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Utah State University Celebrates 125 Years at Founders Day Event

Tuesday, Mar. 05, 2013


Cecile Gilmer

Alumni Association

Utah State University

Phone: (435) 797-8725



LOGAN — Utah State University is turning 125 this year and is celebrating by honoring alumni and friends at the annual Founders Day Ceremony Friday, March 8.

The USU Alumni Association Executive Board presents Distinguished Alumni Awards to alumni who have best applied knowledge, initiative and individuality in service to the university, the public or his or her profession. The Distinguished Service Awards are given to individuals or couples who had made significant contributions to their community, the university or the world at large.

“We are honoring individuals who, through their generosity and tireless effort, have made a significant impact on Utah State, in their individual communities and throughout the world,” said Jody K. Burnett, president of the USU Alumni Association.

The 2013 award recipients are Rick Haskins and Michael Sutton who will receive the Distinguished Alumnus Awards; and Sally and Jack Keller and Brian Tarbet, who will receive Distinguished Service Awards.

Founders Day activities begin with an awards and musical program at 7 p.m. in the Performance Hall on the university campus. A dessert reception follows. The celebration is free and open to everyone. RSVPs are requested by March 5. To RSVP visit ( or call 800-291-2586.

Rick Haskins

Utah State University alum Rick Haskins has enjoyed a successful 30-year career that spans from his beginnings as a brand manager at Procter & Gamble in Ohio to his current position as executive vice president of marketing and digital programs for the CW television network in California.

Rick joined the CW in 2006 and has been responsible for marketing campaigns for some of the network’s most popular shows, including “Gossip Girl” and “The Vampire Diaries.” To increase the network’s presence in the digital world, Rick has used his position to become a leader in marketing the CW online and in social media. 

Before joining the CW, Rick was with Lifetime Television, when, during his time at the network, it became one of the highest-rated basic cable entities on television. A man of many interests, Rick came to Lifetime after helming his own marketing consulting company, The Haskins Group. Prior to that, he held a variety of positions for the Walt Disney Company. He began his career at Procter & Gamble in 1982.

Rick has been recognized many times for his work in the marketing and television industry. In 2012, he was named one of Broadcasting & Cable’s Digital All-Stars. Rick was also named one of the Advertising Age’s Entertainment A-List Marketers of the Year in 2009. While at the Lifetime network, Rick received the National Women’s Political Caucus Good Guy award in 2005 for his work in building awareness for breast cancer and violence against women.

And despite his success in all of his professional endeavors, there is one endeavor of a more personal nature that Rick feels most successful. In 2006, Rick founded Cast a Pebble, a charity focused on aiding villages in Ghana and India in the areas of health and education. To date, Cast a Pebble has built two schools, three community health clinics and a sanitation system with many more projects planned for the future.

Since graduating from USU with a bachelor’s in psychology in 1979, Rick has seen great professional and personal triumphs, but he still fondly recalls his time at the university from his time in the classroom to his experience as a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity.

Michael Sutton

Michael Sutton graduated from Utah State University with a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology in 1978. Since leaving USU to pursue graduate studies in marine biology at the University of Sydney, Australia, Michael has become a well-known advocate for wildlife conservation around the world.

Early in his career, Michael spent a decade in government service where served as a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and as a park ranger with the National Park Service in Yosemite, Yellowstone, Biscayne, Virgin Islands National Parks and Death Valley National Monument.

Michael eventually left government service and traveled the world, helping establish leading conservation programs at the World Wildlife Fund and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. He later moved on to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where he served as vice president and founded the Center for the Future of the Oceans, the aquarium’s conservation advocacy arm. 

Michael’s expertise in conservation has allowed him to wear many hats in his profession. He currently serves as executive director of Audubon California and vice president, Pacific Flyway for the National Audubon Society. He oversees conservation programs for staff in California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska and serves as a member of Audubon’s National Leadership Team. He is also chairman of the Wild Salmon Center in Portland, Ore., and is a board member of Ocean Champions and the Sea Change Investment Fund.

Michael’s prominence in the field gained him recognition from then California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who appointed Michael as a member of the California Fish and Game Commission in 2007 and again in 2009. He was elected president of the commission earlier this year.

Michael earned a law degree from George Washington’s National Law Center in 1992 where he focused on international and natural resources law. The degree allows Michael to teach classes as a summer faculty member at the Vermont Law School. His course focuses on ocean and coastal law. In 2008, he co-authored a book, “Ocean and Coastal Law and Policy,” published by the American Bar Association. Michael is now working on a second edition.

Michael is married to Hilary LeFort and the couple has two children, Matthew and Callie. They live in Carmel Valley, California, and fly their Cessna Turbo Centurion all over the Western United States.

Sally Keller

Sally Keller has devoted much of her life to volunteer work to the benefit of the Cache Valley community, the state of Utah and beyond.

After a life-changing trip to Guatemala in 1995, Sally was inspired to better the lives of those who are faced with less than fortunate circumstances. That trip would result in the founding of the Alternative Gift Market, with all profits going to help the homeless, hungry and impoverished. In 2003, under the umbrella of Ten Thousand Villages Utah, Sally opened a Logan retail business selling fair trade handicrafts made by artisans from around the world. Two years later this operation incorporated as Global Village Gifts and is staffed by volunteers. As a registered non-profit, the proceeds support artisan enterprises throughout the world.

