Monday, July 29, 2019

SUU to Family Legacy

Janice Miller, Rylie Miller and Don Miller
The Miller family of southern Nevada has created a SUU Alumni legacy spanning three generations.

This legacy started with Don Miller, who graduated in 1961 from what was then the College of Southern Utah (CSU). He earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. At this time, CSU had not yet become a four-year college, so his degree was earned through a cooperative program through Utah State University. Following graduation, Don went on to enjoy a successful and respected career in education where he served for many years as the principal of the elementary school in Boulder City, Nevada. He and his wife Janice have four children: Brent, Mark, Brian, and Michelle. Don is now retired and lives in St. George, Utah.

Rylie Miller and Brent Miller
Twenty-three years after his graduation, Don’s son, Brent, graduated from Southern Utah State College (SUSC) with a degree in zoology. Brent served as a science senator in the ASSUSC Student Senate and following graduation, he attended Loma Linda University School of Dentistry. After graduating with his DDS in 1988, he returned to Las Vegas and has enjoyed a successful practice known for kindness and individualized attention ever since.

Mark followed Brent three years later, and following in his brother’s footsteps, served on the ASSUSC Student Senate as a freshman senator. He thoroughly enjoyed his time at SUSC and graduated in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in biology. Mark’s greatest memories include the relationships he built with classmates and faculty at the college.

Brian Miller and Mark Miller
Like his brothers before him, Brian embraced T-Bird Nation quickly and was a forward on the basketball team, a position he played for two seasons. Brian also served on campus for two years in the ASSUSC student senate as science senator. Brian’s love for the game of basketball continues today, and he enjoys attending SUU basketball games when he is in Cedar City and making a traditional stop at Brad’s Food Hut. He graduated in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in biology/zoology.

After their time at SUSC, both Mark and Brian graduated from Southern California College of Optometry and completed their residencies at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. Today Drs. Mark and Brian are the owners of Advanced Eye Care in Las Vegas. They have been partners for many years and are well-regarded for their successful practice and caring demeanor.

Brian Miller and Jordan Miller
The Miller family tradition at SUU has continued into the third generation, starting with Brent’s daughter Rylie, who graduated this past May with a bachelor’s degree in athletic training. She completed her time at SUU as the valedictorian of the Beverley Taylor Sorenson College of Education and Human development and was a finalist for Scholar of the Year at the Thunderbird Awards. She had the opportunity to be an athletic trainer for both the football and men’s basketball teams, and is now pursuing a master’s degree in athletic leadership at Boise State University while serving as a graduate assistant athletic trainer for their women’s swimming and diving team.

There was also another Miller on campus this past year as well. Rylie’s cousin, Jordan, (Brian’s son) attended his first year of college at SUU during the 2018-2019 school year. He enjoyed his freshman year as a Thunderbird and will return to the most beautiful campus in the world following the completion of missionary service in Sao Paulo, Brazil for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So while there may not be a member of the Miller family on campus this fall, they maintain a great love for the University.

We are grateful for these three generations of Thunderbirds who truly represent what it means to create an alumni legacy.  

Monday, May 20, 2019

SUU to Director of Leisure Services

Cody Schmitt is deputy director of leisure services for St. George, Utah, and a proud 2017 graduate of Southern Utah University’s master of public administration (MPA) program.

SUU’s MPA program was a perfect fit for Cody because it complemented his work schedule, and he found that his school projects lined up perfectly with his full-time work. From policy to budget, and everything in between, Cody discovered that he could immediately apply what he was learning to what he was experiencing, real-time, in his career.

And as a working professional, Cody found that his professors, who focused on students individually, routinely pushed him to excel while also being respectful of his professional commitments.

“I learned that I can do hard things,” says Cody of his educational experience.

He also found tremendous value in his study abroad program, a required component of the capstone project in SUU’s MPA program, and describes study abroad as something that he will remember for the rest of his life.

The trip included time in Prague, Budapest, and Austria where he met with government leaders to learn about each country’s transportation system and how community design impacts the health and mindset of residents. 

“They prioritize biking and walking,” he says, and found that “education is a top priority for people over there.”

The study abroad experience broadened his understanding of who we really are as people and how we all live differently. Plus, he was able to focus on his own career path and his desire to be an influence for good by making decisions that will improve his community.

