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!”

Friday, October 20, 2017

Dan Ludwig Received a Solid Science Background at SUU

Daniel Ludwig grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada, and loved being in the outdoors. So when a beloved uncle recommended SUU, a place where he could study science and explore the area’s natural wonders, Dan jumped at the opportunity.

As a Zoology major, Dan was thrilled by the field trips offered at SUU, known then as the College of Southern Utah (CSU). Whether it was camping or fishing on Webster’s Flat above Cedar Mountain, or hiking the Zion Narrows, every outing was a fun adventure with friends. From those college experiences blossomed a love of southwestern Utah that he still shares with family and friends.
He has more found memories of time with friends playing Aggravation, spinning “donuts” on the Cedar City roads at midnight, and cruising Main Street from the Brown Cow to the Drive-In Movie Theater while eating sherbet ice cream cones.

Dan’s class room experience was equally fulfilling. He took a required science class in ornithology and quickly developed a love of birds and became an avid birdwatcher. He would go “birding” all over southern Utah with Cedar Canyon and Zion National Park being his favorite watching spots. Birding is still a pastime that he thoroughly loves.

Dan also developed a passion for art while at SUU, thanks to the exceptional instruction of professors Glen Dale Anderson and Robert Gerring. In was in his art classes that he set a goal to paint in earnest
on his 40th birthday. He has been painting ever since that milestone birthday and his works have appeared in art galleries throughout Utah.

His pre-dental training was exceptional and he exclaims that he gained a “solid” science background because of professors like Dr. Wes Larson, Dr. Joe Cope, Dr. Russell Anderson, and Dr. Paul Burgoyne. After graduating from CSU (SUU) in 1969, Dan enrolled at the Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas, Texas. 

Following dental school, Dan and his wife Alana settled in Belen, New Mexico, where he owned and operated a private dental practice for more than 20 years. The Ludwigs loved the Rio Grande area and reflect back on the area as a great place to raise a family.

After 20 years in business, Dan sold his dental practice and went to work for New Mexico’s correctional system. During his tenure there he served for two years as the dental director for the entire system. 

Today, he works for Correct Care Solutions inside a federal correctional facility in Milan, New Mexico. Correct Care Solutions specializes in managing health care systems for correctional facilities throughout the United States. Dan is the only on-site dentist at his facility, which accommodates up to 1,100 people. The facility contracts with Homeland Security ICE and houses refugees seeking asylum in the United States. The refugees live there short-term and come from many different parts of the world. Dan takes the opportunity to learn a little something from each person he cares for and enjoys making the lives of his patients a little more tolerable. He loves what he does. 

Even though retirement is not in the immediate future, Dan and Alana enjoy traveling and spending time with their three amazing children and eight wonderful grandchildren.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Vanez Butler is Crazy about SUU

Vanez Butler, a native of Richfield, Utah, and a graduate of Richfield High, visited the College of Southern Utah (CSU) her senior year of high school and was hooked. She enrolled at CSU the fall of 1964 and has never regretted that decision.   
She thoroughly loved her time at CSU and took advantage of every opportunity to participate in activities and meet new friends. She joined the Thunderettes Drill team and performed at CSU games and at high schools throughout the state of Utah. She also joined Chi Sigma Upsilon Sorority, which became the hub of her life at CSU.
Her sorority sisters were a tight-knit circle of friends. They built floats together, participated in sports, planned parties with fraternities, shared household chores, as well as tears and joys, and yes, they even attended classes.
Pranks were common among the CSU sororities and fraternities. Vanez remembers one particular prank following an afternoon assembly practice. When she and her sorority sisters returned to the sorority house, they discovered every sink, bathtub, and toilet was filled with salamanders! The responsible fraternity brothers even called the sorority house during the escapade and left the land-line phone off the hook so they could hear the shrieks of terror. 
Vanez fondly remembers the small classes at CSU, and professors who knew the names of each student. Professors in the education department went a step further and individualized instruction and learning to each student. That personalized experience provided Vanez and her classmates with a jumpstart on their future careers as educators. She graduated in 1968 with a BA in education and a teaching credential. 
After interviewing with several school districts, Vanez and a roommate decided to take a leap of faith and accepted jobs as 2nd grade teachers in California’s Moreno Valley Unified School District. While unsure how her CSU training would measure-up to that of other new teachers, she soon found it was far superior and was appreciative of the training she received at CSU.
Vanez went on to earn a master’s degree in school administration, becoming an assistant principal and later a principal at two different elementary schools. She was always excited to interview a teaching candidate from SUU because of the high-quality education each had received.
The last five years of her 40-year career were spent as the coordinator of staff development for her school district, where she provided teacher support and assessment for new teachers. In 2006, Vanez was selected as administrator of the year by her school district and runner-up for county administrator of the year.
One year, while being interviewed by a student intern, Vanez mentioned she graduated from SUU.  He was so excited to say he had attended the Utah Shakespeare Festival and marveled at the SUU campus. They had a wonderful conversation and she encouraged him to choose SUU for his college education.   