Since arriving in Logan in 1960 with her husband, Jack, who began working for Utah State University, Sally has worked to provide opportunities for women in the Cache Valley community. Her involvement with the USU Women’s Center spans decades, including time spent on its advisory board. A scholarship, established by Sally and Jack, is awarded by the USU Women’s Center to help women re-enter school. As a local member of the Philanthropic Education Organization, whose mission is to promote educational opportunities for women, Sally has served in several capacities, including local and state chapter presidencies.

As a leader in the community, Sally has also spent time on the Logan City Planning and Zoning Commission and on the board of the Cache Valley Health Care Foundation. She was also instrumental in fundraising for the Logan Regional Hospital, the Stokes Nature Center and the Eccles Ice Arena. 

Sally has been recognized several times for her volunteer work and has received the Carnation Community Service Award, the Utah Commission for Women and Families Women’s Achievement Award and the USU Center for Women and Gender’s Nurturing Award. In 2006, Sally and Jack received the Hearts and Hands award from the Utah Nonprofit Association.

Jack and Sally have two sons, Andy and Jeff, and a daughter, Judith. All three of their children have earned degrees from USU and their daughters-in-law also graduated from, or attended, USU. Their son-in-law earned an advanced degree from USU. Jack and Sally have eight grandchildren, two of whom attended USU.

Although Sally earned a bachelor’s in elementary education from the University of Colorado, Utah State University is proud to call her one of its own.

Jack Keller

Since his days as a youth spent in Tennessee, Utah State University alumnus Jack Keller has been fascinated by water. An adventurous boy, Jack enjoyed swimming in the mighty Mississippi River and also looked forward to camping out on the family farm so that he could tinker with the irrigation system that supplied water to their crops.

And while many childhood interests wane, Jack’s interest in water would carry him through his education, military service, career and service projects. Jack left Memphis to attend the University of Colorado where he enrolled in civil engineering and pledged Sigma Chi. He spent three semesters at school and enlisted in the United States Navy. While in the Navy, he was stationed near the Marshall Islands and saw first-hand one of the early atomic bomb tests. After finishing his service, Jack returned to Colorado to continue his studies. He then joined the U.S. Air National Guard and the Korean War began. Jack was sent on active duty, but eventually returned to Colorado and earned his bachelor’s in 1953. It was during this time that he met his wife, Sally. Jack went on to earn a master’s in irrigation engineering from Colorado State University in 1955. 

Jack’s first professional job was as a sprinkle irrigation equipment engineer for the Southern Irrigation Company in Mississippi. He then moved on to W.R. Ames Co. in Colorado and then joined USU as an irrigation engineering professor in 1960. It was during his time at USU that he earned a doctorate in agricultural and irrigation engineering in 1967. Jack has worked on projects in more than 60 countries around the world and has helped rural areas with irrigation needs and holistic vegetable gardening. Having since retired from USU, Jack is currently the founder and chief executive officer of Keller Bliesner Engineering. To recognize him for his expertise, USU’s College of Engineering awarded Jack with a Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1991 and named him Researcher of the Year in 1986.

While his many professional endeavors continue to keep Jack busy, he makes time to serve others. Jack participated in Logan’s Interfaith Council for several years and then created Cache Community Connections, an organization made up of local religious, political and university leaders that helps provide a variety of services to Cache Valley. Jack also organizes the annual Logan Bioneers Conference and is an ardent home gardener, where excess food is donated to the food bank and exchanged with neighbors.

Brian L. Tarbet
Brian L. Tarbet, Major General (Ret), has served his country and the state of Utah in varying capacities since beginning his career as both a member of the United States Army and as a lawyer.

Well known for his military career spanning nearly 40 years, General Tarbet served as Adjutant General of Utah from 2000-2012. During this time, he was responsible for 7,500 soldiers and airmen of the Utah National Guard. He formerly served on the Army Reserve Forces Policy Committee of the Secretary of the Army.

His service in the Army as a career intelligence officer has allowed General Tarbet to receive many accolades and honors, including the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal and Armed Forces Reserve Medal. General Tarbet has also been recognized by the State of Utah for his service and has been awarded the Utah Medal of Merit, Utah Joint Staff Medal of Merit, Utah Achievement Ribbon, State Partnership Award and Utah Service Ribbon. Internationally, Major General Tarbet has been awarded the Wissam al-Istihkak al-Askari (Order of Military Merit) by the Kingdom of Morocco.

Now retired from the Army, General Tarbetwas appointed as General Counsel in the Utah Attorney General’s office in January 2013. He brings more than 20 years of legal experience to this position, including prior service in the Utah Attorney General’s office as the Division Chief of Tax and Revenue. During that time, General Tarbet was honored as Tax Practitioner of the Year in 1998 by the Tax Section of the Utah State Bar. General Tarbet currently lectures in USU’s Political Science Department and teaches a course called “Law, Politics and War.”

General Tarbet is a Utah State University graduate, having earned a bachelor’s in political science with minors in business administration and German in 1973. He furthered his education at the University of Utah where he earned a Juris Doctorate. He later went on to earn a certificate as a National Security Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. 

General Tarbet’s wife, Mary, is a USU alumna who graduated in special education in 1977. The couple has five children, all of whom have attended Utah State, and six grandchildren. 


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