Alumni Hall of Honor Inductees 2011
Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011
The Utah State University Alumni Association honored four proud Aggies as 2011 Hall of Honor Inductees, including Willie Duersch, Justin R. Hamilton, Al Lewis and Shelly Anderson Neilson.
A November banquet and awards ceremony was held in their honor.
Willie Duersch ’Att
Willie Duersch ’Att is proud to be an Aggie. He credits Dave and Barbara Kragthorpe for rekindling the Aggie flame in him and said that the couple truly exemplifies what it means to be an Aggie.
The time he spent at USU still impacts Duersch. He met his wife, Vicki, while attending Utah State and he also met some of his closest friends as a member of USU’s football team. His football coach, Tony Knap, was a guiding force in the direction Duersch’s life took.
After leaving USU, Duersch worked for Sears for 10 years, four of those as a store manager in Blackfoot, Idaho. He then moved his family to Roy, Utah, where he owned a Montgomery Ward store for eight years. Willie then moved on to become a manager of Treasure Valley Bumper for Ogden Chrome Plating in Boise, Idaho, for 20 years.
It was during his time in Boise that Duersch was asked to serve as vice president for the Treasure Valley USU alumni chapter. While in that capacity, Duersch organized many events to raise money for scholarships for USU students from the Boise area and started a golf tournament that ran successfully for 18 years. Duersch was asked to plan a golf tournament for the USU Weber County chapter after moving back to Ogden, Utah. That tournament is still running.
Duersch and his wife, Vicki, are retired and now enjoy relaxing, traveling, swimming and playing golf. The couple has two grown daughters, Erika and Emily.
In 2009, Duersch was asked to help organize the USU Coaches Football Golf Tournament that raises funds for the USU Athletic Scholarship Fund. He enjoys giving back to USU and plans to continue helping with the coaches tournament for many years to come.
“Willie has been an incredible supporter of Alumni Relations and Athletics for many years,” said Patty Halaufia, USU’s executive director of Alumni Relations. “He has spent hours of his time organizing events and promoting USU. I can think of few others who have given so much of their time, energy and enthusiasm to Utah State University.”
Justin R. Hamilton ’09
Justin R. Hamilton ’09 hails from southeastern Idaho, and his Aggie pride has been with him since he first set foot on the Utah State University campus. After graduating from high school, he came to USU on a Presidential Leadership Scholarship.
Hamilton is proud to be an Aggie and during his time as a student was always looking for opportunities to be involved on campus. Hamilton was active in many student leadership positions in the Student Alumni Association, Presidents Leadership Council and ASUSU. He was also member of the Sigma Chi fraternity.
Hamilton’s extracurricular activities did not get in the way of his success at school where he made the Dean’s List every term. He also received the university’s prestigious Bill Robins Memorial Award in 2003. Justin graduated from USU in 2009 with a degree in economics and political science.
Despite his busy schedule with studies and volunteer work, Hamilton opened Café Sabor, a Mexican bistro, located at the old train station on Center Street in Logan. He began the venture after his junior year at USU and found much success in the restaurant business thanks to the network Utah State provided him. In 2004, Hamilton opened another popular restaurant in Cache Valley, Hamilton’s Steak and Seafood. Seeing a need for a fine-dining restaurant, Hamilton worked hard to create a restaurant with exceptional cuisine combined with an elegant and comfortable atmosphere.
Being involved in Cache Valley and Utah State has continued to be a high priority for Hamilton. He continues to be supportive of Utah State and always looks for ways to give back to the university that has provided him opportunities for success.
“I don’t think I have ever seen anyone who can multi-task as well as Justin,” said Halaufia. “He managed to serve as president of the University Ambassadors, serve as an executive board member for the Student Alumni Association, chair the Sigma Chi Derby Days philanthropy week and open his first restaurant, all at the same time.”
Halaufia said that Hamilton continues his support of the university by donating not only his time, but his resources by supporting scholarships for students attending USU.
Al Lewis ’75
Al Lewis ’75 has loved sports since his youth. Known today as the “Voice of the Aggies” for KVNU Radio, Lewis grew up near Utah State University and attended elementary at the Edith Bowen Laboratory School. Throughout his childhood, Lewis not only was a regular attender of the Aggie football and basketball games, but was also a regular spectator at the team’s practices. Lewis kept a close eye on all things Aggie and followed the various team members, stats and schedules, as well as collected Aggie pictures, autographs and game programs.
Lewis’s dream to become a radio announcer began at a young age listening to family friend, Karl Klages, announce the Utah State games in the 1950s and ’60s. While attending high school in Las Vegas, Nev., he began his career in the broadcasting business. After returning to Logan in 1972 to attend Utah State, Lewis was hired by KVNU Radio. Nearly 40 years later, Lewis is still with the radio station.
Throughout his broadcast career with KVNU, Lewis has served in many capacities. His first broadcasts of Utah State football and basketball games were with Craig Hislop in 1973. In 1977, he became the Voice of the Aggies, a position he would hold for two seasons. In the 1980s, Lewis was involved with cable television tape-delayed Aggie broadcasts, worked on the Chuck Shelton television show and became the public address announcer at both the Romney Stadium and the Smith Spectrum. Lewis returned to announcing the play-by-play for the Aggies in mid-1990s, a role he has continued for the past 17 years.
Lewis graduated from USU in 1975 with a degree in broadcast journalism. He married fellow Aggie Teresa Brown, and the couple have two grown children. Lewis has resided near the USU campus since attending Utah State and he and his family enjoy participating and supporting the Aggies year after year.
“Al is not only the Voice of the Aggies, but the memory of the Aggies,” said Halaufia. “Al has a better institutional memory than just about any other living Aggie. When Al talks about the Aggies, people listen.”
Halaufia credits a big portion of the success of the Aggie License Plate scholarship program to Lewis’s tireless promotion of the program on the radio.
“The Alumni Association is so appreciative of all the support Al has given to the association over the years,” she said.
Shelly Anderson Neilson ’01
Shelly Anderson Neilson ’01 was born and raised in Logan, Utah, and has attended Aggie basketball and football games with her family since she was a youngster. It was during this time that Neilson fell in love with Utah State University and looked forward to the day she could be in the “USU student section” at the games.
After serving at student body president at Logan High School, Neilson began her education at USU, where she the recipient of a President’s Leadership Council scholarship.
During her years as a USU student, Neilson enjoyed giving campus tours, recruiting at high schools and spreading the “True Aggie” spirit. She also found time to volunteer in the Val R. Christensen Service Center, as the Homecoming and A-Day chair and was active in the Student Alumni Association. During her junior year, Neilson served as the second female student body president at Utah State. Neilson went on a student exchange trip to Australia during her senior year.
After graduating from USU in 2001 with a degree in human resource management, Neilson became active in the USU Alumni Association. She has served in many capacities and helped with alumni events while living in Washington, D.C., attended USU open houses in her area and served as the Utah County alumni chapter president.
Neilson was married to Reid Neilson in 2002 and the couple is the parents of three children: Johnny, Kate and Ally. They now live in Bountiful, Utah, and enjoy traveling, snow skiing and all things Utah State.
Neilson is an entrepreneur and is the owner of Say Anything Expressions, a vinyl home decor company. She also participates in the USU Davis County Alumni Chapter.
“Shelly was a whirlwind that hit USU the moment she stepped on campus,” said Halaufia. “Within weeks of her arrival on campus, she was known by most everyone. She threw herself into becoming the best Aggie she could be.”
Halaufia said that Neilson has been, and continues to be, an ambassador for USU wherever she is.
“Shelly really is a ‘True Aggie,’” she said.