Thunderbird Awards Honors Exceptional Students, Faculty, Staff

Published: January 31, 2011 | Read Time: 4 minutes

More than six decades since the inaugural Thunderbird Awards, the campus community is deep in preparations to recognize the campus’ most outstanding T-Birds in the annual Oscar-style awards ceremony.

The Thunderbird Awards is tentatively set for April 9, and nominations for the event have closed.

When the event was first established in 1950, there were only four awards given out. There are now 17 different award categories, including Male and Female Contributor of the Year, Professor of the Year, Advisor of the Year, Performer of the Year, Athletes of the Year and Personality of the Year.

Sara Shupe, who is in charge of the judging process of the 2011 Thunderbird Awards, said the more nominations received the better.

“It is important to get nominations to let the dedicated faculty and staff and the diligent students know that they are appreciated,” Shupe said. “We would like to get numerous nominations in order to allow…all those hard working individuals to understand that we are proud of them and that we care for them and their efforts.”

SUU Assistant Director of Student Involvement & Leadership Jake Johnson said anyone can nominate for the Thunderbird Awards, including community members.

After receiving the nominations the next step is selecting a winner, which is not as easy as it might seem, in fact it is a long and careful process to guarantee the right T-Bird receives the award.

After nominations are accepted committee members for the Thunderbird Awards will go through and check for eligibility, for academic awards and awards with certain requirements, and then a notification will be sent out to nominees to send in a résumé and answer a few questions for the judging panel, Shupe said.

The judging panel consists of students, faculty, staff and community members.

After the judges review the packets, a top five will be selected for each category. These five will move-on to the final round where they will be interviewed by a random panel of about four judges, Shupe said.

After all of this the winners will be announced at the actual Thunderbird Awards event, which is centered on being classy, Shupe said.

“This event is unique in the fact that the community and SUU combine together to recognize deserving individuals regardless of age, status, gender or ethnicity,” she said. “Every year we plan this event we have the individuals in mind while trying to give a classy, sophisticated and fun environment for everyone to come and join.”

The people who plan the event also work hard that the reception for finalists has a positive environment of “goodwill and appreciation.” With this same idea in mind, entertainers are chosen with the idea that the entertainment complements the event.

Johnson said the Thunderbird Awards is a celebration of recognizing people who not only are doing something they love to do but they also are doing exceptionally well in what they do.

Even if students, faculty, staff or community members are not nominated for an award, Shupe said they are still “welcomed with open arms to the event.”

“This was planned for them…in mind (and) we would love to have their support and participation in the event,” Shupe said. “It is fun and a different type of activity that students would enjoy.”

Johnson agrees with Shupe that even if someone is not nominated they should still attend the event. This is a campus wide event and by having more people there it makes it that more powerful.

The attire for the event is best dress and students must have their student ID.
Since its inception, the event has evolved and several students, faculty, staff and community members have received awards.

Some of the past winners have even come back to the University and continue to succeed.

Johnson said one of the notable winners is Brian Vaughn who won Performer of the Year three times. Vaughn excelled as an actor for the Utah Shakespearean Festival and at other theaters and is now artistic director for the Festival.

Another example is current SUU Vice President for Institutional Advancement Stuart C. Jones whom received the Male Contributor of the Year award back in 1986. He has also received the SUUSA President’s Award since being back at the University.

There are many stories of past Thunderbird Award winners and with the winners this year, new success stories can be told.

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