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.

Friday, July 21, 2017

SUU is All About the People for Brooke Russell

Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Brooke Russell was always a true Cubs fan, but after graduating from Southern Utah University in 2002, she added the Thunderbirds to her favorite mascot list.

Brooke attended high school in Las Vegas, NV, and Woods Cross, UT, and after feeding a serious habit of Nielsen’s Frozen Custard in the Davis County area, Brooke enrolled at SUU, found that Brad’s Food Hut helped curb her cravings, and became a loyal Cedarian. 

With a double major in Psychology and Interpersonal Communication, Brooke’s academic training and involvement in student affairs and activities at SUU propelled her to a career in higher education. Today, she works as a production coordinator with the Center for Excellence in Higher Education where she produces video content, TV and web advertising, as well as radio advertising for non-profit colleges in the western United States.

“It wasn't a career I decided to pursue, it was just something that I fell into and actually really enjoy,” she says of her work. “One of the coolest parts of my job is interviewing our graduates and hearing the stories of how their lives have changed because of their decision to be educated.”

Some of Brooke’s fondest memories as a student at SUU include running a kissing booth at the Halloween Howl (more recently renamed “The Scream”), late night drives to Vegas for In-N- Out Burger (before St. George had one), and sharing one bathroom with six girls (a lesson in patience and humility).

One stand-out experience was being persuaded to audition for the Parowan Community Theater. Performing on stage was something Brooke had never done before, but she decided it was a chance to get out of her comfort zone. She was cast as a chorus member in Brigadoon with several other SUU students, and sang and danced on stage in front of a live audience. It was something she will never forget, and probably never do again.

Brooke lives in downtown Salt Lake City, right across the street from the Utah State Capital. She enjoys the view from her home, loves utilizing public transportation and being “car-free” in the traffic filled city. While Brooke’s professional career has always been in higher education including a stint at Stevens-Henager College, part of her will always be with SUU-- in the dorms of Manzanita, the ballroom of the Sharwan Smith Student Center, and the classrooms in the Centrum.

Brooke loves Southern Utah University and the Cedar City community. She visits regularly because one of her passions is hiking, and everyone knows some of the best hikes are found in southern Utah.  She also enjoys kayaking, snowshoeing, skiing, and being in the outdoors. 

SUU really is all about the people; friends, professors, and staff all combined equal awesome sauce!,” she says. “When I think of my SUU favorites, I think of the good, the bad, and the ugly, all of it!  So cliché I know, but while I don't know that I'd like to go back to dorm-living, apartment-sharing college life, it was such an amazing time and really shaped who I am now and what I value the most.”

Friday, July 7, 2017

John Marriott is Living His Dream on the Stage

Looking for a famous SUU face? You might just find one next time you board a Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) ship where John Marriott is living his dream of performing and leading a team of entertainers. 

Performing numerous shows each day as captain of the cruise line’s vocal team, John loves traveling the world, visiting the shores of new places, and even revisiting some of his favorites: Australia, New Zealand, Bora Bora, Asia, and Alaska.

“I knew I loved singing and being the center of attention,” John says of his decision to pursue a career in the field of entertainment. “Whenever there was a video camera, I weaseled my way into every shot.”

John credits his family for helping him pursue and discover his musical talents. He particularly appreciates his parents for introducing him to musicals, plays, the Utah Shakespeare Festival, and tours that came through Cedar City. 

Raised in Cedar City, just south of the SUU campus, John graduated from Cedar High School before becoming a Thunderbird where he was a member of Acclamation for four years and Presidential Ambassadors. These two groups opened up doors of the entertainment and public relations worlds to him, and provided a chance to meet amazing people. Performing with Acclamation eventually led him to audition for the Tuacahn Center’s company in St. George, Utah, where he was a cast member.

Graduating from SUU in 2000 with a degree in public relations and advertising, John took a job as an executive team leader with Target.

“I was hired by Target because I was able to apply ideas and experiences learned from real life PR/Advertising campaigns and projects that we participated in through our classroom assignments,” he says. “The Communications Department (at SUU) was outstanding and all of the professors were hands on and willing to mentor us.”

John loved this work at Target, but never gave up on getting a break in the entertainment industry and now he is able to say he loves his job as a performer and the opportunities that come from it. 

Working for Norwegian Cruise Line is not his only brush with entertainment fame though. He recently performed in the Tony nominated musical, “Swing” where he played the trumpet, ukulele, harmonica, and sang. 

John loves getting back to Cedar City when his schedule permits to spend time with family, and he loves traveling, baking, being a twin, and anything Wizard of Oz. But one of his greatest accomplishments is being the “favorite uncle to 18 beautiful and amazing nieces and nephews,” he says.

