Influential Trailblazers honored with Dixie State University Presidential Awards

Influential members of the Dixie State University and Washington County communities were recently recognized at the university’s Presidential Awards Banquet for blazing new trails and making a difference in Southern Utah.

Dixie State awarded Community Engaged Awards to individuals committed to service learning, community engagement and campus-community partnerships to promote civic responsibility, service, collaboration, inclusiveness and flexibility.

Lil Barron-Barnes, director of sponsor relations for Huntsman World Senior Games, received the Committed Community Partner Award. In addition to volunteering for the Senior Games since 1996, she has served on many boards, committees and clubs in the community.

DSU Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy Dr. Nicole Schneider, who has taught at the university since 2018, was awarded the Community Engaged Scholar award. Schneider has been instrumental in the university’s Go Baby Go program, which retrofits battery-operated cars to function as power wheelchairs for local children with special needs.

Mike Nelson, assistant director of DSU’s Center for Inclusion and Belonging, was recognized with the Community Engaged Staff Member award. Outside of assisting students in the center and advising the Multicultural Inclusion Student Association, Nelson volunteers at Switchpoint Community Resource Center.

The DSU Student Association’s Vice President of Service Holly Hurtado received the Community Engaged Student award. Having been involved in service since she was 14 and with the DSUSA service branch for three years, Hurtado has completed more than 1,000 hours of service with the university alone.

Danny Ipson received the Community Engaged Alumnus Award. Ipson, who has served on DSU’s National Advisory Council, Board of Trustees and Board of Directors for the DSU Foundation, has also coached baseball at Dixie High School for 25 seasons. Additionally, he serves on Zions Bank’s customer advisory board and as vice chair of Ambest, Inc.’s Board of Directors.

Also as part of the Presidential Awards Banquet, the Board of Trustees awarded Excellence in Service Awards to Dr. Pamela Cantrell, Travis Rosenberg and Dr. Jordon Sharp.

Cantrell taught secondary science methods courses at DSU for five years and during this time, secured two large grants, helped create the STEM Education Center and developed graduate courses for the STEM Endorsement program for teachers. In her current role as associate provost for academic and budget planning, she has overseen the development of 94 academic programs.

Rosenberg, DSU’s executive director of human resources since 2015, has chaired and presented at numerous local, state, regional and national HR conferences in addition to filling various leadership roles on the DSU and the Utah Higher Education staff associations and the Utah College and University Professional Association-HR Chapter Board of Directors.

Sharp, who has more than 20 years of experience in higher education, marketing, public relations, consulting, motivational speaking and branding, oversaw DSU’s rebranding from the Red Storm to the Trailblazers and is currently over the rebrand to Utah Tech University.

The Board of Trustees also honored Brenda Armstrong, Robert Flowers and Jonathan Morrell with Excellence in Education Awards.

Armstrong, who currently serves as DSU’s Dental Hygiene department chair and has taught at the university since 2013, implements service-learning into her teaching and established partnerships with community oral health champions to help students develop professionally.

In addition to serving as the Santa Clara-Ivins police chief, Flowers also teaches at Dixie State and is the director of the DSU Regional POST Academy. He also has served as director of public safety for the state of Utah, regional director for Department of Homeland Security and chair for the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command.

Morrell, who came to Dixie State as the director of TRiO-Upward Bound in 1988, has helped secure over $16 million in grant awards and guided many students as the director of TRiO-Student Support Services program. Additionally, he has taught as a part-time instructor for 33 years.

The final Trustee Awards of the year, the Distinguished Citizen Awards, were bestowed upon Shirlee Draper, Mayor Donia Jessop and Dr. Joy Welsh.

Draper, the director of operations for Cherish Families, organized the Short Creek Community Alliance in Hildale. She also serves as president of Creek Valley Health Clinic, president of United Effort Plan Trust, board member of Short Creek Health and Recreation, treasurer of Short Creek Community Center, board chair of Utah State Disabilities Advisory Council and a member of the State Interagency Coordinating Council.

As the first female to be elected as mayor of Hildale, Jessop has helped provide access to mental health through the nonprofit Cherish Families, open the health clinic Creek Valley Health, secure school bonds, make private land ownership possible, facilitate better access to technology and recruit businesses to create hundreds of job opportunities in the community.

As an obstetrician gynecologist, Welsh has cared for women of all ages in various ways for over 24 years in St. George in addition to mentoring medical students. Additionally, she was a Girl Scout leader for 13 years, serving as the service unit director and providing medical care at community events.

Also at the banquet, two Honorary Doctorate certificates, which will also be recognized at the university’s 111th Commencement Ceremony on May 6, were presented to John Brent Hunt, posthumously, and Gary Stone.

Hunt, founder and CEO of  Soft Cell Biological Research, discovered and developed methods for studying dark microbiome. In addition to having founded new companies and established labs, he developed a patented protocol, connected with people suffering from chronic disease, established a working relationship with the University of Oxford and transformed the lives of his students. He died in 2020 but his legacy carries on in Soft Cell’s work today.

Prior to being named the chief operating officer of Intergalactic in early 2022, Stone was an institution within Intermountain Healthcare for nearly a quarter-century. Beginning his career as a registered nurse in the 1990s, Stone spearheaded the development of Intermountain Precision Genomics in 2014 to personalize healthcare to the individual down to the DNA level.

The university also honored Valedictorian and Commencement Student Speaker Breiann Carter, who is graduating with her Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and a minor in Psychology. Additionally, Outgoing Student Body President Penny Mills, Outgoing Faculty Senate President Susan Ertel and Outgoing Staff Association President Megan Church were thanked and recognized.

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