Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Learning in SUU's Small Class Atmosphere was Priceless for Larry Parker

Larry Parker (’95) began his college career at SUU as a theatre arts major, and even, in addition, had aspirations of one day working for the forest service. But a change in major to biology set Larry on a path that has led him to Minnesota, where he is now the owner of his own dental practice specializing in general dentistry and orthodontics.

He attended South Sevier High in Monroe, Utah, and Cedar City High School before enrolling at SUU in the fall of 1990. But before Larry stepped on campus, he had his doubts about SUU and wondered about the quality of education he would receive here. He even saw SUU as his “backup plan.”

“I was wrong,” he now says. “I came to realize that learning in a small class atmosphere at bargain tuition is truly priceless. It was an experience that I did not fully understand nor appreciate until I moved to a metropolitan area, attended a large learning institution, and became a number instead of a person.”

Among his many highlights as an SUU student was reinforcing life-long friendships with people like Stewart Clarke (’95), Shon Wilson (’98), and Daniel Cotts (’93), as well as forging new relationships with Darris Clark, Ben Baldwin (’95), and Regan Wilson (’96). Those relationships alone, (thanks in part to Sigma Chi) cause Larry to call himself blessed for making his way to SUU.

He is also grateful to SUU for showing him new ideas and different ways of thinking.

“I was able to be exposed to thinking and ideas that were different and directly in conflict with my own, forcing me to grow as a person as well as a student,” he explains.

To those currently attending SUU, Larry encourages spending plenty of time enjoying clubs and organizations.

“Go out of your comfort zone and experience different viewpoints on life,” he says. “You should also Go Greek, even if ‘it’s not my thing.’”

Larry also met his wife, Shannon Bennett (’98), at SUU and credits her for seeing potential in him what he could not see himself, and refusing to allow him to be satisfied with mediocrity.

“I owe everything to her,” he says.

The couple resides in Mankato, Minnesota, and has three kids, Jordan age 20 (and a sophomore at SUU), Jack age 10, and Sammy age 8.

When not working on teeth, Larry enjoys traveling, scuba diving, snorkeling, golfing, and running marathons with his family.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Choosing to Go to SUU was the Single Best Thing I Did for My Life

Although his job requires him to wear a rival institution's colors, Utah State's Associate Head Men's Basketball Coach Tarvish Felton (’99) admits, "Choosing to go to SUU was the single best thing I did for my life."

Tarvish grew up an hour and a half south of Atlanta in a small town called Perry, Georgia, and, along with his older sister, was raised by his mother and grandmother. From an early age, these strong role models instilled in Tarvish a desire to serve and give back. Initially, he believed a white coat and stethoscope would be his calling, but eventually decided on a different uniform.

"When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a doctor,” he says. “As I got older, I continued to develop a passion for sports, and basketball specifically. Growing up in a single parent home and being around others in the same situation, I realized the men in our lives were our coaches."

Recruited to Southern Utah University by Bill Evans (’73), Tarvish became a charismatic and dominant figure representing the Thunderbirds on the basketball court. During each season spent as #21 for SUU, Tarvish ranked in the top ten in points, rebounds, free throws, steals, and blocked shots.

"Meeting Bill Evans and having the opportunity to play for him and learn life's lessons was the best thing I could have done,” he says. “To this day, I continue to have amazing relationships with all the wonderful people from all walks of life I met on campus. SUU opened the world to a small town black kid from the south, and I am forever grateful."

Tarvish has been teaching the T-Bird philosophies he learned from his academic and athletic pursuits to student athletes in Los Angeles, Laredo, and Sacramento before settling into ten years as part of the Utah State Men's Basketball program. In Logan, he oversees every phase of the program from recruitment, student-athlete development, scheduling, academics, and compliance.  And, he credits SUU for influencing his coaching style.

"It gave me the tools to go out and succeed in the world. Being a student-athlete at SUU allowed me to be me, to write my own story,” he explains. “Now, I am able to share that story with the young men I am fortunate enough to engage with on a daily basis."