“It’s so easy to get excited when talking to students considering SUU,” Vanez exclaims.
Upon retiring Vanez, and her husband Frank, returned to her hometown of Richfield. They enjoy riding their ATV and exploring the beautiful mountains and areas of interest. They love supporting local sports activities, attending concerts and other community events. Vanez also volunteers with the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, the local public library and children’s justice center.
That tight-knit circle of sorority sisters, who supported each other so well at CSU, remain close and return each year to SUU Homecoming. They enjoy catching-up, looking at old yearbooks, participating in the all the homecoming activities, pretending they are young again, and have become affectionately known as “The Crazy Ladies.”
And they all are crazy about SUU!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Friendships and Experiences are what Tami Whisker Loved about SUU

While a student at SUU, Tami Whisker discovered she was good at managing projects and events.

Today, as a realtor at Summit Sotheby’s International Realty in Park City, Utah, Tami is a leader in her profession and community. She has taught real estate forms classes and even lead the Park City Board of REALTORS®. She has served as the board chair for Peace House, an organization that helps those affected by domestic violence, and has volunteered in a fundraising production for the Egyptian Theater for the past seven years.

“I have never acted,” Tami says, “but it’s locals that put it on and it’s a blast!”

Tami graduated in 1989 with a major in communication and minor in marketing. The training she received and the skills she acquired at SUU are put to use each day as she writes real estate contracts and teaches classes.

While at SUU, Tami was a founding member of Phi Alpha Beta and remembers the amazing parties and meetings they had, as well as figuring out plans and dreaming together as sorority sisters. She was also involved in student government and still laughs at peeling 250 lbs. of potatoes for a Dutch oven dinner hosted by the school and organizing and carrying out a Winter Wonderland event in 20 degrees below zero.

She loved that SUU was small and full of opportunities. “It is so important to get involved besides your classes,” Tami exclaims about her experience at SUU. “I made so many wonderful friends that I see today.”

Tami enjoys the outdoors riding horses, hiking, and golfing.

Friday, September 8, 2017

A Last-Minute Visit to SUU Changed Joe Garces' Life

A last-minute, and late-night, decision to visit Southern Utah University changed Joe Garces’ educational pathway. After a campus tour and introduction to the education department, he enrolled at SUU and has loved his decision ever since.

Originally from Ventura, CA, Joe began his college experience in his hometown before ultimately landing at SUU and graduating in 1998. He studied elementary education with concentrations in fine arts and a social sciences composite.

Joe initially taught elementary and high school English before becoming a firefighter several years ago.  He is assigned to the arson bureau as an investigator and inspector, and is an engineer with the responsibility of driving the engine and operating the pump panel.

“I have really enjoyed the variety and unpredictability of this profession as well as the joy and satisfaction that comes along with helping people,” he says. “It’s not an easy job and it can be very rough at times, but I do like being a firefighter.”

Joe is also an author having written children’s books, a blog, novels, screenplays, and articles on a variety of issues. His first children’s book, Garrett the Firefighter, was published in 2008 and written specifically for his oldest son.

