As the U celebrates the 166th anniversary of its founding in 1850, it will honor some of the people who have added to its success.
During the Founders Day Banquet, to be held at the Little America Hotel on Thursday, the U will give a Distinguished Alumnus Award to four honorees, an Honorary Alumnus Award to one person and will celebrate one outstanding graduating senior for overcoming adversity while excelling at the U.
Mary Thiriot, associate director with the Alumni Association, said all the honorees are first nominated by someone at the U or in the community and then selected by a committee that includes alumni and student volunteers.
The alumni honored this year are Deneece Huftalin, Patricia Jones, Fred Lewis and Harris Simmons. The Honorary Alumnus Award will go to Marion Willey and the student being honored is Chimedyudon Tsogdelger.
Huftalin received a B.S. as well as a Ph.D. from the U and is the current president of Salt Lake Community College. Lewis is the current senior vice president of Sutron Corporation and was a brigadier general and meteorologist for 30 years with the U.S. Air Force. Simmons is the current CEO, chairman and president of Zions Bancorporation. Willey, who did not study at the U but is the honorary alumnus, is the director of Utah Non Profit Housing Corporation and has helped to create more than 4,300 affordable housing units in the community.
Jones spent 14 years in the Utah State Legislature, including serving as the first female leader in both the house and senate. She is currently the CEO of the Women’s Leadership Institute and received her B.S. in communication with a minor in consumer studies at the U.
“I loved learning there in every class I took,” Jones said. “I loved the whole variety of classes from art to statistics.”
Jones said the U is special to her and that she enjoys every opportunity to teach or speak to classes.
The U will award student honoree Tsogdelger — called “Yudko” — an $8,000 scholarship as this year’s “Founder’s Day Scholar.” The award recognizes academic success in the face of adversity. While maintaining a full-time course load to achieve her degree in metallurgical engineering, she was also the primary caregiver to her father, who was fighting a losing battle against cancer at the time. He died in 2015.
“I’ve been through a hard year, being responsible for someone’s life while having to be successful in my classes and work as a researcher,” she said. “But now I don’t see any problem as a problem. I know I can solve it because I used to solve really tough things.”
She currently works on a research team, developing medical device projects for cancer detection. Tsogdelger wants other students to know what she has learned from her own life experience.
“If you face a difficulty, you’ll learn from that,” she said. “You have to be 100 percent sure you can make it — all that strength is inside you.”