A New Nest for the Thunderbirds: The Sterling R. Church Auditorium

Published: October 26, 2009 | Read Time: 2 minutes

Former Dean of Students Sterling R. Church once asked then SUUSA President Sandra Lord Thomas (’93 alumna) of her primary goal in life. Mired deep in the course of her studies and with hopes for a successful future, Sandra responded with an explanation of her professional aspirations.

To this, Sterling Church kindly replied, “Mine is just to be happy.” 

This sentiment, the pursuit of happiness, seems to have driven everything Church did as a student advisor, working diligently to give students ample opportunity for both success and satisfaction in the time they spent as Thunderbird students. 

As Church championed student initiatives, he developed an atmosphere of friendship and school spirit campus wide, ensuring student life would forever remain a priority at SUU. 

That student-centric vision inspired the completion of a new student center in 1996 that would serve as the heart of SUU’s campus and home base to thousands of students and hundreds of activities year after year. 

Now, four decades from when Church first took the helm of student services, more than 1600 student leaders have once again joined as Thunderbirds to champion another campus cause by raising money to help complete an auditorium designed specifically for student use. 

These recent efforts – coupled with decades of Church’s own hard work – all came together Friday afternoon when Southern Utah University dedicated the Sterling R. Church Auditorium in the Sharwan Smith Student Center. 

Though part of the original Student Center plans more than a decade ago, this auditorium has remained unfinished, a hollow concrete shell hidden behind double doors off the Rotunda. Its completion now promises to enhance many of the student activities hosted by SUU’s Student Association and the more than 140 student-run clubs and organizations campus wide. 

As former SUUSA President Treion Muller (’99 alumnus) aptly put it, “There is something so powerful about a group of individuals coming together for a good cause. Under Vice President Church’s direction, we successfully did that again and again. It is fitting we now pay tribute to his efforts by carrying on that legacy.” 

And 1600 strong, these former student leaders can think of no better tribute than to ensure their mentor’s name remains synonymous with student activities, in the Sterling R. Church Auditorium within SUU’s Student Center.

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