Friday, March 27, 2015

SUU Announces $7.5 Million from Dixie and Anne Leavitt

Holding back his emotions at the conclusion of Southern Utah University’s Founders Celebration Thursday, March 19, President Scott L Wyatt announced the largest single gift in the history of SUU — $7.5 million from the Dixie and Anne Leavitt Foundation.

Five million dollars will go toward the construction of a new building for the University’s School of Business and $2.5 million will support student scholarships.

“Throughout the years, the Leavitt’s have stepped forward to help SUU in its most critical moments, this gift will transform Southern Utah University,” President Wyatt explained. “The most difficult part of finalizing this gift was convincing Dixie and Anne to let me announce it. They wanted it to be anonymous, but I wanted the University and our community to be able to express its gratitude. And we need more role models like them for our students, examples of hard work, good character and family devotion.”

Dixie and Anne Leavitt are extraordinary examples of individuals from very humble beginnings who found remarkable success. On his 18th birthday in August 1947, Dixie Leavitt came to Cedar City from Bunkerville, Nevada to attend the Branch Agricultural College. Two years later, Anne Okerlund arrived from Loa, Utah. The couple worked hard and excelled in their studies. Dixie served as student body president and was BAC’s first four-year letterman in football and track and field. Anne came to the school armed with a $25 scholarship and was deeply active in student affairs, most notably in music and theater.

Upon Dixie’s graduation, he began teaching fourth grade at Cedar City West Elementary, but switched his career to insurance, paving the way for the establishment of The Leavitt Group, now the 7th largest privately held insurance brokerage in the nation. Dixie and Anne both have served in many roles for their church, community and state. Dixie was a member of the Utah State Legislature for 18 years.

Dixie and Anne have always responded to calls for assistance by the University at critical moments in its history. As a member of the Utah Legislature, Dixie shepherded the advancement of the Branch Agricultural College to independent status and then assisted in Southern Utah State College achieving university status.

Anne responded to an invitation to write an account of the university and authored the definitive history, Southern Utah University: The First 100 Years.

When the University needed student housing, Dixie and Anne responded by building apartments for both single and married students and when the University needed more scholarships, they gave knowing they were contributing to student success and the lives of others from humble beginnings. As their business expanded and profits grew, they established the Dixie and Anne Leavitt Foundation to support the University in perpetuity.

Now, with the expansion of the University’s School of Business they have responded to the request to provide the first gift toward a new building.

Stuart Jones, vice president for Advancement and Enrollment Services, said, “This gift kicks off our fundraising campaign for the new Business Building. With the momentum of the Leavitt’s gift we have quickly secured a second donation of $500,000 and plan to raise an additional 3 or 4 million dollars toward the project.”

SUU has outgrown its current business building, which will be re-purposed for other student educational needs. Since the construction of the current business building in 1980, the number of business majors has more than doubled and the school has added new programs, including master’s degrees in management and accounting.

The new home of SUU’s School of Business will be constructed with state-of-the-art facilities and equipment in order to prepare business leaders for the future.

Dixie and Anne Leavitt are the parents to six sons, each of which have contributed greatly in their own right to the advancement of the University, community, state and nation. They have 38 grandchildren and 33 great-grandchildren.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Founders Celebration 2015

SUU's Founders Celebration filled campus March 17-19, with events reminding us of the visionaries people who sacrificed to build Southern Utah University, while honoring those who sacrifice and provide service to SUU today.

Tuesday, March 17, Pultizer Prize winning historian Joseph Ellis presented the annual Howard R. Driggs Memorial Lecture and presented Why Washington Was Great.

Wednesday, March 18, our annual Lunch on the Main provided students, faculty and staff with food and stories from SUU's history. Thank you to our wonderful Emeriti who told those stories.

Thursday, March 19, featured the opening of the Kenneth L. Cannon Equestrian Center and the Founder Banquet and Awards. 

Enjoy a glimpse of the banquet:

Dixie & Anne Leavitt were presented with the
Presidential Medallion of Service for their
wisdom, influence industriousness, and
generosity in the development of
Southern Utah University.