“Now, if you are going to write a book for one of your kids, you had better be committed enough to write a book for all of them,” says Joe. He has since written two more books: Tyler the Cowpoke (2013) and Ryan the Pirate (2016).

One of Joe’s favorite SUU memories is attending his first football game. Knowing only two people on campus, he wandered to the game alone. By halftime he was “having a blast,” and by game’s end he had several new life-long friends with whom he still stays in contact. He remains impressed with the accepting and inclusive nature of the student body.

The simple things at SUU brought him great joy. He liked walking to class in the fall crunching the leaves as we went, and seeing the entire campus blanketed in snow. As a member of the Sigma Nu Fraternity, he fondly remembers the haunted houses, Easter egg hunts, and just having great experiences with his fraternity brothers.

“I would encourage others to attend SUU not just for the quality of education, but also for the overall positive experience of small town life, great people, and outstanding weather,” he says, “And the excellent opportunities for outdoor adventures are beyond compare.”

Joe’s oldest son Garrett, a sophomore in high school, is 100% committed to becoming a T-Bird and that makes Joe happy. Two of his co-workers have children currently attending SUU.

He credits SUU for providing him with a safe environment and an excellent support system, which made his college education not only attainable, but also enjoyable.

“SUU turned me on to a lifetime of learning and being a forever student of life,” says Joe.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Linda Rowley Became a Teacher of Teachers

From an early age, Linda Monsen Rowley (’70) dreamed of being an elementary school teacher. SUU helped her reach her dream and more, as she became an educator, mentor, and teacher of teachers.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, Linda graduated from South High School in 1965. After some coaxing from an uncle, who was the superintendent of schools in Beaver County, she decided to visit what was then the College of Southern Utah (known now as SUU). Linda loved what she found on her visit: a small campus, friendly people, superior teachers, and an excellent education department. She chose to enroll at SUU, and says that decision proved to be one of the best of her life.

While a student, Linda immersed herself in academics and all that college life had to offer. She loved her education classes, worked in the education department, joined Chi Sigma Upsilon Sorority, and even participated in the homecoming tradition of mud football with members of the 5th Dimension, who happened to be on campus for the homecoming concert. Linda was a catalyst for cooperation among the fraternities and sororities at the time, and served on a college council where she promoted Greek unity. Her years at SUU prepared her well to become a teacher, and along the way she gained stronger tolerance of others and leadership skills that positively shaped her future career pursuits. She also gained lifelong friends that still return to campus each year for homecoming.

Linda began her 34-year teaching career by running the Step Ahead Preschool with Vicki Wright Gomez, a high school and SUU friend. She taught parenting classes for the Salt Lake School District, was employed by the Jordan School District as an elementary school teacher, administrator, and facilitator of the Jordan School District/BYU Partnership. Linda also worked for BYU as a clinical faculty member and liaison where she taught courses and supervised all phases of pre-service education for the BYU/Public School Partnership. She trained and mentored many successful educators.

“My students have excelled to become remarkable teachers, authors, administrators, and to hold district and university positions,” she says. “It was my goal to be able to turn the most important position of educating children over to capable well trained professional teachers.”

While at SUU, Linda met and married Cedar City native Dennis Rowley. The couple will celebrate 48 years of marriage this year, and are the parents of three children (two attended SUU), and have eight grandchildren (one attended SUU and another is a freshman this year), and two great-grandchildren.

Family is Linda’s most important possession, and she enjoys activities with them such as “comfort” camping at their cabin at Bear Lake, golf, reading, traveling and sleeping in. She and Dennis have visited every state in the U.S., and have also visited Canada, Mexico, Europe, and Africa. She is actively serves in her church and remains involved with professional educational organizations, even though she has retired. 

Linda credits SUU for helping her define purpose in her professional life, discovering she could accomplish anything she set out to do, and that tasks have better end results when completed by a team. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Nonagenarian, Walt Messinger, Fondly Remembers His BAC Days

At 97-years young, Walter Messinger is among an elite group of alumni who are graduates of the Branch Agricultural College, now known as Southern Utah University. With a constant smile and a strong handshake, he credits much of his good life to the experiences he had at the BAC.