While Southern Utah University helped Tavish capitalize on his desire to impact future generations, he says the greatest lesson he learned from his time in Cedar City is work ethic and chivalry.

"The thing I learned more than anything about myself at Southern Utah is that if you work hard and treat people right, you can achieve anything," he says.

Tarvish is proud of his time at Southern Utah University and the education that has helped him be a positive influence on the student-athletes who cross his path.  But what really makes him smile is his family. He is married to the former Jana Doggett and the couple has two children, DeAubrey (18) and Deekan (3), who is already showing some potential with a basketball and sure would look good in Thunderbird red.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Crystal Bingham is Comfortable in All Types of Shoes

Crystal Bingham likes shoes and admits that she probably has more heels in her closet than the nearest shoe store has in stock.

But she also is perfectly comfortable in a pair of cleats on the softball field, spikes on the golf course, or tactical shoes for her police work. The ability to excel in very different roles and opportunities in her life is what made Southern Utah University the perfect choice for a diverse college experience.

Crystal grew up in the White Mountains in a town called Show Low, Arizona, but she was truly raised on the softball field. The youngest of five children, she spent her days attending her older sisters' softball practices, clinics, and private lessons imitating her sibling’s motions from the sidelines.

"It was always my goal to be better than my sisters who were both amazing ball players,” she says. “And after my collegiate softball career ended, I took up golf and quickly found out that I have a new hobby that I can do for years to come to satisfy my competitive nature!"

After her time in Arizona, Crystal finished up high school in Preston, Idaho, where her father took a job as the principal and athletic director. It was during her time at West Side High School, that Southern Utah's softball program took notice.

"From the day Coach Laurel Simmons walked into my house to recruit me to be a Thunderbird, I knew I would decline all my other scholarship offers to play for any other school,” she explains. “I had eleven total offers and chose SUU not only for the appeal of the university and the town, but because I wanted to play for a coach I trusted."

Once on campus, Crystal developed an interest in criminal justice and cites great professors and mentors for helping her become a police officer in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. She just started her twelfth year as a Buffalo Grove Police officer in the patrol division.

"My day to day duties are never the same, which is why I love what I do,” she says of her job. “I respond to calls, enforce traffic, and am a field training officer, which means I train the new officers we hire and show them the ropes as well as part of the recruitment team which recruits future officers to our agency from various career fairs and colleges. I am also a DUI/SFST instructor and a Rapid Deployment instructor which involves police response to high stress situations such as active shooter scenarios, room/building clearing, etc..."

Crystal credits her professors at SUU for teaching her how to apply her education to real life. 

"You're in your late teens and early twenties thinking criminal justice is just like an episode of CSI or Law & Order when really it's nothing like that,” she says. “I felt like my professors had real life experience and knowledge of the topics they were teaching me and weren't just reading from a textbook."

In conjunction with the "real world" education she received from Southern Utah University, Crystal believes the qualities Thunderbird athletics taught her also play a vital role in her success.  

"Benefits are endless as a student athlete at SUU," she says. "Learning to balance a busy life all while maintaining the highest level of physical fitness, grades to maintain scholarships, and meeting academic deadlines when you're busing traveling the country for games and competing with elite athletes taught me how to excel in all areas of life. I have respect for those who have mentored me in my athletic career. As a training officer with my police department, I always say the easiest rookies to train are the ones with some type of athletic or military background because they are used to a discipline that many others may not be and they look at you as their coach."

Crystal believes she has become an effective "coach" in her career because of the lessons she learned at Southern Utah University. She uses her life experience and desire to seek out diverse opportunities to inspire the next generation of police officers.

"One reality check for me in college was that I HAD to study and Coach Simmons made sure we did," she explains. "I think here I learned discipline, focus, and balancing a heaving work load--all of which are the tools that I use every day in my life now, I am grateful beyond words for those lessons. I learned that opportunities aren't always given, sometimes you need to seek them out, SUU taught me that I can always do more than I think I'm capable of."

