing the national anthem, singing the other country’s national anthem and putting together some type of special music as part of the program.
Bierschenk said when the Wesleyan Chamber singers were in China, they were treated extremely well.
“They just treated us like we were very special guests,” Bierschenk said. “They treated us like royalty really.”
Bierschenk said chamber singers put on a concert with another university that was there and had a tremendous time and that the Sister Cities were very involved with the communications with Guilyang and with the university. They helped organize the event, organize the schedule and helped with passports.
‘It was quite a bit of work in that regard, “Bierschenk said.
Bierschenk said it speaks highly of the president and his wife, and how willing they are to do whatever it takes to help Wesleyan move forward.
“I would imagine that some of that is to say thank you Sister Cities for helping us organize this and have this opportunity,” Bierschenk said.“I think it also says a lot about him as a person and his willingness to connect with the community and to connect the university to the community.”