“I want people to be happy and I want them to be outside,” he says. “I also want them to interact, and my career does that.”

A native of Shelley, Idaho, Cody loves his job at St. George’s recreation department, and enjoys being outside. He particularly loves mountain biking and is the head mountain bike coach at Pine View High School in Washington, Utah. He actively participates in his church congregation working with scouting and young men, and supports the arts and veterans, having placed more than 1,000 wreaths on veterans’ graves.

He and his wife Chandra are the proud parents of six children.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

SUU to Living Legend

With a gift for recognizing the good in all things and then contributing to the improvement of the world around her, Mary Jane Seaman, who will celebrate her 98th birthday this October, is the 2019 recipient of Carmen Rose Hepworth Alumni Award which is presented annually at Thunderbird Awards.

Born the third of four children to William Warner and Georgia Brown Mitchell in Parowan, Utah, Mary Jane was an outdoor player and loved climbing in the trees and playing in the loft. She particularly enjoyed baseball and was typically found on the pitcher’s mound where she earned the nickname of “duck-legs” due to her short appendages.

An accomplished pianist, Mary Jane began taking lessons at a young age and soon discovered that she loved the piano and even enjoyed practicing. Her natural talents at the keyboard became evident at the young age of 12, when she went to her customary piano lesson after a long day at school and discovered she had forgotten her piano book. Unfazed, she proceeded with her lesson and played each piece perfectly from memory. Mary Jane later furthered her piano training by taking a six-week course in Salt Lake City at the well-respected McCune School of Music.

While a student at the Branch Agricultural College (BAC), Mary Jane earned money playing the piano for Professor LaVeve Whetten’s dance classes. LaVeve would set the rhythm to the dance she was improvising, and then Mary Jane would improvise by creating the music to which the class would dance. She earned $1 a class; each generally lasted one hour and sometimes stretched to three hours.

Her expertise on the piano landed her opportunities to play with dance bands, string quartets, and even to accompany a ladies trio that took second place in a national competition in Miami, Florida. She has been an in-demand accompanist for many local vocalists, has played with finesse and beauty in her church congregations, and for decades played “The Grand Old BAC” at the annual Homecoming Banquet.

Mary Jane thoroughly loved her student experience at the BAC and enjoyed fellow classmates and professors who knew each other and always welcomed one-on-one visits. Today she remains devoted to her alma mater and is a constant influence for good at University events and festivities. She was a longtime volunteer at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, and has generously contributed to numerous causes that have elevated this institution and its students.

She wed Grant Seaman, a forest ranger by profession, in 1940, and together they raised six children, four of whom are graduates of SUU.

Friday, April 12, 2019

SUU to Middle School Language Arts Chair

Laura Vanderslice is impacting the world of education as head of the language arts department at Desert Hills Middle School in St. George, Utah.

Originally from Delta, Utah, Laura graduated magna cum laude from SUU in 1996 with a major in English, a minor in Spanish, and a certificate in secondary education. In 2004, she earned a master’s degree in education from SUU.

Laura is a 22-year veteran of the Washington County School District, and taught 17 years at Dixie Middle School and is now in her fifth year at Desert Hills Middle School.

While there are many rewards for being an educator, Laura says she always experiences a “proud moment” when she receives a thank you note from her students. Her students are a great source of pride.

Growing up, Laura had dreams of becoming a biologist or a veterinarian, but she quickly changed her mind once she discovered that working with animals would require, on occasion, putting then down.

“I have always loved school so it was a good fit,” she says of her career choice.

Dannielle Robinson and Laura, freshmen
year roommates and still best friends.
Laura has always been independent, but while a student at SUU she learned, out of necessity, the valuable lesson of budgeting her time and money. As a result, she earned good grades and still had plenty of fun while a fulltime student.

She loved her campus experience and how her professors knew her on a first name basis. Her literature classes were a highlight because she could read and discuss books, which she loves. Favorite professors included Dave Lee, Kay Cook, and S.S. Morty.

Laura has three sons and is married to Kurt Vanderslice. She enjoys traveling, and looks for opportunities to be outside, particularly if she can read a good book on the beach. A fierce competitor, Laura has competed in the Ironman, St. George Marathon (twice), Ragnar and Spartan competitions, and multiple half marathons.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

SUU to Financial Advising Practice Co-Owner

Neal Marchant always figured he would become a dentist, but finance classes at Southern Utah University changed his mind and today he is the co-owner of Vantage Advisors, a CPA and financial advising practice in St. George, Utah.