Southern Utah taught Crystal how to manage wearing all those different shoes in her life, and while it's challenging, she wouldn't have it any other way.

"I am engaged to the love of my life, who is also a police officer and proudly serving as a Captain in the Army National Guard. Though extremely busy at times, we live an awesome life."

Monday, January 8, 2018

Pace Clarke Named Interim Director of the USG

Southern Utah University is excited to announce Pace Clarke ('14) as the Interim Director of the Larry H. Miller Utah Summer Games.
Pace started with USG in 2016 as the Operations and Development Coordinator. He was responsible for fostering and developing sponsorships, writing grants, managing the budget, and finding new ways to serve volunteers and donors who support the games. He also worked on the strategic planning committee and helped introduce new sports to the competition.
“The Utah Summer Games have been a great avenue for my family to be involved in both the Cedar City and SUU communities,” said Clarke. “The positions I have held within USG have allowed me to be part of a great non-profit organization that I have enjoyed working with throughout the past couple of years.”
As the Interim Director of USG, Clarke will be in charge of maintaining the reputation and growth of the games. He will oversee its operations, events and donor relations.
“We are excited for Pace to lead the Utah Summer Games forward,” said Mindy Benson, vice president of alumni and community relations at SUU. “We have confidence that he will lead a seamless transition and a successful 2018 Larry H. Miller Utah Summer Games.”
Moving forward in the thirty-third year of the games, Clarke hopes to get Cedar City and SUU more involved in the process.
“The success of the Utah Summer Games comes from a combined effort,” said Clarke. “One of our main goals is to work together with the local organizations and businesses not only to maintain and further the USG’s economic impact, but also to inspire pride in hosting one of Utah’s largest amateur sporting events.  We have the opportunity to showcase the beauty, culture and support of Iron County. With work from all, USG will continue to grow and maintain its legacy of community and excellence in the human spirit.”
Pace grew up in the small town of Tropic, Utah. After earning his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Southern Utah University, he moved back to Tropic to work as the branch manager for State Bank of Southern Utah. He has loved returning to Cedar City and working for the Utah Summer Games while pursuing a Master of Public Administration at SUU.
The Utah Summer Games attracts athletes of all ages and skill level from across the western United States to compete in more than 40 different sporting events. Since 1986, the event has been conducted in Cedar City, Utah, with an average of 9,600 participants, 50,000 spectators, and 1,000 volunteers in attendance each year. 

Glynn Wilcox, Changing Lives in Texas

Southern Utah University helped Glynn Wilcox successfully make a career change, and now he is changing the lives of high school students in Texas.

A native of Markham, Texas, and a graduate of El Maton High School, Glynn was working as an account executive for a pharmaceutical benefits management company when he decided to make a change in his career and become a teacher.

“I wanted to go back into education to make the world a better place,” he says.

Today he teaches high school government and economics at Dallas Can Academy in Texas, a charter school that specializes in providing a quality education to students who struggle in a traditional high school setting. Dallas Can Academy’s core values are centered on student decision making, and implementing a rigorous curriculum based on reading and thinking skills to help its’ students succeed.

Glynn graduated from SUU in 2003, with a degree in psychology and criminal justice, while also earning his secondary education certification. He loved attending SUU and says his friends and others students were incredible. He also appreciates the training he received from the education department and the opportunity he now has of helping students graduate from high school who he says, “very well might not graduate otherwise.”

His SUU experience taught him a lot of about himself too.

“Getting what you want out of life is up to you,” he explains. “You have to make decisions to get what you want.”

Glynn and his family live in Dallas, Texas. He loves history, museums, and spending time with his family.

And he never says “no” to a road trip.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Fun at SUU Was Never Hard to Find for Charmaine Wilde

As the first child from her family to go away to college, Charmaine Wilde (’08, political science) knew she wanted an atmosphere where she could thrive and be more than just another college student. She found that, and more, at Southern Utah University. 

