Foundation Board Chair 1998-2001
Thone Heppler served as chair of the Utah Valley University Foundation Board during the latter years of President Kerry Romesburg’s term. With enrollment skyrocketing, funding was a constant struggle. And with only one Utah Valley representative on the Board of Regents—and that one a strong supporter of the University of Utah—increasing funding was an uphill battle. “We really had a hard time getting a voice both in the legislature and in the board of regents,” remembers Heppler.
Much of Heppler’s time was spent setting parameters to protect the Foundation and the College from risky investments. “We didn’t have very many solid donations coming in in those days,” says Heppler, “So we would consider almost anything that came along, and some were pretty scary investments that presented too much liability for the school. I spent quite a bit of time with Corey Duckworth developing policies for what we would take as gifts and how we would invest our money once we got it.”
The College struggled to keep up with growth on the academic side as well. “We had way too many adjunct professors, and that’s still a little bit of a challenge at UVU, but it was a bigger challenge at that time to get enough quality professors to teach the classes,” says Heppler.
By the time Heppler served as Foundation Board chair, he had been involved with the institution for decades. President Wilson W. Sorensen, who served from 1946 to 1982, originally called on Heppler to volunteer, and over the years Heppler served on an advisory board representing professionals in the valley and on the advisory board for the business school. He has worked with every president since Sorensen.
“Every time we’ve had a change in presidents, it’s been a really good fit for the school,” says Heppler. “Each president has moved the school forward, doing whatever was needed to take it to the next level.”
The only sure way out of poverty is through education, says Heppler. And UVU fills a niche by helping nontraditional students—students like the single mother or the father who’s been working part time while getting an education. UVU professors are focused on helping students get through school and into the workforce to a degree that he doesn’t see elsewhere.
This year’s chair of the UVU Foundation Ambassadors, Lacey Farley, is currently receiving the Thone Heppler Scholarship, and the two have met and gotten to know each other at UVU events. “I think Lacey really represents what UVU stands for. She’s a first-generation college student in her family, and that’s kind of what it’s about. She’s set a new paradigm in her family for education,” says Heppler.
“Whenever I talk to somebody who has gone to UVU or is there now, they really have a sweet spot in their heart for the school, and I think that’s remarkable,” says Heppler. That includes one of Heppler’s sons, who attended Utah Valley State College in the 1990s before transferring to Brigham Young University and eventually earning a Ph.D. in audiology. “You won’t find a bigger BYU fan than my son, especially when it comes to football, but if you ask him which school he enjoyed the most, he’ll tell you UVU.”
As a banker, Heppler says that if UVU were a business he’d be worried about it going broke, growing so fast that it outstrips its capital base. “It amazes me how fast the school is growing, yet we seem to be able to identify our problems and keep it afloat and improving all the time,” he says. “It’s amazing what some of UVU’s students and graduates are accomplishing. It’s a great school, and I’m proud to be associated with it.”
Heppler retired as regional president for Zion’s Bank in 2006 and is a former principle and manager of New Star Property LLC. He was named 2005 Businessman of the Year by the Provo-Orem Chamber of Commerce. He currently serves on the UVU National Presidential Advisory Board and has served as president and director of the Provo-Orem Chamber of Commerce and as president of the Utah County Bankers Association.