Founders Day 2013 takes on low-key tone
Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 14:03
USU honored select individuals and alumni at its intimate Founders Day celebration held in the USU Performance Hall Friday evening. President Stan Albrecht said the event marked a historic occasion in university, state and national history.
“On July 2, 1862 — just one day after our nation suffered the combined losses of 36,058 men in the Civil War — President Abraham Lincoln quietly signed peaceful legislation that would forever change the way that Americans thought about higher education,” Albrecht said. “Our nation’s journey toward increased hope, personal aspiration and opportunity for economic success for the children of the laboring classes was set into motion by that historic stroke of President Lincoln’s pen.”
Twenty-six years later on March 8, 1888 — exactly 125 years before USU’s 2013 Founders Day celebration — the Utah Territorial Assembly created Utah State Agricultural College.
“The university was a new institution of higher learning destined to take its place among Utah’s great armada of colleges and universities,” Albrecht said. “As we see around us, that small acorn planted on that day by our territorial legislature 125 years ago is now grown into a mighty oak.”
This year’s celebration honored five individuals in different capacities.
“Each year the Alumni Association presents the Distinguished Alumnus Award to alumni of Utah State University who have best applied knowledge, initiative and individuality in service to the university, to the public and in their professions,” said Kevin Rice, Alumni Relations and Development assistant vice president. “The Distinguished Alumnus Award is the highest award presented to individuals by the Alumni Association.”
The Distinguished Alumni Award was presented to Michael Sutton, an advocate for wildlife conservation around the world, and Rick Haskins, executive vice president of marketing and digital programs for the CW television network in California.
Haskins said he was “flabbergasted and thrilled” to receive such an honor.
“Some of my best memories in my life are at Utah State University and Logan,” Haskins said. “I look at Utah State University — and every single university — as a launch pad for life. It gives you the tools. It gives you the education and it sets you off, then it’s up to you to decide the trajectory that you’re going to put into life.”
Each year at Founders Day, USU bestows upon an exclusive number of individuals and couples the Distinguished Service Award, one of the most honorable awards presented by the university, Rice said. The award is given based on exemplary service to the university or its civic and professional areas.
“Tonight’s recipients are individuals who have made significant contributions to the community, the university and the world at large,” Rice said.
The award was presented this year to Jack and Sally Keller and Brian Tarbet.
Sally Keller has devoted much of her life to volunteer work for the benefit of the Cache Valley community, the state of Utah and the beyond. She worked in local fundraising efforts for Logan Regional Hospital, the Stokes Nature Center and the Eccles Ice Arena.
Jack Keller has worked on irrigation projects in more than 60 countries throughout the world and was a founding member of Cache Community Connections, an organization consisting of local religious, political and university leaders who help provide a variety of services intended to unify the community.
“I was very proud to receive this award, flattered actually, honored, humbled,” Jack Keller said. “The reason I’m here is because the greatest mentors in my life have brought me here. These are the people that really made me who I am by following their roles and how they conducted their lives.”
Tarbet, a retired major general in the U.S. Army, has served his country and the state of Utah in varying capacities since beginning his career both in the military and as a lawyer. In January he was appointed as general counsel in the Utah Attorney General’s office and lectures and teaches in USU’s political science department.
“I’m proud to be an Aggie and I loved my time here,” Tarbet said. “Five of my children have attended school here and my grandchildren will attend school here if they have any hope of an inheritance.”
Albrecht said the university students and faculty look a bit different today than they did those 125 years ago. He cited the university’s student body growth — 139 students in 1888 to nearly 30,000 today — as something original founders probably never imagined.
“Tonight we are a university celebrating an illustrious past, living in a wonderfully exciting present and planning for a future characterized by trajectory of continued success,” Albrecht said.