Neal studied both accounting and finance at SUU and graduated in 2002 with a double major, and earned his master’s degree in accountancy the following year.

After graduation, Neal accepted a public accounting position at Deloitte in Las Vegas, Nevada, and later worked for a regional accounting firm before focusing on financial advising.

“I really enjoyed finance classes a lot more than I did my accounting classes,” he says of his SUU experience. “I knew I wanted to do something in finance when I started my career in accounting.”

Neal has many fond memories of his time as a student at SUU, but his favorite was watching the 2000-2001 Thunderbird men’s basketball team. That year the team beat Valparaiso, 62-59, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and won the Summit League Tournament Championship, which qualified the team for NCAA Tournament. SUU nearly pulled off the upset over Boston College, but were narrowly edged out 68-65.

He also has great memories of professors Joe Baker and Steve Harrop, and thoroughly enjoyed watching accounting professor Jeff Barnes spar with the humanities department.

Neal and wife Megan Larkin Marchant, a 2002 SUU graduate, are the parents of six children. He enjoys hiking, fishing, and watching his children participate in athletic and dance activities.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

SUU to Softball Champ and Mom

According to her teammates, Jessica Heineman Tringham spent 2000-2004 keeping the Southern Utah University softball team edgy and cool, and did it with a flair for fashion and style. However, Jess truly became fierce when it was time to don that Thunderbird red uniform and compete for SUU. She walked away with a regular season championship in 2003 and a degree in physical education with a minor in nutrition and food science by 2005.

After graduating from Layton High School in 2000, Jess headed to Cedar City, and the first lesson SUU taught her was achievements are dependent upon the right team of people and she learned that the key to success is surrounding herself with amazing people.

Like many freshmen, early college experiences included some growing pains.

“My first year at SUU was rough,” she says. “I didn’t realize how hard being away from my family and friends was going to be. I also didn’t realize how hard it was being a student-athlete. If it weren’t for the support of my family, SUU teammates and coaches, I might not have made it through.”

Jess did much more than just survive. SUU provided her an environment to truly thrive and begin her quest for adventures outside of the box.

“SUU set me up for success,” she explains. “I believe that going to a smaller school helped me get my feet wet. After graduating from Southern Utah, I attended and graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) with a fashion merchandise marketing degree and I would not have been as successful without my previous experience at SUU.”

In 2012, Jess embarked on her next great life experience when she married marrying Thomas Tringham, a US Navy Deep Sea Diver. The couple has been have been married for eight years and we have two children, Millie will be six in June and Tommy who turned four at the end of February.

Jess, along with her sister, founded a clothing company for children. But motherhood and the opportunity for her husband to be stationed overseas gave Jess the chance to focus on her family.

“I currently live in Yokosuka, Japan, and about to head to Oauhu, Hawaii, in April,” Jess explains, “I am a full-time stay-at-home mom. I decided to take step back from working at this time due to the constraints of my husband’s career.”

Through her student-athlete experience at SUU, Jess got a taste of what managing life on the road would be like, but even that does not compare to the military lifestyle. She brings a strong spirit and example to her children who are her best accomplishments.

“I am most proud of my marriage and my two kiddos,” she says. “Marriage and raising a family are hard, now throw in the military lifestyle including deployments, long trips away from each other, and living across the world from family.”

Speaking of family, Jess is still able to keep in touch with some of the members of her support group from her days at SUU.

“I keep in touch with a bunch of pals including my former coach, Laurel Simmons – thanks to social media making it so easy,” Jess says. “My former teammate Dusti Winward Puliz and I actually got married the same year and had our first borns within two weeks of each other.”

Along with her teammates, Jess lists some of her SUU favorites as sports Psychology and kinesiology classes as well as Professor Christopher Topher. She was able to make it back to campus in 2015 for homecoming weekend and an alumni softball game.