The Leavitts are the second recipients of the
President Medallion of Service, the
highest honor of Southern Utah University.
Gayle Pollock was presented with a Distinguished Service Award for
his service on the SUU Board of Trustees, and his work as the
executive director of the Bryce Canyon Natural History Association,
which supports educational programs and research projects that
promote understand and appreciation of Bryce Canyon National Park
(affectionately known as SUU's eastern campus).
Donna Cooley also received a Distinguished
 Service Award for her 25 years in the SUU
Cashier's Office. After retiring in 1995, she and
husband Charlie founded The Happy Factory,
which has provided more than 1.3 million
 wooden toys to children across the world.
The Happy Factory has proven to be a
staple for SUU and Cedar City volunteers. 
Prelude Op.28 No. 4 by Frederic Chopin
Dizzy Fingers by Zez Confrey
Performed by Christian Bohnenstengel, Assistant Professor of Piano
Miracle of Miracles from Fiddler on the Roof
Performed by SUU student Luke Johnson
Stuart Jones, Vice President for Advancement and Enrollment
Sandra Thomas, SUU Trustee and
 President of the SUU Alumni Association

Kenneth L. Cannon Indoor Riding Arena Opening

Kenneth L. Cannon Family
The Kenneth L. Cannon Equestrian Center officially opened its doors on Thursday, March 19, during the 2015 SUU Founders Celebration.

The 22,900-square-foot riding arena, located at the Valley Farm, will facilitate and support the growth of the SUU equine studies and serve an estimated 600 student each year.

Kenneth Lynn Cannon (1913-2001), a professor by profession but a farmer by heart, delivered newspapers as a boy with his pony Maud and raced her against the streetcars in Salt Lake City. As a dairy farmer, he depended on a horse, and as a father of young children, he enjoyed many years riding with this children and, later, on his own.

Ken taught Seminary in Cedar City and saved for graduate school at BYU and, later, earned a doctorage from Iowa State. Hi wife, Ruth Ipson Cannon, and his parents-in-law, Parley Ipson and Sarah Church Ipson, all of Panguitch, attended what is now Southern Utah University.

He didn't have access to covered riding facilities and always looked forward to each spring when he could once again ride. This arena is named in his honor by his daughter, Connie Cannon Holbrook, to enable others to do what he would have liked doing: riding regardless of the weather.

SUU is grateful to the many generous donors to this facility; Connie C. Holbrook, Garth & Jerri Frehner, SUU Valley Farm, Energy Solutions, Shannon Family Foundation, and Edward & Shirley Stokes.

Other donors include: Robin Archibald, DeLynn Barton, Steve & Angela Brown, Cameron & Kim Brooks,  Brian & Sharon Brown, Kirt Bussio, Garret & Staci Carson, Nica Clark, Wendy K. Coulter, Erin K. Coulter, Dan Dail, Dr. Robert & Patricia Eves, Kumen Gardner Family, Lionel & Artis Grady, Mary Gillins, Betsy Hatfield, Brent Hunter, Wade Kleinman, Ken & Paula Lambeth, Cory & Danielle Manis, Johnny & Shemree Naegele, Ty & Teresa Redd, Earl & Barbara Rodriguez, Elise Scofield, Camaree Staheli, State Bank of Southern Utah, Kim Ward, Dean & Wendy Winward, Cleo Wood Family, and Lee & Linda Wood.

Lee G. Wood
Associate Professor of Agriculture
Dean L. Winward
Associate Professor Agriculture
Ken Schmidt, SUU Senior
Agriculture Science & Industry, B.I.S. and Equine Studies A.A.S.
Left to right: Robert L. Eves, Dean of the Walter Maxwell Gibson
College of Science & Engineering; Connie C. Holbrook,
Ruth Ipson Cannon; Scott L Wyatt, President of Southern Utah University

Left to right: Dean Robert Eves, Garth Frehner,
Jerri Frehner, President Scott L Wyatt
Kenneth L. Cannon Indoor Riding Arena

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Alumni Spotlight: Ron Sharp

Ron Sharp (’93, biology: ’99, M. Ed.), is the Assistant Principal at Desert Hills Middle School in St. George, UT, where he is primarily responsible for discipline.

