Weber State University’s Alumni Association held “WSU Salutes” Thursday evening at the Lindquist Alumni Center. The event is part of WSU’s Homecoming Week, and is held to honor alumni who have lived distinguished lives, made a difference in the community, or have otherwise contributed to the success and reputation of WSU.
“Weber State University is a great institution,” said Nolan Karras, one of the recipients of the WSU President’s Award. “I was a first-generation student, so coming here was quite a gift for me. (Weber State) propelled life forward.”
Karras is a 1970 WSU alumnus, graduating cum laude with a degree in banking and finance. Karras served two years as House speaker and two as the House majority leader before being appointed to the Utah State Board of Regents.
Many of the award recipients spoke fondly of their years at WSU.
“You get great teachers at Weber,” said Distinguished Alumnus Award winner Kem Gardner. “I remember every single teacher I had here as a freshman, but I can’t for the life of me name any professors I had at U of U . . . There’s no TAs here. You get a real professor for every class.”
Gardner co-founded the Boyer Company, one of the largest real estate development firms in the western U.S. He also is a past chair of the Utah State Board of Regents, and he was behind the fundraising efforts for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Gardner also established an undergraduate research scholarship fund at WSU, as well as a scholarship for financially disadvantaged students. He said that is his way of giving back to the school that gave him a chance at a good education.
“I came from a family of nine children off a farm,” Gardner said. “If Weber State University hadn’t given me a scholarship, I wouldn’t have had the chance to attend school. I will be forever grateful for the chance they gave me.”
WSU President F. Ann Millner addressed the full house at the awards ceremony. Millner expressed appreciation for the way these people have helped pave the way for future generations of Wildcats.
“They help our students achieve their educational goals,” she said. “They’re actively engaged in the lives of the university and they make a difference for all of us.”
Six awards are given out each year: the Distinguished Alumni Awards, the Outstanding Young Alumnus, the Emeriti Alumni Homecoming Royalty, the Lewis W. Shurtleff Awards, the Emeriti Lifetime Achievement Award and, finally, the WSU President’s Awards. Altogether, 10 people were honored for their contributions to the school and the community. Contributions to the “Pathway to Student Success” brick campaign and scholarship were also recognized.
“Some of our alums have given generously to that,” Millner said. “If you look outside the Lindquist Alumni Center, you will see the wonderful bricks that honor them. But those bricks are really reflective of their commitment to future generations of students.”
The brick campaign serves as a reminder for alumni to help future generations of college students follow in their footsteps. It also serves as a reminder to current WSU students to recognize the alumni who have helped make WSU a better school over the years.
The youngest alumnus to be recognized this year was Curtis Funk. Funk, who received the Outstanding Young Alumni Award, graduated just last year. He started a business while still a student at WSU. His website, FuneralRecording.com, helps mortuaries broadcast tribute videos via the Internet. It has been featured in Utah CEO and named FoxNews.com’s No. 1 Tech Trend of 2010.
Funk said he was “honored and excited” to receive such a distinguished award so soon.