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Snow College Distinguished Alumni 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 21, 2019.

arrow Distinguished Alumnus Award Nomination Form
arrow Distinguished Alumnus Award Criteria
arrow List of previous Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipients

2019 Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipients


Jack Anderson ('68)

Jack                              Jack2

Pictured: Eileen (Averett) Anderson (left), Jack Anderson (right)        Pictured: Jack Anderson (left), Joshua Anderson (right)

Jack Anderson is a 1968 graduate of Snow College. He is most fondly remembered as an agriculture teacher with Badger Pride.

In a photograph from 2016, Jack Anderson (’68) wears an IFA ball cap and a blue apron over a yellow t-shirt emblazoned with the word “FAMILY.” Behind him, around 20+ people mill about in the same shirts, which are stamped on the back with “Grillin & Chillin Scandinavian Days 2016.” There are tables, canopies, and a white sign in simple font that reads, “Sanpete Turkey BBQ and Picadilly Chips.”

Jack and his wife, Eileen (Averett, ’68), currently have a t-shirt quilt folded over their couch. Gifted by their daughters, the quilt is made with fabric squares from family reunions, gatherings, and service projects. Their sunny 2016 Scandinavian Days shirt is proud amongst the squares. It’s quite the perfect metaphor – family, knit by service and togetherness.

Every Memorial Day weekend, the Anderson family congregates among the many food booths at Ephraim’s Scandinavian Festival. For many festival attendees, the event is synonymous with a plate of barbecued turkey. Scandinavian Days barbecued turkey, as it turns out, is synonymous with Jack Anderson, a 2019 Distinguished Alumnus, and his family.

“We started really small, just our family and 60 pounds of turkey. …We did the Piccadilly chips on a camp stove and Dutch ovens. We sold out so fast. We thought, oh, we ought to increase.” Jack reminisced.

The tradition started in the early ‘90s, but as the business grew and more family members joined to run the booths, the production needs increased. Twenty-seven 5-gallon buckets holding 800 pounds of marinating turkey, along with 750 pounds of Piccadilly chips, are needed to feed the festival crowd. Jack and Eileen, as well as Jack’s brother and sister, all have spare fridges full of the turkey in order to marinate it for at least 24 hours. “That's what makes [it] so good,” Eileen said.

With production and helpers high, the Andersons saw no way to compensate the extended family members fairly for time and means. The solution, Jack surmised, was to put most of the profit into scholarships for Snow College students. “We started scholarships in honor of my grandparents Orrin and Olivia Anderson; my uncle Eldon J. Anderson; my parents, Robert and Ellen Anderson; and one for our family, the Jack and Eileen Anderson scholarship,” he said.

“We began those scholarships,” Jack added, “as [these family members] had all been closely associated with Snow College.” For example, Orrin worked at Snow College for 25 years, and for the last 11, he was the registrar and treasurer of the school.

Jack and Eileen also have deep connections to the College. Jack grew up taking piano lessons in what was Snow College’s then-new auditorium, and the couple first met at Snow when they were preparing a float for Homecoming. They married in 1970, a month before they both graduated from Utah State (Eileen in elementary education, Jack in animal science). They now have eight children, 33 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Jack and Eileen eventually returned to Snow College in 1975, when Jack started teaching in the agriculture department. He served as advisor for the Snow College Livestock Judging Team and the Badger Ag Club, and the organizer for the Snow College FFA Field Day. He and fellow faculty member Perry Olson worked the idle college farm with personal equipment and donated all farm proceeds to the ag department’s budget. As an advisor for the Badger Ag Club, he made a point that all club members would hike to the “S” each year: “That way, students could have a sense of pride, even if they didn’t graduate from Snow College – they could say, yes, I hiked the ‘S’,” Jack said.  

This tangibility of community – see this, touch this, explore this, taste this – was apparent in his teaching, too. “I always felt that the students needed some hands-on experience,” Jack explained, “So we volunteered to brand cattle, dock lambs, … and to give any other farm help we could to the locals. I also got parts of animals from the local slaughterhouse to use in the animal physiology class. In the classroom, besides teaching animal production, I always stressed that we were not only producing animals or crops, but we were also producing food.”

Jack would teach for 36 years, but even after retirement, his teaching did not end. He created a traveling science lab – 25 science-related activities that emphasize principles of science, curiosity, and learning – and visited numerous middle schools throughout the state. The traveling lab included hands-on experiments that could be loaded in the back of his trailer. A banner, “Science for Life,” heralds these stations and holds a Snow College pennant and inspirational quotes, such as “Learning stems from wonder.”

