A group of 31 Northern Virginia business leaders, politicians and educators bought a quilt for $30,000 Saturday night at an auction to benefit the arts program at George Mason University.

"We never expected we would raise so much money," said Joanne Johnson, wife of GMU President George W. Johnson and designer of the quilt. "We were hoping for $5,000 or $10,000. Thirty thousand dollars was just too much to expect."

The purchase was the highlight of the school's annual Arts Gala Dinner, Dance and Auction, in which 40 items, ranging from a pool table and a fur coat to an antique bird cage and a trip to the December Redskins game in Dallas, were sold to raise $89,000 for the school.

The quilt features representations of Mount Vernon, Lee Mansion and other Northern Virginia historic sites. Thirty-seven women made the quilt, including Nancy Hearst of the university's governing board, former county supervisor Harriet Bradley, a former rector of the governing board, and state Dels. Gwendolyn Cody (R-Fairfax), Dorothy McDiarmid (D-Fairfax) and Vivian Watts (D-Fairfax).

To raise money to purchase the quilt, a group of eight business leaders formed what they called the Quilt Club. The club, headed by John Toups, president of the high-tech Planning Research Corp., comprised the nucleus of a larger group that eventually purchased the quilt, which was donated to GMU.

In addition to Toups, the eight include Robert and George Erickson, president and executive vice president, respectively, of the high-tech firm Cerberonics; John T. (Til) Hazel, senior partner in the law firm Hazel, Beckhorn and Hanes; Paul Kincheloe, senior partner in the law firm Kincheloe and Schneiderman; Milton Peterson, chairman of the board of Hazel, Peterson Co.; George Stephenson, president of the printing company, Stephenson Inc.; and Earle Williams, president of the high-tech firm BDM International Inc. CAPTION: Picture, Quiltmakers Cora Leakhart, Joanne Johnson, Dorothy McDiarmid, Margaret Kincheloe, Nancy Hirst and Nancy Lee Jennings shows off 10-by12-foot quilt that brought $30,000 at an auction for George Mason University. BY MOLLY ROBERTS FOR THE WASHINGTON HOME