The Utah Valley University Awards of Excellence program recognizes faculty and staff who dedicate their time and talents to students, scholarship and the advancement of higher education. This year, the UVU Board of Trustees recognizes five employees for their contributions to forwarding UVU’s mission. The Presidential Awards of Excellence highlight seven faculty and staff for their efforts in key areas related to UVU’s mission and core themes.
Here at UVU, I am regularly inspired by the contributions of our faculty and staff. Tonight I am pleased to recognize formally a few of our employees whose dedicated service is illustrative of so many across campus carrying out their various responsibilities with tremendous energy and excellence. This is just one of the ways — though a particularly visible and meaningful way — that the University strives to make sure that such marvelous efforts do not go unnoticed. As a result, I consider this one of the most important University events of the year.
A warm welcome, then, to all who are joining us this evening to celebrate some truly standout accomplishments by those who make UVU what it is — a grand, transformative force in the lives of thousands and thousands of students.
Matthew S. Holland
Over the past weeks, the world has reveled in the virtuosity of its Olympic athletes. Virtuosity finds place not only in sport, but in all aspects of human endeavor — and perhaps with highest impact in the Academy where virtuosity is infectious.
And so it is a privilege for members of the Board of Trustees to join with UVU officials in honoring you as members of the University family in your individual pursuit of high and noble professional ideals. Tonight we recognize the virtuosity of a select few who have distinguished themselves through outstanding service to the students, the institution and the community.
We thank and congratulate those being honored for demonstrating exceptional dedication to the ideals and mission of UVU. As Trustees, we acknowledge the contributions made by all the faculty and staff of the University. We thank you for your service and reaffirm the commitment of the Board to supporting the mission of UVU as a serious, inclusive and engaged university.
Steven J. Lund
Chair, UVU Board of Trustees
Since her appointment as chair of the UVU Department of Music in 2010, Donna Fairbanks has overseen dramatic expansion of the department in terms of faculty, students, degree programs and prominence. She led the effort to obtain accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Music and oversaw the implementation of two new bachelor of music programs.
Fairbanks has a national and international reputation as a performing and recording violinist. Her CDs have received widespread acclaim and have been featured on dozens of classical music radio stations throughout the country. She regularly performs in celebrated venues, including the Rotterdam Conservatory in the Netherlands, the Hungarian National Gallery and Nanjing University in China.
Her favorite aspect of working at UVU is its people: the talented and dedicated students, highly qualified and collaborative faculty, skilled and devoted staff, and supportive administrators.
Kenneth E. Mathews began working as the director of food services at Utah Technical College in 1984. He was the director of auxiliary services and the Sorensen Student Center from 1994 to 2008 and has been the senior director since 2008.
Prior to joining UVU, Mathews worked as a food service administrator at Brigham Young University. He has been honored several times for his commitment to excellence at UVU, including the Staff Excellence Award in 2007, the Student Service Award of Excellence in 2003, the PACE Distinguished Employee Award in 2000 and the Student Services Employee of the Year Award in 1988.
Mathews is grateful for the lasting friendships he has made at UVU and considers the greatest aspect of working here to be the people. He also loves the sense of community, which cultivates an enduring loyalty to the campus and student success. He and his wife, Dana, have four children and seven grandchildren, with an eighth due this month.
Kyle Reyes has served as special assistant to President Matthew S. Holland since 2009. Previously, Reyes worked in the development of programs and services for underrepresented students and communities, such as Upward Bound, GEAR UP and the Multicultural Center.
In 2007, Reyes created UVU’s Latino Initiative to increase student achievement within the growing Latino community. Reyes has received a number of awards for his work in community outreach and inclusive initiatives. He currently serves on several community boards, directs the presidential internship program and is the hip hop club adviser.
Reyes and his wife, Michele, are the proud parents of four boys and one girl. He is an active artist and designer and enjoys playing sports with his children. In his opinion, the greatest aspect about working at UVU is the people — especially the students, whom he considers a constant, inspiring reminder of the importance of our work.
Sam Rushforth is dean emeritus of the College of Science & Health. A renowned expert in aquatic botany and wetland ecology, Rushforth has published more than 100 peer-reviewed papers and books. Prior to coming to UVU, Rushforth spent three decades as a faculty member at BYU. He has mentored more than three dozen graduate students who now work all over the world in various capacities.
During his 14 years at UVU, Rushforth saw the college grow exponentially: he hired more than 50 faculty and staff members, expanded the degree offerings and established the Master of Science in Nursing degree, one of the University’s three master degrees. In 2012, he and the college celebrated the opening of the new state-of-the-art 160,000 square foot Science Building.
Earlier this month, Rushforth and Scott Abbott celebrated the publication of their new book, “Wild Rides and Wildflowers: Philosophy and Botany with Bikes.”
An associate professor of history and American Indian studies, David R. Wilson has been with UVU since 2001. In addition to teaching courses in American Indian studies, race relations and American civilization, Wilson works extensively with multicultural clubs and students and with recipients of the Sunshine Lady Foundation scholarships.
Originally from Lawrence, Kan., Wilson was formerly an administrator and instructor at Chief Dull Knife College, the tribally controlled community college of the Northern Cheyenne Nation. He is the co-author of “We, the Northern Cheyenne People: Our Land, Our History, Our Culture” and has won several awards for his outstanding service and instruction.