“Learning stems from wonder,” repeated Jack. “Hopefully they’ll say, I wonder how this works, I wonder what would happen if?”

In a life replete with service, it’s that second question – I wonder what would happen if? –that has made such an impact on all of the lives surrounding Jack Anderson: his family, his students, his community. What if a plate of barbecued turkey could help a student in need graduate? What if a sixth-grader discovers that science is fun? What if community is measured not just by compassion but also by action?

John "Jeb" Branin ('90)


Pictured: John "Jeb" Branin (left), Pam (Hurst) Branin (right)

Snow College brings many hearts together—for our 2019 Distinguished Alumnus, John “Jeb” Branin, Snow College was the place where his love of theater, teaching, and Pam, his future wife, flourished. Jeb and Pam Hurst were high school sweethearts, and when Pam received a debate scholarship to Snow College, Jeb followed. Both Jeb and Pam are 1990 graduates of Snow College. A football player with an injury, Jeb auditioned for a theater scholarship, a decision that Jeb claimed was more “destination than inspiration.” Despite experience in high school plays, a profession in the theater was not a plausible idea.

Jeb auditioned for Dr. Kim Christison, and the audition took a sideways turn. Usually, Jeb remembered, “all of the theater people would take you out to dinner and wine you and dine you, and I auditioned for Kim, and he said, ‘Sit down.’ And then he said gruffly, ‘Are you ready to work [hard]?’ I was a football player, so I responded well to that attitude – it totally resonated for me.”

With the intention of acting at Snow College while on track to becoming a football coach, Jeb studied under Snow’s three theater professors. “I realized,” Jeb said, “that there was a whole world there, and I could learn it, and I could work hard, and I could do it, and my whole world of theater was born at Snow College.”

At Snow College, Jeb fell in love with the grand stage: he played Buffalo Bill in Annie Get Your Gun, Colonel Pickering in My Fair Lady, and many other beloved roles, but his favorite role was in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. His love of Arthur Miller grew to the point that when Arthur Miller died, Jeb’s boss gave him the rest of the day off. This passion only grew.

“I spent my entire life teaching theater, doing theater, going to the theater,” Jeb asserted. “Theater is the means by which I express myself as an artist, and it is the means by which I express myself most often as an educator, and that began at Snow.”

After graduating from Utah State University, Jeb and Pam returned to Sanpete County, where Jeb began teaching. During this time, he both performed and directed at Snow College, notably directing Rumors and portraying the titular character in Tartuffe. In a poignant aside, Jeb commented, “My contribution to arts has mainly been through teaching, and I’m pretty satisfied with it.”

To fully understand the breadth of this comment, one has to understand Jeb’s career and his focus on teaching – good teaching. Jeb’s work brought him to Southern Utah University, where he has taught and served for 21 years. Since 2011, he has served as associate dean in the School of Integrative & Engaged Learning. There he saw the opportunity for theater in the established study abroad program: he founded, and continues to direct, SUU’s Theatre in London program.

Jeb also oversees the annual conference for SUU’s Experiential Learning Leadership Institute (ELLI). The Institute’s mission, as stated on its website, is to “feature, train and explore all aspects of experiential learning and its applications to educational institutions.” The fifth annual conference, held in Cedar City, was a rousing success, gathering instructors from everywhere imaginable – from the Ivy League to community colleges to K-12 schools to nonprofits – to share ideas and pedagogy. The unorthodox methods employed at the conference (writing poetry, hiking Bryce Canyon, attending the Shakespeare Festival, exploring SUU’s special collections) produce tangible results. Attendees, in discussing learning pedagogy, become active learners themselves, and the activities provide needed networking and reflection. These efforts also spurred Jeb’s role as managing director of the academic journal Experiential Learning & Teaching in Higher Education.

Jeb’s love for SUU is clearly evident, but he still bears the self-proclaimed title of “shameless Badger.” “We come back and go to shows at Snow,” Jeb said, and he is still deeply involved in raising Snow College scholarships in honor of Dr. Christison and Stuart Lewis (’92), a former theater student and theater designer who passed away in 2010.

Three of Jeb and Pam’s four children were raised in Sanpete County, and its feel of community and safety makes the time spent there a sweet memory. “You can’t have a better place to raise your kids,” Jeb professed. “Whether we were students or workers there, the community was just delightful. I think somewhere in the back of our minds, we may have considered retiring there. Snow has always had a great place in our hearts. … We will always be a part of Snow College. There’s no way around that. And that’s awesome.”