Alumni honored during Founders Day

By By Andrew Cone and By Andrew Cone

By Andrew Cone

Mario Capecchi, a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, was honored along with four U alumni during the Founders Day dinner celebration Wednesday. Capecchi, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in October for his work in gene targeting, spoke about his research during the event at the Little America Hotel.

“You never go after a Nobel Prize,” said Capecchi, who was given an honorary alumnus title. “If you do, you’re a lost cause and you’ll never get there either. I think it’s something that’s simply an accolade in essence, a recognition of what you have achieved, not what you’ve gone after.”

Founders Day celebrates the day the U was founded in 1850 and has been an ongoing tradition since 1899, when the Utah State Legislature voted to relocate the campus to its current location on the East Bench.

The first of the four U alumni honored at the event was J. Brett Harvey, president and CEO of CONSOL Energy, the largest underground coal mining company in the country. Harvey, a fourth-generation miner from Utah, has led the fight for mine safety and has recently called on the coal industry to stop its incremental approach to mine safety and reduce its accident rates to zero at every mine in the nation.

The next honoree was David Grant, a professor of chemistry and a pioneer in the use of powerful magnetic devices and a process called nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry. Grant is also a recipient of the U’s most prestigious award, the Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence.

Charlie Monfort, founding owner, chairman and CEO of the Colorado Rockies baseball team, was also an honored alumnus. Monfort serves on the board of directors for the Special Olympics The baseball team he oversees made it to the World Series for the first time in fall of 2007.

During the dinner celebration, U President Michael Young awarded the 2008-2009 full tuition Founders Day Scholarship to Lynette Avril, who is a doctoral candidate in the educational psychology program. Members of the U Alumni Association chose recipients for the Distinguished Alumni Award and the Founders Day Scholarship.

“She’s one of the very few students we’ve admitted without a master’s degree because her record was truly so superior,” Young said.

Avril got her bachelor’s degree from Westminster College and made the dean’s list all four years while working full time. Her thesis will focus on post-traumatic stress disorder, which her father suffered from before taking his life after being in and out of Veterans Affairs hospitals for more than 15 years. Now Avril has dedicated herself to helping veterans with the affliction.

“What’s wonderful about this evening is an opportunity for us to listen to some people and learn about some people who have taken their education as an opportunity and done truly remarkable things with us, things that make us proud, things that as a university make us realize that by the students that come out of our university we can make the world a better place,” Young said.

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