74th Thunderbird Awards Recognize Exceptional Faculty, Staff and Students

Published: March 29, 2024 | Read Time: 7 minutes

For over seven decades, Southern Utah University has recognized outstanding T-Birds at the annual Oscar-style Thunderbird Awards. When the event was first established in 1950, there were only four awards given out. There are now 22 different award categories that honor and recognize students, faculty, staff and community. Today it has evolved into SUU’s most prestigious awards ceremony; a campus and community-wide celebration of SUU’s exceptional students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members. Join us at the Award Ceremony on April 19th starting at 7pm in the Randall L. Jones Theatre.

Finalists were nominated by faculty, staff, and students and chosen by various committees including the Staff Association, Faculty Senate, Student Association, community members, President’s Cabinet, and other administrative leadership groups. Award categories include ​​Campus Culture & Engagement, Service, Teaching, Scholarly and Creative Activity, and Access & Belonging. This year there were over 800 nominations with 113 finalists and 31 Recipients. The event will also recognize the 2024 Influencer Award recipients, college and university valedictorians, and staff of the month recipients.

The entire SUU community is invited to attend the 74th annual Thunderbird Awards to recognize the accomplishments of their fellow T-Birds. The awards ceremony will be held in the Randall L. Jones Theatre on April 19 at 7 p.m. Semi-formal dress is encouraged.

2024 Thunderbird Award Finalists

University Department Award

The University Department Award is presented to one department, unit, or office on campus recognizing their outstanding contributions to the university and a commitment to the students of SUU.


  • Center for Teaching Innovation
  • Gerald R. Sherratt Library
  • Information Technology
  • Office of Legal Affairs
  • SUU Graduate & Online

Lifetime Achievement Award

The lifetime achievement award is given to a faculty or staff member who has excelled academically or professionally as well as demonstrated outstanding leadership ability and service to the institution during their career at SUU.


  • Christine Proctor

Board of Trustees Award of Excellence

This award is intended to formally recognize the outstanding achievements of faculty and staff at SUU with a particular emphasis in teaching, scholarship, administration, innovation, and public service. The award criteria for staff members is quality service according to the staff member’s responsibilities, innovative practices, and other service to the university or the community.


  • Shauna Mendini
  • Brandon Wiggins

Gerald R. Sherratt: Friend of SUU Award

In memory of Gerald R. Sherratt, this award recognizes and honors a member of the local community who, like Dr. Sherratt, has cultivated a distinguished record of service to SUU and the community.


  • Corrina Bow

Carmen Rose Hepworth Award

Carmen Rose Hepworth, a native of Delta, Utah, was a 1953 graduate of Southern Utah University. She taught in the Iron County School District, was an active member of the SUU Alumni Association, and provided valuable service to the University and the Utah Shakespeare Festival. She and her husband, Mel, did not have children of their own, but they influenced the lives of hundreds of students by serving as strong role models and loving mentors. Carmen had the unique ability of knowing how to get the most out of her young students. She encouraged excellence and taught her students to do more than was expected, both in academics and their personal lives. In memory of Carmen Hepworth, this award is presented by the Alumni Relations Office to an individual who demonstrates a commitment to bettering the lives of others and strengthening Southern Utah University.


  • Rex Burton

Faculty Awards

Outstanding Educator Award

This award recognizes an individual, full-time faculty who demonstrates outstanding teaching effectiveness; scholarly activity; peer respect from fellow colleagues; sincere interest in students; and professional commitment and service to others and the University overall.


  • Robin Boneck

Distinguished Educators

This award recognizes three individual, full-time faculty for distinguished teaching effectiveness; professional commitment; demonstrated interest in students; and service to others and the University overall.


  • Melinda Ford
  • Paige Gardiner
  • Marcus Lawrence

Distinguished Scholarly or Creative Activity

This award recognizes three faculty members for distinguished academic achievement in scholarship, which is defined by scholarly and/or creative work that has been peer-reviewed and judged to be superior.


  • Braden Bagley
  • Rosalyn Eves
  • Rheana Gardner

Distinguished Faculty Service

This award recognizes an individual, full-time faculty for demonstration of distinguished service to the University and the greater community; a pattern of quality service; a variety of service efforts; efforts having increased the quality of some aspect of the University’s mission; and a genuine interest in serving students, colleagues, and the University.


  • Jared Baker
  • Gretchen Ellefson
  • Brianne Kramer
  • Jennifer McKenzie
  • Wendy Sanders

Distinguished Faculty for Global Engagement

This award recognizes one full-time faculty member for actively promoting cultural and global understanding; fostering empathy among people with different life experiences; and creating opportunities for students’ personal, academic, and professional enrichment in international contexts.


  • Grant Corser
  • Iliana Portaro
  • Kevin Stein
  • Jason Stinnett
  • Lynn Vartan

Staff Awards

Staff Community & Culture Award

This award is given to a staff member who has built community across disciplines, departments, and divisions on campus and has contributed to cultivating a positive campus culture for employees and students.


  • Brenda Christensen
  • Nikki Koontz
  • Kristina Maine
  • Stacie Stein
  • Paul Snyder

Staff Mentorship Award

This award recognizes a staff member who has excelled at mentoring others (colleagues and/or students) in achieving their career objectives through moral, social, and intellectual support.