Although he doesn’t have an exact address right now (living on the cruise ship and touring the oceans doesn’t lend itself to a permanent location), he does have a storage unit in Utah, and will always call Cedar City home. He is proud to be a T-Bird and loves his memories of SUU.

“The biggest smile comes across my face every time I think of my time at SUU,” he reflects. “From my first day to my last day at SUU I have nothing but the fondest of memories. I would recommend SUU to anyone because of the quality of education, brilliant professors that are educators as well as friends, and because there are so many ways to be involved other than just attending classes every day.”

“Some of my best friends are those made at SUU,” John says.  “We laughed hard and worked hard.”

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Linda Milianta is the Lady Who Walks

A familiar figure in Cedar City, Linda Milianta is known to many as “the lady who walks.”

Her cheery disposition and ever-positive attitude have brightened the days of many over the years as she has passed by, and after logging more than 50,000 miles and wearing out countless pairs of shoes, she continues to walk the same five-mile route every day, seven days a week, all year-long, in rain, wind or shine.

Before retiring in 2010 after a 32-year career as a second grade teacher at North Elementary School, she used to walk every day after school to help her to unwind and have time to herself. Back then, many people recognized her via the bright yellow headset and radio she’d carry with her as she walked. Now, although with smaller headphones, Linda continues her walks in the mornings and listens to country stations or to Thunder 91 as she rambles, waving from time to time to friends or fellow travelers who call out or honk car horns.

She knows the town well. Her father, Robert Avedesian, came to Cedar City to serve in the Army Air Corps training detachment here and met and married LaZon Woolsey. They were both highly active figures in Cedar City for decades, and parents to Betty (Rosenberg) and of Linda, who met her sweetheart, Marion (Tiffer) C. Robb, at Cedar City High School. The couple got engaged in his white 1964 Ford truck on her graduation night and planned on living happily ever after together. Linda worked while he attended college and anxiously awaited the birth of their first child.

Two weeks after their daughter Debbie’s birth, Tiffer left for the Vietnam War. Just months before his slated return in 1969, however, tragedy struck and he drowned in the South China Sea. The unwelcome news reached home and turned Linda’s world upside down.

After Tiffer’s passing, Linda says the Cedar City community was very supportive. She later got to know many Vietnam veterans while working on the war memorial in town, but her early dream of being a stay-at-home mother had long-since changed.

“I realized I needed to take care of myself,” Linda says today, still with tears in her eyes. “I went back to school with help from Veterans Affairs and earned my degree from SUU in 1977 in elementary education. At first the only reason I wanted to teach was so I could have summers off with my children but it turned out to be the perfect job for me and I loved it.”

Soon after graduation she was hired to teach second grade at North. She was terrified for her first day, but fellow teacher Donna Benson (’76) took her under her wing and helped her get through those first couple of tough years.

“Donna became the best friend I ever had. We taught second grade together for 20 years,” Linda says of her friend who passed away in January.

Linda poured her heart and soul into her career and was known as a caring and enthusiastic teacher. The children were her favorite thing about her job and her fellow teachers supported and cared for her like family, she says. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

SUU Was Life Experience and Hands On Learning for Sara Greener

A native of Layton, Utah, Sara England Greener (’05) fell in love with Southern Utah University during a high school recruiting event hosted by Sandra Lord Thomas (’93) at Layton High School. That’s all it took for Sara to know that SUU was exactly where she wanted to attend college.

And once on campus, she loved everything Sandra had told her to expect: amazing professors who knew her name, on-campus housing, great roommates, student activities, clubs, an amazing community, and the natural beauty of southern Utah.

“The education I received at SUU was more than opening a book and reading a chapter; it was life experience and learning hands on,” she says of her academic experience.

During her junior year, and with the encouragement of friends, Sara began to reach beyond her comfort zone and decided to become more involved on campus. “That was the year that changed my life forever,” she says.

Student government became a natural venue for her involvement, and she ran for vice president of student activities, and won. She learned important life lessons during her time serving students that prepared her for future work in event planning, leading and working a group, and being a positive force in connecting with people.

“I also learned I am more capable than I ever gave myself credit for, and that I can do things I never dreamt of doing,” she says.

Following graduation, Sara worked for the Utah Shakespeare Festival as guest services manager and was on the front-line of customer service with thousands of guests. After 14 years with the Festival, she moved to the SUU Advancement Office in 2014, where she is the executive assistant to Vice President Stuart Jones (’86), who can also point to a rich training ground in leadership fostered by SUU. He was the 1985-86 student body president.

“I am so proud to be involved with the team that works tirelessly to fundraise for the University,” Sara says. “It’s amazing the support I see come in from not only the community, but also alumni who give back to support scholarships, programs, and in making our campus a first-class educational institution.”

Sara and her husband Justin, a 2008 graduate of SUU, are the parents to five children and live in Enoch, Utah. She enjoys spending time with her family outdoors and going on adventures.