Wilson and his wife, Carol, an associate professor of sociology at BYU, have one daughter, who is a surgical central processor at UVRMC. He believes that he has the best bosses in the world, thanks to their support of his work with single moms returning to school to get their degrees.
As the director of events and communications for UVU’s development and alumni division, Jessica Ballard develops major fundraisers, community events and donor cultivation opportunities for the University. A Presidential Award winner for efficiency and effectiveness, she is inspired by the students she meets who are directly helped by the funds raised for scholarships, programs and new buildings at UVU.
Before joining UVU, Ballard worked as the manager of special events for the American Red Cross Utah Region and the director of marketing and public relations for the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company. She graduated from Westminster College last spring with a Master of Professional Communication degree and recently earned the Certified Special Events Professional designation.
Ballard and her husband, Benjamin, live in Riverton, Utah. She enjoys photography and is hoping to publish her book, “I’m Not a Party Planner: An Event Professional’s Guide to Planning Strategic Events,” this year.
An academic adviser for the Department of English & Literature, Dawn Chase appreciates the quality time she gets to spend with students on an individual basis to help them navigate the University. Before joining UVU in 1988, Chase worked as an administrative assistant and dental assistant. She has worked with the English department since 1992.
Chase, the Presidential Award winner for student success, has been a member of the National Academic Advising Association for the past 11 years and presented at the national conference in 2013 and 2010. She has been a certified academic adviser since 2007 and teaches Professional Considerations for the English Major in addition to her duties as an adviser.
Chase enjoys getting lost in a book and listening to her favorite storyteller at the yearly Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. She and her husband, Luis, enjoy watching films and gardening.
Kathie Debenham, from San Carlos, Calif., is a professor of dance with more than 30 years of experience. She has enjoyed helping her students discover their own voices as emerging artists and artist-teachers. Her work has led to her being recognized with several university honors, including the Trustees Award of Excellence in 2004.
This year’s Presidential Award winner for service, Debenham has taught at UVU since 1995. She was the founding chair of the UVU Department of Dance and has served as interim dean for the School of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences and the School of the Arts when it was formed in 2008. From 2009 to 2012 she served as associate vice president for academic programs.
Debenham and her husband, Pat, have three daughters and nine grandchildren, with a tenth on the way. She hopes to one day earn the rank of master gardener.
Timothy E. Doyle, assistant professor of physics, is the Presidential Award winner for scholarship. Originally from California, Doyle has written 16 peer-reviewed publications and 65 professional conference papers. He has developed three patents and has an additional three patents pending.
Before joining UVU and beginning his innovative breast cancer research — which he is using to develop a promising new tool for cancer detection and improve the health outlook of women worldwide — Doyle worked as a research professor in the physics department at Utah State University. He also worked as a senior principal scientist at Thiokol, where he developed test methods for rocket motors, and as a scientist at Idaho National Laboratory, where he researched nuclear accidents and their environmental effects.
Doyle has been married to his wife, Christine, whom he considers the inspiration of his life and his work, for 30 years.
Daniel Horns is associate dean of the College of Science & Health. This year’s Presidential Award winner for inclusion, he uses his expertise in geologic hazards, water resources and groundwater pollution to teach his students about the interaction between geology and society.
A member of the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists as well as the Utah Professional Geologists Licensing Board, Horns has presented his findings at multiple national meetings. His inclusive work at UVU has won him several awards, including the Alumni Association Teacher of the Year in 1999 and the Science & Health Teacher of the Year in 2001.
Horns appreciates the way UVU cultivates relationships across disciplines and the innovative opportunities these relationships provide for students. He and his wife have two boys and love mountain sports — especially those involving snow — and experiencing the cultures of the world.
Will McKinnon has worked at UVU for almost 20 years in a variety of capacities, including as a technician and video engineer. He is currently the director of Studios & Broadcast Services. In addition to his work at UVU, McKinnon has worked as a freelance broadcast audio technician for Fox, NBC, ESPN, TNT, TBS and local Utah stations.
Under McKinnon’s direction, the studio department has won several Telly awards for their video productions. This year, they won the Collegiate Advertising Award for their series of commercials highlighting UVU’s engaged theme.
McKinnon, a Presidential Award winner for efficiency and effectiveness, loves the can-do attitude that prevails on campus and is inspired by his co-workers, who actively pursue creative solutions to tough problems. He and his wife, Lin, have six children — three boys and three girls. He enjoys camping and playing board games with his family and friends, rappelling and being outdoors.
Keith White is this year’s Presidential Award winner for teaching and innovation. An associate professor of developmental mathematics, he uses his background in mechanical engineering to help students understand the fundamentals of math.
Before joining the UVU faculty in 2005, White worked in the manufacturing software industry. In 1995, White was awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and in 1996 he received a Fulbright Grant to study software development for surgical template fabrication in Germany. He has presented about numerous topics in developmental math and enjoys the challenge of improving quantitative literacy at the University.
White believes that UVU is a place of opportunity and enjoys helping students take advantage of those opportunities to change their lives for the better. When he is not working, White enjoys camping and participating in Utah’s many outdoor recreation activities with his family.