Born October 3, 1920 in Beaver, Utah, of strong pioneer heritage, Walt spent the majority of his life in and around the Beaver and Cedar City areas. Growing up during the Depression and out of necessity, he learned the importance of hard work at a young age. He remembers helping the family pitch hay, deliver newspapers, cut wood, milk cows, and anything else that was needed to survive. At the age of 13, Walt began working at his father’s flour mill, the only one in Beaver. He went on to graduate from Beaver High School in 1938 with a class of 38 students.

Walt began his studies at the BAC in 1939 and faced many of the same issues that students face today. Tuition back then was $40 a quarter or semester, and while there was a shortage of student housing at the time, he found a room to rent at the Ambassador Arms Apartments with 28 other students for $30 a month, which included a bed and 2 meals a day.

The country was beginning to recover from the Great Depression and like most students of that era, Walt had to find work to pay for his schooling. There was no FAFSA or other financial aid programs like there are today, but there was the National Youth Administration (NYA), a program established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of the New Deal. NYA gave unemployed youth the opportunity to work and earn money for their education and was the forerunner of future student financial aid programs. Walt’s work group did construction around the BAC campus and built six tennis courts and laid concrete sidewalks, many of which are still in use today. He also worked at the Cedar City plant that processed turkeys from Moroni, Utah.

Walt remembers only four buildings on campus when he began his studies at the BAC and the buildings were shared with the local high school. “We met more high schools girls then college girls,” Walt says. “It seems the college girls chased the upper classmen and fratmen (fraternity)”.

He enrolled in the college’s auto mechanics and welding programs and learned valuable skills that helped him throughout his life. During one winter quarter, his welding class was asked to submit a drawing and a bid to replace the fireplace grill, screen, and irons at the home of the BAC director. Walt and his partner Fay Raye won the bid, and over the following month they created a product that pleased Director Henry Oberhansley.

In 1941, Walt’s college education was cut short when his National Guard unit was activated to fight in World War II. Along with 500 other men from southern and central Utah, his unit was sent to San Luis Obispo for Army training.

On December 7, 1941, after basic training was completed, they were in the process of boarding a ship in San Francisco to be deployed to the Philippines when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Walt’s ship was not allowed to proceed to its original destination. His battalion was reassigned to the San Francisco Presidio to defend the western coast of the U.S. in the event of an attack. Walt was assigned to the Color Guard that honored many of the service men who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor and were buried in the National Cemetery at San Francisco.

Once the threat of an attack on the U.S. mainland passed, Walt’s ship was sent to Europe to take part in the June 6, 1944, invasion of France known as D-Day. His battalion was assigned to Utah Beach. When the war ended in 1945, Walt and his National Guard Unit returned to their homes with numerous injuries, but only one life was lost.

In August 1952, Walt’s National Guard Unit was reactivated to fight in the Korean War, where he experienced many more life-changing experiences. Walt grew up in an era when patriotism was what you did and one didn’t have to think twice about serving their country.

When he returned from Korea at the age of 32, Walt met a lovely young widow from Minersville, Utah, named Barbara Gressman, who had a nine year-old son named Robert. They dated on and off for two years and married in 1954. They eventually settled in Cedar City and built a modest home and resided there for 54 years. They eventually added two more sons to the family, one of which passed away at birth.

Walt had several Cedar City business ventures, the most successful being the Husky Service station on the south end of Main Street which he sold in 1981 after running it for 16 ½ years. He went on to work for the Iron County School District as a custodian for four years, retiring in 1985.

No matter what Walt did or where he worked, the skills and knowledge he gained at the BAC were always a benefit. After his final retirement, he worked at the Centrum Arena for 15 years as a “Red Coat”, which kept his ties to the University active and fulfilling.

At the age of 90, he and his wife Barabara, who passed away in 2012, moved to Riverton, Utah, to live with their son Robert and his wife Margie, and to be close to grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Despite his age, Walt’s memories of attending the BAC are as clear as when he was a student here. And being in the shadows of SUU while living in Cedar City for 54 years, was a constant reminder of the life changing experiences he had here.