  • Bethany Bibb
  • Michael Blake
  • Andrew Burroughs
  • Dan Camp
  • Shayla Inskeep

Outstanding Staff Award

Given to one classified and one professional staff member. Each year the Staff Association recognizes and honors two outstanding staff employees. These awards recognize the recipients' career in university service and their dedication to the institution.

Classified staff finalists:

  • Mason Cottam
  • Angela Eyre
  • Shelly Roy
  • Brent Turnbaugh
  • Jana Williams

Professional staff finalists:

  • Dialea Adams
  • Carmen Alldredge
  • Brian Fullerton
  • Jeffrey Hunt
  • Belinda Singleton

Distinguished Initiative or Activity Award

This award recognizes a staff member who has gone above and beyond their job duties to improve operational processes and/or establish initiatives that support SUU's strategic goals.


  • Tessa Anderson
  • Summer Frandsen
  • Kaity Kuhn
  • Susan Merrill
  • DeNean Petersen

Personality of the Year Award

Recipients of the Personality of the Year Award are campus characters who are remarkably funny, uncommonly kind, and a little quirky. These unique students and employees make campus life exciting and fun, and they use their enthusiasm, optimism, and humor to lighten a situation or encourage a friend with a simple smile and impeccable timing. Personality of the Year is awarded each year to one student and one employee.


  • Heather Garcia
  • Jerry Ross
  • Tevita Sekeni
  • Jana Stoneman
  • Asher Swan

Student Awards

R. Kenneth Benson Award

Recipients of the R. Kenneth Benson Award have excelled academically; maintaining a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.6. They have also shown outstanding leadership ability and dedicated themselves to serving the University and the community. This is the most prestigious and distinguished award given to a student at Southern Utah University.


  • William Harrison
  • Brook Henderson
  • Alexis McIff
  • McKenna Murphy
  • Hallie Woodruff

Sterling R. Church Student Involvement Award

Recipients of the Sterling R. Church Student Involvement Award have shown extraordinary commitment within one specific organization, club, or department at SUU. Their contributions within the specific area are not only visible to those within their organization but to the campus as a whole. The student has gone above and beyond their call of duty.


  • Colter Bennett
  • Carson Brown
  • McKay Fawcett
  • Madi Kotter
  • Om Mehta

Georgia Beth Thompson Service Award

Recipients of the Georgia Beth Thompson Service of the Year Award have exhibited volunteer service that has had a significant impact on Southern Utah University and the local community. This student has exhibited a high level of commitment to volunteerism and civic engagement.


  • Amy Adams
  • Blythe Austin
  • Leah Crossley
  • Eme Larsen
  • Emily Waite
  • Rachel Barker

Personality of the Year

Recipients of the Personality of the Year Award are campus characters who are remarkably funny, uncommonly kind, and a little quirky. These unique students and employees make campus life exciting and fun, and they use their enthusiasm, optimism, and humor to lighten a situation or encourage a friend with a simple smile and impeccable timing. Personality of the Year is awarded each year to one student and one employee.


  • Pax Balumiza
  • Elizabeth Brown
  • Courtney Glad
  • Brandon Walton
  • Jeremy Walker

Student Organization Award

Recipients of the Student Organization Award consistently contribute to the improvement and well-being of their members while also enhancing the educational experience of students at Southern Utah University. Through meaningful campus involvement and considerable community service, the Student Organization Award is a leading organization among the University’s numerous independent student clubs and university-sponsored organizations.


  • Alpha Phi
  • Student Alumni Association
  • SUUSA Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council
  • SUUSA Student Programming Board
  • SUU Women in Business Club

Scholars of the Year

Eight outstanding students have been named Southern Utah University’s valedictorians in honor of their perseverance and academic excellence. Each has a remarkable story leading them to be placed as the highest academically ranked individual in their area of study.


  • Holly Biesinger
  • Joshua Brinkerhoff
  • Bailey Jeppesen
  • Reagan Kimball
  • Jazzlyn Shannon
  • Kylee Stoddard
  • Allie Quarnberg

Student Artist of the Year

The Student Artist of the Year finalists are selected as exceptional students in their field by the College of Performing and Visual Arts Faculty.


  • Bailey Bishop
  • Allison Ipson
  • Eleora Ryan
  • Taylor Tumminia
  • Michael Westwood

Athlete of the Year

The award for athlete of the year honors men and women who have demonstrated exceptional athletic prowess, commitment to their teammates, and authentic sportsmanship while representing Southern Utah University in intercollegiate athletic competitions. Although highly dedicated to their sport, these men and women also excel academically and define what it means to be a student athlete.

Male Finalists:

  • Astley Davis
  • Dylan Gibson
  • Isaiah Labra
  • Justin Miller
  • Isaiah Wooden

Female Finalists:

  • Daylani Ballena
  • Ajia Hughes
  • Niya Randolph
  • Andrea Spasojevic
  • Excel Thalangkarn

Employees of the Month:

  • Mande Adams
  • Pam Branin
  • Stephanie Clarke
  • Paul Eberhardt
  • Lauri Garfield
  • Landry Igiraneza
  • Talaya Logan
  • Heather Ogden
  • Angeleca Sackett
  • Brent Taylor

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