A Time for Thanks at SUU

Published: November 07, 2007 | Read Time: 4 minutes

Tuesday afternoon brought sunshine, bright yellow leaves and an early thanksgiving to the campus of Southern Utah University at the school’s annual Scholarship Appreciation Luncheon. The event, intended to provide SUU scholarship recipients the opportunity to meet and thank the donors who have paid for their education, revealed just how much impact a single person can have on another’s success.

According to Lori Blackner, director of scholarships at SUU, “the extraordinary people in attendance (Tuesday afternoon) exemplify the University’s motto, affirming that education truly is the gift that lives forever.”

The four students that spoke affirmed such a claim as each discussed the experiences that led them to SUU and toward personal and academic success—and the impact financial support in their education has had on their lives.

Terasa Hardy, an elementary education major from Enoch, spoke of the odds she’s overcome to attend SUU. As the oldest of four children and the first and only high school graduate in her family, Hardy got married during her senior year of high school, stating, “I seemed doomed to repeat the same cycle as my parents.” And yet, with little exposure to higher education, Hardy said her parents’ struggles instilled in her a desire to get an education—“to make a difference in my own life.” In addition to thanking the donors who funded her education, Hardy also thanked “the teachers who showed (her) it is OK to reach for the stars.” As a 2008 graduate, Hardy hopes to instill that same drive in her future students, stating, “I want to teach children of their great potential.”

Joel Landon, an education major from Southern California, opened his speech by stating, “I can see the kindness you all share; the love and support each of you give is contagious.” Landon then went on to talk about the impact his scholarship has had on his education and on his family. According to Landon, he and his wife are both working students, but do not make enough money on their own to allow both of them to attend school at the same time. His scholarship makes that possible. Landon expressed a strong urge to find ways to help others—as a way to honor the generosity that is currently helping him earn a college degree.

Meladee Killpack, a nursing major from Cedar City, spoke of the ways her scholarship has “provided opportunities to become successful and to participate in society.” Killpack had an interest in nursing from a very young age, but found life took her in a very different direction that did not include a college education. After two separate tragedies within her family, Killpack was reminded of the impact nurses have on the people they help. At the time, Killpack was “looking for something more spiritually rewarding, something that offered opportunities to set goals, to persevere and to accomplish.” Considering the demands of school, her two children and twelve hour nursing shifts, Killpack knows “going back to school would have been almost impossible without the financial support (she) received through (her) scholarship.”

Kyle Swallow, an agriculture major from Flowell, a small farming town just west of Fillmore, spoke about the way his scholarship changed his perceptions of education and community. His scholarship has given him the time to devote to his academics that has uncovered rich relationships with academic advisors and faculty. Swallow expressed his appreciation for the individual attention he received from his professors, telling the donors in attendance, “I know this care and willing support from my teachers is possible only through the financial contributions from all of you.”

Tuesday afternoon’s opportunity for SUU donors and students to meet provides all a unique opportunity to see their actions through the eyes of another.

In his closing remarks, SUU president Michael T. Benson called education “the great equalizer,” stating, “I think it appropriate we meet for this purpose just a few weeks short of Thanksgiving. It’s a great way for us to thank those who support SUU for giving our students a portal to a better life.”

In addition to thanking donors, the luncheon is also intended to recognize student success. Through the generosity of Edward and Carolyn Rondthaler, two $3,000 prizes have been created that recognize the top psychology and the top music student at SUU annually.

This year’s recipient of the Edward and Carolyn Rondthaler Prize in Music went to Laura Hailstone, a senior vocal performance and secondary education major from Westhaven, Utah. The Carolyn and Edward Rondthaler Prize in Psychology went to Jarod Anderson, a psychology and philosophy student from Orem, Utah.

The Rondthaler prizes are on top of any other funding or scholarships the students may currently be receiving.

To win, each student must be the top scholar in their field, must have completed at least 60 credit hours at SUU and at least 20 credit hours within their field. In addition, they must be a full-time student.

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