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Tragedy forges tradition: Bill Robins

On April 17, 2014

Many students have heard of the annual Robins Awards, referred to on the USU website as “the most coveted of all Utah State honors,” but few know the story that sparked the tradition.

William “Bill” E. Robins was a student at USU in the late 1940s, the time when many current students’ grandparents were college-aged. He was a Sigma Nu and student body president in 1949, pictured four times in that year’s USU yearbook, “The Buzzer.”

Robins was also the “primary and initial visionary for the Taggart Student Center,” according to USU’s website. He is described “a campus hero.”

60 years ago and five years after his presidency, he and his wife, Geraldine, were killed in a private plane crash near Denver, Colo., with another couple from Clearfield, Utah, according to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune. They left behind a 1-year-old son, named after his father.

According to USU’s website, this fatal event caused the Sigma Nu fraternity to organize a scholarship fund for the young Robins orphan so he could attend Utah State when he was old enough.

However, the child died at the age of 8 after being hospitalized and battling leukemia.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported the “death of the intended beneficiary … (wouldn’t) cause discontinuance of USU’s ‘Robins Awards Night.’” Instead, the fund was used to continue the tradition, according to the Utah State website.

Though the USU has since severed ties with Sigma Nu, as reported in Utah State Today in 2009, the annual event continues.

Originally fashioned after the Academy Awards, the formal affair is centered around the Bill Robins Memorial Award. His name has “stood as a symbol of the best efforts students can offer,” and the award is given to students who have demonstrated qualities similar to his.

This year’s awards night will take place Saturday at 7 p.m.


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