Thursday, December 14, 2017

SUU to Attorney, Rancher, and Mom

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

SUU to Insurance Brokerage Firm VP

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

SUU to Private and Public Dental Professional

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

SUU to Public Education

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

SUU to Realtor

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

SUU to Firefighter and Children's Book Author

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.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Jennifer Walstad Had Full Confidence When She Entered the Job Market

When Jennifer Powell Walstad graduated from SUU in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree and certification in elementary education and theater arts, she was ready to hit the ground running with full confidence gained from exceptional hands-on experience she gained as a student.

She was not shocked by the “real world” when she entered the workforce, and her preparation helped her pursue a lifelong dream of teaching, leading her up the ranks to become the district academic director for American Preparatory Schools, as well as a stage manager for the Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 

As district academic director, Jennifer oversees the hiring, training, and professional development of staff as well as K-12 curriculum and academic progress of all of the students at the seven charter schools in her district, ranging from Las Vegas, Nevada, to her hometown West Valley City, Utah. As stage manager, she is able to serve her church community through productions such as Mormon Tabernacle Choir concerts, Temple Celebration events, Savior of the World, Nauvoo and British Pageants, and New Year’s Eve events. Even with all of this on her plate, Jennifer has had 100 percent of her students pass their Criterion Reference Tests in every subject area for three straight years, and has successfully managed a production of more than 20,000 participants.

Jennifer lives in Lehi, UT, and when she isn’t busy in her administrative and stage managing roles, she enjoys playing with her kids, singing, participating in theater, teaching anything, spreadsheets, and reminiscing about the happy memories of hard work and laughs from her time at SUU. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Utah Shakespeare Festival's First Full-Time Employee

R. Scott Phillips first came to Southern Utah University in 1971, as a business major. However, like many students he soon developed other interests. “By the end of my second year, I wanted to change my major from business to theatre, but I was terrified to tell my parents,” he said. Yet, he managed to gather his courage, and he went home to Caliente, Nevada, to tell his mother and father of a decision that would change his life.

Phillips gets a little reflective as he finishes the story: “My father said ‘Scott, if this is a thing that makes you happy, then you should do it—but don’t give up your business degree.” So, Phillips graduated two years later with a double major in speech and drama, and in business. It has been a decision that has served him well as he has worked in various capacities at the Utah Shakespeare Festival for 40 years, and has now retired to pursue other interests.

“I had a great time here. I learned a great deal,” he said as he talked about how SUU prepared him for his future at the Festival. “I learned to think on my own, and I met some fabulous people while I was here.”

After graduation and nearly two years of graduate work at Idaho State, he was hired by the Festival leadership, notably founder and mentor Fred C. Adams, as the Festival’s first full-time employee, beginning work as the marketing director on March 1, 1977. Since, then he has worked as the Festival’s manager director, interim director, and (for the past nine years) as executive director.

In his 40 years, Phillips has made numerous friends as he has mingled with Festival crowds nearly every matinee and evening performance, welcoming old friends and making new ones. “Working here is like planning the biggest family reunion imaginable,” he said. “The 100,000 who come here every year are a family.”

In the process he has also been recognized as a leader in his field. Most notably he received the prestigious Mark R. Sumner Award from the Institute of Outdoor Drama in October, and in January was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Shakespeare Theatre Association.

Phillips has hundreds of wonderful memories of his time at the Festival, but the ones he treasures the most are the Festival being awarded the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre in 2000 (“Imagine a boy from Caliente on the stage of the Radio City Music Hall to accept theatre’s greatest honor”); the Festival’s 50th anniversary in 2011 (“a non-profit organization turning 50 is really something to celebrate”); and the opening of the Beverley Center for the Arts in 2016. “The opening of the Beverley was an amazing accomplishment,” he said. “To raise nearly $40 million and build this center, including two new theatres, is almost beyond belief.”

And, now, for the future? Phillips is still working on exactly what he will do, but promises he will stay busy and involved in the arts and his community. “I love Cedar City, and I love the Utah Shakespeare Festival,” he said. “I expect both of them to continue to improve and be beacons to other communities and arts organizations.”

“I do believe Cedar City and SUU are much better and stronger because the Festival is located here,” he concluded. “It has elevated the conversations in our community. It has allowed us to be presented on a national and international stage. It has encouraged diversity and inclusion which I think have made Cedar City and SUU a better place for all of us.”

Tickets are now on sale for the Festival’s 56th season, which will run from June 29 to October 21. For more information and tickets visit or call 1-800-PLAYTIX.

The Utah Shakespeare Festival is part of the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts at Southern Utah University, which also includes the Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA).

Written by Bruce C. Lee, Utah Shakespeare Festival Publications Manager