Celebrating 121 Years of SUU Pride

Published: March 15, 2018 | Author: Parker Rawlins | Read Time: 5 minutes

suu history founding back up the mountainEach March, Southern Utah University’s Founders Celebration salutes the school’s rich past and promising future with a variety of events. The week’s activities pay tribute to the steadfast and visionary men and women who sacrificed greatly to establish the institution, as well as those who have devoted comparable service to the building of the University over many decades.

Those loyal to SUU have come to see the story of the founding of the institution as a source of pride and inspiration. The story serves as a constant reminder of the value of higher education and the heroism and selflessness of others.

The late Dr. Gerald R. Sherratt, the 13th president of SUU, wrote the following regarding the school’s history and the determination of its founders.

“By 1897, the year of SUU’s founding, Cedar City had emerged as a thriving – yet far from prosperous – rural community of nearly 1,500 people. Primarily of English and Scottish descent, the citizens of Cedar City were a hardy lot who had spent their lives wrestling with nature for the sheer sustenance and bare necessities of life. Demonstrating an uncommon degree of self-reliance and putting their faith in Divine Providence, they had built a community with the stark essentials – but few of the amenities – of life.

That same year, the newly organized Utah Legislature called for the establishment of a teacher training school to provide for the region’s emerging pioneer communities. Acting quickly, Cedar City residents organized and began pouring labor and resources into the project. After negotiating harsh winter conditions while hauling timber from nearby mountains using only wooden wagons, the community met the state’s mandated deadline when the first building was dedicated in 1898. Now known as Old Main, the University’s first building stands as an inspirational legacy of fortitude, determination, and community triumph.

Read the full Founding Story here.

Founders Week has been celebrated each March since 1925, celebrating a story that is both unique and interesting to the university, but also rich in community history.

Mindy Benson, Vice President of Alumni and Community Relations at SUU, recently explained the importance of storytelling in an episode of Solutions for Higher Education:

“Stories are what bind us together and build the culture that people can believe in and motivate them to do more. Stories increase the success of an organization.”

Founders Week allows students to connect to the older generations of SUU and have a better sense of belonging. The story is important to the whole organization, but also to each of the families that participated in it, building community and connection.

“Alumni have heard this story for decades and generations,” Benson shares. “Alumni that graduated in the 1950s have the same shared narrative as the students graduating now. It brings them back together and they love the organization because of what they share.”

suu dedication trees oldest elm cedar cityAlong with the traditional Founder’s events, this year the University is holding a tree naming contest for the two oldest trees on campus.  Located on 300 West, near the General Classroom building, are two giant elm trees, the last remaining of a row planted in 1898 in preparation for the dedication of Old Main. At SUU, they represent some of nature’s greatest works of art. Students, faculty, staff and alumni are encouraged to submit their entries and then vote online for the best submissions.

With activities like these and others, SUU continues its mission of remembering the past to help create a better future. In the words of President Sherratt, “Southern Utah University was founded by uncommon men and women. From its beginning the University has always known that its ability to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow rests in large measure with the success it has in sustaining the legacy of its founders, a legacy which calls for superior standards and for the shared belief that nothing the University can foresee, or sense, or conceive is beyond the collective will of its students, faculty, and administration. The lesson to be learned from its founders is that however difficult the task which the University faces, nothing is impossible.”

2018 Founders Celebration Activities

Tuesday, March 20

Howard R. Driggs Memorial Lecture

11:30 a.m.

Gilbert Great Hall, Hunter Conference Center

Dr. Jennifer Keene will present, "Americans at War: Experiencing World War One." Dr. Keene is a specialist in American military experience during World War I, and professor of history and chair of the History Department at Chapman University. She also is the current president of the Society of Military History.

Bid for the Birds

6:00 p.m.

Sharwan Smith Center Ballroom

A celebration of Thunderbird Athletics with a dinner and silent auction. Featured keynote speaker is James Cowser, SUU alumnus and current team member of the Oakland Raiders. To purchase tickets, contact Sophie Collett at 435.586.7832.

Wednesday, March 21

Lunch on the Main

11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Lunch on the Main encourages students to explore the campus and hear stories about the founders. This year, students, alumni and the community will have the opportunity to name the two oldest trees on campus. Located on 300 West are two giant elm trees that are more than 120 years old. They are the last remaining trees of a row planted in 1898 in preparation for the dedication of Old Main. At SUU, they represent some of nature’s greatest works of art. People will be encouraged to submit their naming nominations during Lunch on the Main. After the submissions are tallied, online voting will begin on Thursday, March 22 and will end in a Facebook live video on Friday.

Thursday, March 22

Founders Dinner & Awards

6:00 p.m.

Gilbert Great Hall, Hunter Conference Center

RSVP to Sara Greener or call 435-586-7775

Distinguished Service Awards will be presented Richard Dotson, Gae Lynn Froyd, and the Syrett Family.

Saturday, March 24

Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference Championship

6:00 p.m.

America First Event Center

Come cheer on the Flippin' Birds as they take on Boise State University, Brigham Young University, and Utah State University. Purchase your tickets at the Thunderbird Ticket Office, online at tbirdtickets.com or by calling 435-586-7872.

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