Gala Celebration

Gala Celebration

By Michael T. Benson
January 7, 2002
Pres. Benson's first official address to Snow College faculty, students and staff.
Spence - that is, I'm quite certain, the first time "Utah Man" has been played in this gym and we hope it won't be the last.

Thank you all for being here this afternoon. I would especially like to recognize . . .
Spence Eccles and Bob Graham, Directors of the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation.
Greg Horne of Phoenix, Arizona, and his brother Doug, of Provo, representing the Seth and Maurine Horne Family - I would like all the members of the Horne family to please stand and be recognized

Senator Leonard Blackham
Gary Anderson - Former Mayor of Ephraim and our current mayor, Morris Casperson -
Dean Cox and Garth Sorenson - Ephraim City Council Members, and
Eddie Cox and Bruce Blackham, Sanpete County Commissioners

And from our own Snow College Board of Trustees:
Rick Bartholomew -
Tim Blackham -
LuAnne Brown -
Jerold Johnson -
Gwen McGarry -
Richard Waddingham -
Student body president, Chante Wouden, and Scott Wyatt

I would also recognize all the faculty, staff, and community members with us and want to thank one group in particular for being here: THE STUDENTS!!

As I told a large LDS Church gathering yesterday, I am coming to Snow College to complete my education in a very literal sense. I intend to be a student and to learn as much in my role as President of Snow as every incoming freshman does or junior faculty member or classified staff member. We are all in the business of education and the dissemination of knowledge and I welcome the opportunities to learn from all of you.

To set the tone for this afternoon's events, I would like to quote the words of the founder of the University of Virginia and one of my heroes, Thomas Jefferson. He said this: "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock." We are gathered to announce and celebrate three different items and while the first two might be considered matters of style, the third is most certainly a matter of principle. The principle involved is the commitment of everyone at Snow College to excellence.

Right at the heart of the seal of Snow College is written these words: Pursuit of Excellence. But what does that mean and why should we say it? Is it similar to the perfunctory recitation of tired so-called "mission statements" or does everyone at Snow College really believe that the very core of our work on this campus is the pursuit of excellence? Legendary coach Vince Lombardi once said: "The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor."

I would apply that statement to each of us at Snow College: our individual commitment to excellence - regardless of our position or our faculty rank or class standing or our area of employment - is directly tied to the quality of the product we are delivering to the citizens of the state of Utah. As Booker T. Washington observed: "Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way."

Many have asked what my vision for Snow College is and where I intend to take this institution. I am still formulating the specifics of this vision and will announce in much greater detail what they are at a later date. However, I can tell you today that my overarching commitment to all of you and to this community is to preserve and enhance the quality of Snow College and its academic reputation and to make it an even better institution. Today's announcements put us squarely on this course toward the pursuit of even greater excellence.

I commend and thank all who have given so much to Snow over the past 110 plus years, especially my predecessor, Gerry Day, for his counsel and guidance as I assume my responsibilities here in Ephraim and at Snow South in Richfield.

And now to our announcements: As I mentioned, the first two have more to do with style but they are, nonetheless, significant. They say much about who we are and how we feel about ourselves as an institution. And just as Jefferson advised, I will "swim with the current" and solicit your input and suggestions with regard to the "look and feel" of Snow College. Nothing that is unveiled today is permanent and I invite all who care to comment or make suggestions on what they think to contact me directly with their respective opinions.

I would like to replace the old Snow College logo with bold and distinctive lettering and logos. Some of you might recognize the interlocking "SC" as that used by the University of Southern California. I am happy to report that this particular design is original and represents a look unique to Snow College - we intend to pursue trademark protection for our very own Snow College "SC."

I would also like to propose retiring the old Snow College Badger with two new looks for Buster: the first is a menacing, mean-looking badger that promises to inflict severe pain on the Dixie State Rebels the next time we play them in St. George. Buster's "kinder, gentler" twin brother is now being worn by our own Snow College Cheerleaders - I invite all those students who came early to put on their Buster tee shirts.

Our second announcement puts this institution in a category all by itself. I am happy to announce that Snow College - as of January 1, 2002 - is the only all-Nike two-year school in the United States. Nike will be the sole provider of apparel, footwear, and equipment for all six of our men's and women's sports. In finalizing the arrangements with Nike officials last week, I asked what unique standing Snow College would enjoy if we entered into such an agreement. We are now the lone all-Nike outfitted junior college in the country and will enjoy the same discounts and advantages of many Division I schools such as Utah State and BYU. Congratulations to Snow College, the only all-Nike all-sports two-year school in the United States!

