Giving Thanks to a Rainmaker

“Heather, I didn’t think I was going to get this chance to put a face to the name and see whose generosity is helping me pay for school,” said Utah Valley University student Roni Johnson at the 2018 Rainmaker Award presentation to Heather Kahlert. “I wanted to learn more about you — you’ll have to forgive my Instagram stalking. And I want to thank you because you post a lot of inspirational messages. One of your posts had a quote from Albert Camus: ‘In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.’ I want to thank you for helping me find my invincible summer.” 

Johnson grew up in Alaska and moved to Saint George, Utah, when her mother died. She was just 14 at the time, and she and brother lived with cousins while their father worked in the Alaska oil fields. After high school, Johnson attended college for a semester before marrying and starting a family. When the marriage ended in divorce, she struggled to support herself and her two children and realized she needed to finish college. 

Heather Kahlert and Roni Johnson hug

“I was drawn to UVU because of the open enrollment policy and the availability of daycare,” said Johnson. “I applied for financial aid and scholarships and secured a spot at the Wee Care Center for my children. At the beginning of my second semester, I got a scholarship from the Women’s Success Center, and I was so happy I called my sisters in tears. At that point any amount of scholarship would have been appreciated. But the money was not even the most meaningful part — it was knowing that someone was rooting for me. Someone I didn’t even know cared about me and wanted me to succeed.” 

Johnson was able to get a scholarship because of Heather Kahlert, vice president of the Kahlert Foundation, and other donors. On Feb. 21, 2018, the UVU Women’s Success Center presented Kahlert with the Rainmaker Award, which takes its name from Native American rain dances and refers to a person whose influence initiates progress and guarantees success. The award honors outstanding service and advanced advocacy for women. 

Heather Kahlert receives the Rainmaker Award from President Holland

At UVU Kahlert has supported the Women’s Success Center and WSC Scholarships as well as the Melissa Nellesen Center for Autism, where a room is named in recognition of the Kahlert Foundation’s gift. “For a couple of years now, we’ve had a program where students with autism come to classes,” said Laurie Bowen, associate director of the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism. “Now that we have the autism center, I’ve seen them blossom in a way they hadn’t before. That’s because they have their spot, and it’s safe there. They’re able to engage in a different way, so thank you for that.” 

Kahlert herself received help from the Women’s Success Center as a single mother studying at UVU. “Graduating and having an education has meant so much to me, my family, my parents, and our foundation,” said Kahlert. “I just want to thank you for making it happen – you’re the ones who really do the work every day getting women through school and helping them be happy while they’re doing it. I also wanted to say that we just approved another full-ride scholarship for the Women’s Success Center. I’m so grateful and feel so honored!” 

Presenting the award to Kahlert, President Matthew S. Holland said, “Even casual observers have noticed that Heather has become a real force in this state for good and for effecting positive change in so many different areas and ways. She’s had a particular impact on this valley. And we shouldn’t be surprised, because she is a Wolverine — a graduate of this institution.” 

The past recipients of the Rainmaker Award are Paige Holland, Michelle Taylor, Ann Laemmlen Lewis, Barbara Barrington Jones, and Janis Lindley. 

Your gift can support the UVU Women’s Success Center.