IPSF’s inaugural Spirit of Excellence Gala and Auction raises more than $200,000 for schools


“Live from Irvine, it’s Friday night!”

So proclaimed Nasim Pedrad, a “Saturday Night Live” cast member and former Trojan from University High School, during the Irvine Public Schools Foundation’s inaugural Spirit of Excellence Gala and Auction, which was held Sept. 10 at the Irvine headquarters of Kia Motors America.

The black-tie event, which featured a cocktail reception and silent auction followed by dinner, a live auction, performances and dancing, honored five exceptional IUSD graduates – and raised more than $200,000 for schools in Irvine. Nearly 400 guests attended, including IUSD Board of Education members Sharon Wallin, Sue Kuwabara, Gavin Huntley-Fenner and Carolyn McInerney, Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang, Congressman John Campbell (R-Irvine), city officials, district staff, community leaders and various movers and shakers from the business community.

IPSF CEO Neda Zaengle

In addition to Pedrad, the IPSF gala recognized Jeremy Siskind, a former musical wunderkind from Irvine High who became a pianist for Eastman Jazz of New York City; Dr. Richard Baick, a Uni High grad who is now a physician with the Irvine Family Practice Medical Group; Garrett Atkins, another Uni grad who went on to play with the Colorado Rockies and Baltimore Orioles; and Woodbridge High’s Adam Keefe, a former member of the NBA’s Utah Jazz and the fifth leading scorer in the history of the PAC-10.

Foundation CEO Neda Zaengle, addressing the crowd, said IUSD’s alumni were emblematic of the district’s successes.

“If you really want to know about a school system, if you really want to rate its quality, meet a few of its graduates,” Zaengle said. “Who did they become? What did they bring to their communities, and how have they enriched their work, their relationships and their everyday deeds?”

Prizes displayed for the silent and live auctions included upscale dinners, artwork and signed sports memorabilia. In the end, these items – and the generosity of those in attendance – helped IPSF raise more than $200,000 for local schools, shattering all expectations.

Corporate sponsors for the gala included Kia, Wells Fargo, Hoag Hospital Irvine, Kaiser Permanente, Vizio, Schools First Federal Credit Union, Grandpoint Bank, the Great Park Communities, MVE and Partners and the South Coast Chinese Cultural Center.