I am a firm believer in the integral role of athletics in developing the lives and character of student-athletes. I also believe in the contributions made by athletics to communities and its function in getting people more familiar with Snow College. Athletics, as Dr. Chris Hill of the University of Utah often says, serve as the front porch to a campus. Today I reaffirm my commitment to excellence within our athletic programs.

Having said that, I also state - unequivocally - that we are first and foremost an academic institution and we must focus our attention and resources on this primary mission. One of Snow's truly outstanding areas - and one that has done so much with so little - is our performing arts.

This brings us to our third, and most significant announcement. It has to do with a project that has occupied a space on Snow's master plan for ten years: a performing arts center. I should like to pay special thanks to one of Snow College's greatest supporters in the legislature, Senator Leonard Blackham, for his unyielding assistance to this project. I am happy to report that the Snow College Performing Arts Center currently tops the governor's list for capital projects to be funded during this next legislative session. Senator Blackham, thanks to you and to your colleagues for your vision in keeping this absolutely vital project alive and moving forward.

A few weeks ago, we were given the charge by the Division of Facilities and Construction Management to raise $2 million by March 1, 2002, or the Snow College Performing Arts Center would be severely scaled back or even scrapped entirely.

As we approached a local foundation with a request for the full amount we used this line from the poet Samuel Johnson who once wrote "the gallows have a unique way of focusing the mind." At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, the Performing Arts Center - just a few weeks ago - found itself at the symbolic gallows. Had it not been for the gracious support of two sources, none of us would be here to celebrate this historic day for Snow College.

In mid-December, we were notified that Snow had been awarded a "last dollar" grant with one condition: $500,000 had to be secured by the end of 2001 in order to receive the other $1.5 million. Like every good fundraiser should do, I asked for a list of potential donors who could be asked for that much money on extremely short notice. This was a VERY short list.

In fact, there was only one family who could step in and provide the absolutely critical donation in order to leverage this last-dollar challenge. This is a family with a long history of love for and support of Snow College, including several generous gifts to the Greenwood Student Center. Of course, I'm talking about the family of Seth and Maurine Horne.

For their incredible pledge of $500,000 and their continued commitment to Snow College and its academic excellence, I am happy to inform you that last Friday, the Executive Committee of the Utah State Board of Regents approved the following name change: our music program at Snow College will be now known as the Maurine D. and M. Seth Horne School of Music.

We are honored to have with us this afternoon - representing the entire Horne family - Greg Horne who flew in this morning from Phoenix. Greg, we are delighted to have you here and thank you and your family for your enormous generosity - would you kindly come forward and say a few words. . .

Thank you very much, Greg. . .

I mentioned at the outset why our very own Snow College Band was playing Spence Eccles' favorite song, Utah Man, as we entered the gym today. Spence, if I may be so bold, may I offer the following rationale for the selection of that song: yes, you are a Utah Man in the truest sense of the word in that the University of Utah knows no better friend and supporter than you and your extended Eccles family. But for our purposes today, I would also suggest that you are a State of Utah Man, Sir. This state - and many of the most worthwhile and noteworthy buildings, projects, and programs found within it - have you and your family's generosity to thank for their completion and success. I am happy to report that Snow College can now count itself among the many institutions in bearing a name synonymous with support of the very best this state and its citizens have to offer.

Please note the screens as we take all of you on a virtual walk-through of the Snow College campus and its new Performing Arts Center.

Ladies and Gentlemen - it gives me great pleasure to announce the largest cash gift in the history of Snow College - $1.5 million from the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation - to the Snow College Performing Art Center. Upon the completion of this spectacular facility, it will be known as the "George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Performing Arts Center."

Spence, on behalf of Snow College and the entire Ephraim Community, thank you for your generosity and we would be honored to hear a few remarks -

Spence -

Ladies and gentlemen - that concludes the program for today. In the northeast corner, please come and enjoy some Krispy Kreme donuts and juice. Thank you very much for your participation.

I would like to thank all who made this event possible, in particular Marci Larsen and her very able staff of students. Rick Wheeler, you may have been the acting or interim president the past few months but, as we all know, Marci was the "actual" president.

Thanks again for coming. Today's announcements mark only the beginning for what is in store for this institution. GO SNOW COLLEGE!!!