The cool and edgy freshmen who first stepped on SUU’s campus in 2000 is still setting trends 19 years later. By overcoming separation from family and immersing herself in the college experience, Jess has been able to seek out many big life adventures including raising two children in Japan.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

SUU to Basketball Coach

If you were a Thunderbird in the nineties and attended the annual Basketball Bash, you might recall the night “The Jackson 5” made a cameo. Once the starting five on the men’s basketball team traded their uniforms for bell bottoms, one thing became clear: Keith “Shaggy” Berard’s rockin’ robin performance endeared himself to the T-Bird faithful.

The Houston native and St. Thomas High School Graduate made his Cedar City debut in 1993 as a point guard for the men’s basketball team. After some early hankerings for Texas, Berard soon found that SUU had become his home away from home. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in 1996, majoring in communications and minoring in physical education.

“Southern Utah University taught me how to adapt to being far away from home,” he says. “Once I came to SUU, I rarely - if at all - was able to go home. But being around my teammates every day made them family and took away any thoughts of being homesick. I still keep in touch with these guys because we are brothers, just from different mothers.”

While it may have been Keith’s epic dance moves that first put him on the T-Bird map, it was his performances as an all-conference basketball player, DJ on Radio 911, and stints on SUTV that connected him to students from all different backgrounds.

“I loved the hands-on experience we had as students at SUU,” he says. “I was a part of a great communications department, TV studio and radio station. I was able to have my own radio show and produced the Coaches Corner on SUTV. I really enjoyed those opportunities.”

Berard anticipated extending his love of basketball into a sports journalism career, but his playing experience and physical education classes gave him the sideline bug.

“I always knew I wanted to be involved with basketball, but I thought it would be in front of a camera,” Berard explains, “But once I graduated from SUU in 1996 and played professionally in Switzerland, I knew I wanted to coach.”

Through coaching contacts at his high school and junior college, Berard pursued his first coaching job at Howard College in Big Spring, Texas.

“School had already started, but I called the head coach and he told me if I could get out there by Wednesday, the job was mine,” he says. “I packed my things as soon as we hung up the phone, loaded up my Ford Ranger, and headed out to West Texas.”

Berard credits his coaches and teammates at Southern Utah University and beyond for providing inspiration in his coaching career.

“The coaches I played for were mentors and helped guide me as a player and now as a coach,” he says. “It meant a lot to me being named team MVP because that let me know the extra work I put into basketball was noticed. All of my teammates I played with, and even some of the guys who came after me, are some the friendships I value the most.”

Coaching has even brought Berard back to Utah with stints at the former College of Eastern Utah (now USU Eastern) and Weber State, including a chance to coach against his alma mater during the 2012-13 season. Today he is back on the sideline in his hometown of Houston serving as an assistant coach at Houston Baptist University (HBU).

“This is actually my second stop at HBU,” he explains. “Head Coach Ron Cottrell has been here for 28 years and restarted the program from scratch in 1991. What really drew my attention to the job was in 2007, HBU was returning back to Division I. Playing at SUU in the early 90’s as an independent school gave me the background to be able to relate to recruiting student-athletes who would be playing in a similar situation to myself.”

Basketball is not the only arena where Berard has excelled as he has put together a stellar support team that guides him in his life when he steps off the basketball court. He and wife Sabrina McNair have been married for 18 years and have two daughter, Katelyn Dion (age 16) and Khloe Dion (age 12). Being the minority gender in the household, his wife gave him a special gift.

“Since we didn’t have a boy, Sabrina allowed me to give both girls my middle name.” 

These days Berard has traded his MVP trophies for a spectator seat watching his oldest daughter follow in his foot steps on the basketball court, while his youngest daughter dances hip-hop, tap, and ballet.

He has also taken on a father-figure role with several of the student-athletes he has been fortunate enough to coach. And as someone who counted on his Southern Utah teammates as brothers, he understands the important connection and mentoring opportunities coaching provides.

“Professionally, I am in my 21st year of coaching and enjoy every moment of it,” he says. “But what I am most proud of is when one of my former players calls or texts just to keep in touch and let me know how they are doing.”

Berard credits SUU professors Art Challis (’72) and Dr. Steve Lunt (’57) for helping him diversify his experiences and establish himself as a college basketball coach. He regularly reunites with teammates from his SUU playing days to reminisce about the glory days.

Southern Utah served as the spotlight for his moonwalk (which is still on point) as well as the educational jump start into a successful coaching career.