A 2002 graduate of Utah’s Taylorsville High School, Charmaine discovered that SUU’s small, nurturing environment was for her, as well as the abundance of opportunity to be involved in a variety of campus programs.

Known during her SUU years as Chow Milner, Charmaine immersed herself in campus life with the SUU student association, judicial council, Orchesis dance team, the honors program, and the local chapter of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, which she helped create. As a political science major, she was part of Pi Sigma Alpha honor society, and was also a member of the philosophy club, LDSSA, and served as a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters, where she mentored a young woman for three years. She maintains contact with that young woman and has continued to help her through the years.

Charmaine completed most of her classes in 2005, and then put her education on hold to serve an LDS mission in Hawaii. Upon her return, she married and moved to Texas where she finished her degree through independent studies and online. Charmaine is ever grateful to SUU faculty and staff who created the path so she could finish her degree at SUU and begin law school at Baylor University the fall of 2009.

Charmaine enjoyed her social life while a student and says, “Fun was never hard to find at SUU.”

Fun college memories include hiking, hanging out at the Pastry Pub with friends, and having a party for her space heater when it died.

Another fond memory was attending a theatre arts and dance department awards banquet at the end of the year. She heard that everyone “dresses up” for the event and she thought that meant costumes since it was theatre and dance, so she dressed up like a pirate. In the end everyone was in formal ball gowns, prom dresses, and tuxedos. “I was a pirate, and even had to go on stage for something dressed as a pirate among all the fancy dresses,” she says.

Charmaine still keeps herself busy with her children and the family ranch in Texas she runs with her husband. She is also a local attorney, president of the Legal Professionals in her county, and helped create a young lawyers group in the area. She teaches free ballet classes, volunteers at the preschool and primary school for her kids, and enjoys doing yoga, reading, gardening, and running. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

For Bradford Backlund, Friends Make Lasting Impacts

Friends make lasting impacts, and Bradford Backlund’s best friend influenced him in a way that guided the rest of his life.

Bradford grew up in southern California and graduated from Moreno Valley High School. His best friend in high school, Matthew McRae, chose to attend Southern Utah University and Bradford knew he wanted to go to college with his friend, so he joined Matthew in Cedar City.

That decision to attend SUU changed his life. Not only did he earn a degree in marketing in 2006, but he also met his future wife, Kacy Smith. The couple has been married for 15 years and have two boys, Talan and Brody.

Today, Bradford is the vice president of sales for a large insurance brokerage firm in Reno, NV, where his focus is alternative financing for insurable risks that businesses face. He takes common business expenses and turns them into profit centers.

“Very unique and I’ve learned that I am pretty good at it,” he says of his profession. “Not bad for a kid that was a ‘C’ student.”

Bradford loved his experience at SUU. He particularly enjoyed building relationships with other students. “Those relationships have proven to be far more tangible than the piece of paper that hangs on the wall in my office,” he says.

He also worked with amazing professors like Greg Powell and Derek Snow, and credits them for helping him understand the “why” of getting a college education and how it would benefit his future. These incredible professors helped Bradford understand concepts and how to relate them to the “real world” that he entered after graduation. He still uses those concepts today.

Besides staying busy with work and family, Bradford loves volunteering his time with Big Brothers and Big Sisters, as well as Boys and Girls Club. One of his proudest achievements since graduating from SUU is the money he has helped raise for Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

Bradford also had a brief run as a child actor and break dancer. Growing up in southern California, it seemed only natural for him to have a desire to get into acting. At the age of 11, he found himself an agent and began auditioning for various roles. He booked several gigs including Hawaiian Punch and Golden Graham commercials, various sitcoms, and even a movie with Robin Williams and LL Cool J called Toys. As a break-dancer, he performed in various shows and danced with some remarkable people.

What advice would Bradford tells future T-Birds? “Enjoy your time and make a lot of memories,” he says. “SUU is an amazing school with lots of amazing professors that helped shape my life. It is about the journey and becoming a better you!”