Distinguished Alumnus Award

An annual honor given to a graduate of Snow College who inspires excellence in others by serving as a role model and has demonstrated significant commitment, career contributions, and community impact. This article can be found in the Alumni Magazine – Fall.

Nominate your fellow classmates for the Snow College Distinguished Alumnus Award. Do you know someone you feel is a good candidate?  Nominate someone today! (Deadline is April 30th of each year.)

This year's awards were presented during the Homecoming game on September 29, 2018.

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arrow List of previous Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipients

2018 Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipients

Boyd Beck ('65)

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Dr. Boyd Beck is a 1965 graduate of Snow College. He is most fondly remembered as a chemistry teacher with Badger Pride.

Boyd’s life has been a miracle in many ways. He has fought a lifelong battle with chronic nephritis and heart problems. As a child, Boyd was told he would never live beyond 20, but when he lived beyond that, he was told that he would never live beyond 30. When he lived beyond 30, he was told 40. His wife, Sandra said, “I think that because he was constantly told he wasn’t going to live he enjoyed each moment, because there was always the chance he might make it.”

Today, Boyd is thankful for each day he’s able to do the things he loves. His son played an important role in keeping Boyd alive. Following open-heart surgery in 1998, Boyd received a kidney transplant from his son.

A native of Spring City, Boyd was an honor student at Snow College and was president of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. He received his Associate of Science in 1965 and went on to receive a Bachelor of Science degree from Brigham Young University in 1969, and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Utah in 1973.

Boyd has served as the director of research at Albion Laboratories, Inc. and Harris Research, Inc. He has also chemical consulting experience with 11 companies. Through his career in organic chemistry, Boyd earned nine U.S. patents and numerous global patents.

Boyd and his sweetheart, Sandra, also a Snow College alum, met when they were in primary school. They grew up together and were friends when Boyd called and asked her out on a date. Boyd is happy to proclaim that they have now been married 49 years!

Boyd said it was he and Sandra’s dream to come back to the area and raise their family in Spring City. In 1977, they did just that when Boyd received a teaching position at Snow College.

Boyd said he was concerned at first when he taught at Snow because he had only worked in the industry, and hadn’t taught before. However, he said he loved teaching, and he loved the students at Snow. Sandra shared that even after Boyd had many years of teaching experience, he would still spend the time each evening to pre-prepare the next day’s lessons.

Boyd’s careful dedication to his field and his students has inspired a love of learning from many of his students. One of his students (a Snow College graduate who graduated with a medical degree at Penn State University) attributes much of his academic success to Boyd: “Dr. Beck exercised patience to ensure that all of us understood a concept before moving onward. He made himself available to students who were struggling with the coursework and spent countless hours ensuring that each student received the help that they needed. […] Dr. Beck embodies many of the reasons that I treasure my time spent at Snow College.”

Sandra recalled a recent experience when a student told her about the impact Boyd had on his life and on his daughter’s life. Boyd had taught both father and daughter –two generations – in his time at Snow College. Boyd said, “I love to see students succeed and have success; they have gone places and done well, and it’s good for me just to hear that.”

Boyd and Sandra have four children, 14 grandchildren, and several great-grandchildren. All four of their children graduated from Snow College as well as all three of their sons-in-law. They currently have two grandkids at Snow.

Since retirement, Boyd and Sandra love to explore the mountains, go on a drive, or visit their children, who all live in Utah. They also love to travel. Sandra said, “We made our minds up early in our marriage to travel as much as we could early on and not wait until retirement because we didn’t know if he would make it.”

Winston Churchill once said, “What is the use of living, if it not be to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?”

It could definitely be said that Boyd and Sandra have led a life well lived. When complimented on their life and accomplishments, Sandra and Boyd are quick to give credit to Snow College. “Snow is an important part of our family. It’s a legacy,” they both affirmed.


Maria O'Mara ('92)

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Photo by: Austin Diamond - KUER

Most people spend years figuring out what they want to do with their lives, often changing paths many times. Our first Distinguished Alumna is a rare exception. Maria Titze O’Mara found her passion for journalism and communication early, and it has been a constant throughout her life and career.

While growing up in Gunnison, Utah, Maria began perfecting her reporting skills when she created her own newspaper, The Neighborhood News, on her powder-blue Fisher Price typewriter. She would hand-deliver it to her neighbors. However, she didn’t stop there. She also took a stab at radio hosting; she and a friend used walkie-talkies to broadcast music and news reports to their sisters, who were playing in another room.

While attending Gunnison Valley High School, Maria’s interest in journalism continued to grow as she participated in speech and debate. She kept up on current events, watched the news, and read the paper and news magazines. She said these activities helped her learn how to organize and articulate her thoughts. These efforts also paid off with her winning many speech and debate tournaments.

Maria’s love for journalism continued to blossom at Snow College, where she joined the Snowdrift staff as a freshman and was editor-in-chief during her sophomore year. She said the students who worked on the Snowdrift were her best friends at Snow College. “We worked hard and had a lot of fun together. We took the paper to weekly publication and started each quarter with full-color front pages. These were firsts for the Snowdrift, and we were very proud of our work.”

Maria earned her associate’s degree from Snow College in 1992. As an outstanding student, she completed the Honors Program at Snow and went on to the University of Utah where she also completed the Honors Program there. In fact, her honors courses led to an internship and, eventually, a full-time job as a reporter at public radio station KUER 90.1.

Maria loved working as a reporter for KUER where she covered a wide variety of topics, including wilderness designation, welfare reform, the Utah Legislature, and the Sundance Film Festival. She said that start gave her a great foundation for the rest of her career.

Maria’s career came to a crossroad in her mid-20s when she received two job offers. One job was at a public radio station in Wisconsin, and the other at the Salt Lake Observer, which was a new weekly newspaper. She chose the position of managing editor for the Observer. Unfortunately, the newspaper failed within a year. However, Maria continued to work in print journalism at the Deseret News.

After a few years of newspaper reporting, Maria’s supervisors gave her the opportunity to report live on KSL TV and KSL Newsradio. She oversaw this “convergence” until 2005, when she was promoted to managing editor for KSL TV where she would spend the bulk of her career managing the newsroom.

In 2011, with news management under financial pressure, Maria said she faced the hardest decision of her career, to leave journalism.  However, Maria didn’t stray too far. She used skills as an excellent communicator to work in public relations for Rocky Mountain Power and the University of Utah.

Maria didn’t stay far from the newsroom for long, though. She is now back at KUER, where she first started. She is the station’s general manager, with responsibilities that include overseeing fundraising and development, marketing, and even some engineering.

“I like to say I’ve been a journalist and I’ve been a spokesperson, and now I’m a spokesperson for journalism,” Maria said. “It is my job to defend and protect the viability of KUER and public media in general, and I’ve never been tasked with anything I care about more in my career.”

Maria and her husband, Brian, live in West Jordan with their two children, Kathryn and Gavin. Maria is happy that she married a news junkie who never tires of talking about current events. As “backseat NPR listeners,” her children are also well-versed in the news and like to converse with adults about what is happening in the world, something that brings Maria quite a bit of joy.