Influential Trailblazers honored with 2021 Dixie State University Presidential Awards

Dixie State University’s annual Presidential Awards recognized influential members of the Dixie State and Washington County communities who are blazing trails to make a difference in Southern Utah.

To promote civic responsibility, service, collaboration and inclusiveness, Dixie State awarded Presidential Awards to individuals committed to community engagement and campus-community partnerships.

Tena Heward received the Committed Community Partner Award. As Root for Kids’ chief health officer, Heward has connected low-income, high-risk pregnant women and children, including children with disabilities, with other healthcare providers and community agencies to help meet their needs since 1999.

Serving as an assistant professor of music at Dixie State, co-director of Castle Rock Music Camp, president of the Utah American String Teachers Association, president of the Cello Society of Southern Utah and director of the DSU Cello Festival, Dr. Ka-Wai Yu was honored as the Community Engaged Scholar. In addition to presenting at the St. George Arts Summit and conferences across the nation, Yu is the principal cellist of the Southwest Symphony Orchestra and has been a member of the Zion Trio and Cosmopolitan Baroque.

S. Cesaria Selwyn, the coordinator for Latinx students at Dixie State’s Multicultural & Inclusion Center, was recognized with the Community Engaged Staff Member award. Over the past two years, Selwyn has developed and facilitated multiple structured retention programs, series and events centered on a holistic mentorship development model through a restorative justice lens. Selwyn has built the center into an important resource for underrepresented students and the hub of DSU’s equity and inclusion efforts.

Spencer Richardson, a senior at DSU, received the Community Engaged Student award. As the coordinator for the university’s Alternative Breaks program and a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Richardson has engaged with other students, communities and global partners to provide opportunities that alter the lives of not only those they help but also those who see beyond themselves.

Murray Gubler received the Community Engaged Alumnus award. For the past 15 years, Gubler has been an integral part of the Dixie State University Alumni Board, supporting the University through his leadership and planning. Additionally, Gubler serves as chair of the Alumni Car Show Committee and a member of the Dixie Sunshiners.

As part of the Presidential Awards, the Board of Trustees, Dixie State’s governing body, awarded Trustee Awards to select Trailblazers.

The Trustees’ Excellence in Service award was presented to Sheila Cannon, Mo Eckroth and Paul Morris. Cannon has served as an administrative specialist for community and global engagement for the past 24 years. Eckroth, who first came to DSU to help the institution transition from a junior college to an NCAA D-II program starting in 2006, now serves as senior associate athletic director of compliance. Morris, vice president of administrative affairs, has dedicated his career to providing excellent administrative services in higher education.

The Board of Trustees also honored Dr. Florence Elizabeth Bacabac, Susan Ertel and Dr. Rico Del Sesto with the Excellence in Education award. Bacabac, who has taught professional and technical writing at Dixie State for the past 13 years, founded the Dixie State Women’s Resource Center in 2012. Ertel began her teaching career at DSU in 1999 and currently serves as Faculty Senate president-elect. Sesto, an associate professor of chemistry, department chair of physical sciences and director of the Undergraduate Research Office, is working with a research group to develop new antibiotic compounds, design materials that enhance the efficacy of existing antibiotics, and build advanced complex materials with novel optical and magnetic behavior.

The final Trustee Award of the year, the Distinguished Citizen award, was bestowed upon Ray and Melzie Ganowsky, who in 1975 founded RAM Company in their garage, and since then, have employed over 2,000 people in the St. George area. The Ganowskys have remained dedicated to local development of world-class engineers and have been long-time supporters of Dixie State University.

Prior to Dixie State University’s 110th Commencement Ceremony on May 7, the University honored the recipients of this year’s honorary doctorate awards: Gov. Gary R. Herbert and Lindsay T. Atwood.

Serving as the 17th governor of Utah from 2009 to 2021, Herbert focused on economic development, education, energy and efficiency in government. He served as the president of the Utah Association of Realtors, president of the Utah Association of Counties, chair of the Western Governors Association, chair of the National Governors Association and president of the Council of State Governments.

A lifelong entrepreneur and businessman, Atwood founded, developed, and sold six companies prior to passing away in 2019. A member of DSU’s Board of Trustees, Atwood played a crucial role in founding Atwood Innovation Plaza, to which he dedicated countless hours of work and generous donations.

The university also honored and thanked DSU’s first international Valedictorian and Commencement Student Speaker Leonardo Lupiano, Faculty Senate President Bill Christensen and Staff Association President Jon Gibb.

For more information about Dixie State University, visit dixie.edu.