“However, I try to stay connected with students as much as possible,” said Sharp. “Whether I am helping them with a book report, a science activity or working with them in the weight room after school, I just love seeing kids improve and experience success in their lives.”

While preparing to become a science teacher, Sharp believes he couldn’t have asked for a better education than he received at Southern Utah University (SUU).

“The entire science department at SUU was filled with professors that who loved their fields and made their lectures fun and interesting,” said Sharp.

Sharp is confident the guidance given by his education professors influences him to this day.
“I owe much of my success in education to Dr. Ward Gubler,” says Sharp. “What I liked about Dr. Gubler is that he didn’t accept mediocrity. He expected the best you could possibly give, and I made sure not to disappoint him. His knowledge of educational leadership and management helped me get to where I am today.”

Most of Sharp’s interests involve athletics. He loves all sports and tries to be as active as possible. He spends about eight hours a week in the weight room at Desert Hills Middle School. He has a goal to beat the world bench press record of 182 lbs. when he is ninety years old.

Sharp’s greatest personal achievement is raising three successful children with his wife Jenny. Some of his greatest professional accomplishments include earning the Superintendent’s Award of Excellence in the Washington County School District and being awarded Educational Leadership Student of the Year by the SUU Education Department in 2006.

Alumni Spotlight: Nic Taylor

Nichole Barney Taylor (’08, English), is working her dream job as the Social Media Specialist for Red Cliffs Lodge in Moab, Utah.

“As a work-at-home mother of three little girls under the age of three, I’m doing exactly what I’ve always wanted to do,” says Taylor. “My family is my most demanding and rewarding job.”

Taylor is an active member of the Utah Cattlewomen’s Association and has served on the board in the capacities of Public Relations, Web/Graphic Design, Historian and Membership Chair. Additionally, she runs her own art business and does book keeping for her family’s cattle ranch.

“The two SUU professors who impacted me most were Dr. Kay Cook and her husband Dr. Douglas Burger. Kay helped me find myself more than anyone else outside of my family,” said Taylor. “They both encouraged me, challenged me and taught me what I could do, which helped me become the self-confident individual I am today.”

A favorite memory of hers is walking across campus in the crisp cool air surrounded by the beautiful fall colors of autumn. No matter where she, autumn time always takes her back to fond memories of her time spent at SUU.

“Dr. Larry Ping made history come to life. I minored in history, and sitting in his class was like going to the movies, only the plot lines and narratives were better,” said Taylor. “I wish I could have taken every class he taught.”

Taylor enjoys writing, drawing, painting and taking pictures. She and her husband Ryan, a seventh generation cattle rancher, live on a cattle ranch in Moab, Utah, with their three daughters, Ashley (3) and twins Becca & Jessica, who will turn one this summer.

Alumni Spotlight: JayDEl Wilson

JayDEl Wilson (’96, Spanish; ’99, M.Ed.), is the Assistant Principal at Virgin Valley High in Mesquite, Nev. where his responsibilities vary from master scheduling to supervising athletic activities.

“I went into education administration because I had a principal in high school that was willing to do anything for me and I want to be a positive influence on the students I come in contact with,” says Wilson.

As a student and now educator, Wilson knows first-hand the importance of good relationships with students, and is grateful to SUU professors who took time to offer him assistance.

“My academic advisor in the education program, Paul Wilford, was positive and helpful throughout my undergraduate and graduate degree programs.  I knew that I could go to Paul with any problem that I had and he would help me solve it,” said Wilson.

Wilson’s word for the year is choose. “I will choose to be a better father and husband, I will choose to be happy, I will choose to be a positive influence on those around me,” he says.

He and wife Marshelle Murdock Wilson (’98, education; ’14 M.Ed.) have four children, Britton (16), Dylan (14), Abbie (10), and Connor (9). All of their children are involved in sports and both of their older sons earned Eagle Scout awards. As a family they enjoy camping, hunting and playing sports.