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Utah State University Celebrates the Year of the Arts at Founders Day

Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018

Founders Day Logo
Michael K. Christiansen will receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Michael K. Christiansen will receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Chuck and Louise Gay will receive a Distinguished Service Award.

Chuck and Louise Gay will receive a Distinguished Service Award.

Michael J. and Suzanne Stones will receive a Distinguished Service Award.

Michael J. and Suzanne Stones will receive a Distinguished Service Award.

Utah State University is turning 130 this year and is celebrating by honoring alumni and friends at the annual Founders Day Ceremony Friday, March 2. The event honors five USU alumni and friends with the theme “Celebrating the Year of the Arts.” 

The 2017 award recipients are Michael K. Christiansen, who will receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award; and Chuck and Louise Gay and Michael J. and Suzanne Stones, who will receive Distinguished Service Awards. 

Each year Distinguished Alumni Awards are presented 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 USU President Noelle Cockett. 

Founders Day activities begin at 4:30 p.m. with a reception in the Merrill-Cazier Library followed by dinner at 6 p.m. in the Evan Stevenson Ballroom in the in the Taggart Student Center on the university campus. 

Michael K. Christiansen
Distinguished Alumnus

Michael K. Christiansen believes that the arts have a place in the educational setting and in our lives. Using that philosophy, Mike would forever become engrained in Utah State University’s history after creating and founding the USU Guitar Studies Program. 

Playing the guitar since the age of 7, Mike spent his early years in Provo when, during high school, he took the initiative to begin teaching guitar lessons. College soon followed at USU where he further developed his teaching skills. After earning both a bachelor’s and master’s, Christiansen joined the USU music department faculty in 1977.  When he began, USU’s guitar program did not exist. He started teaching individual students in the department that eventually developed into two group guitar classes.

From this small beginning, interest in Christiansen’s classes grew and so did enrollment allowing for a full-range of guitar classes to be added, creating what would become the USU Guitar Studies Program with offerings that included fingerboard theory, guitar pedagogy, guitar ensembles and guitar history and literature. 

As a USU professor emeritus, Christiansen led the program Guitar Studies Program for 39 years. His beloved teaching style garnered him many awards over the years including, most notably, the 2012 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Utah Professor of the Year award that salutes the most outstanding undergraduate educators in the country. In 1994, he was selected as Professor of the Year at USU and in 2006, he received the American String Association Utah Chapter Outstanding Collegiate Educator of the Year award. 

Throughout his career, Christiansen has combined a passion for teaching and performing. He has performed hundreds of concerts, both as a soloist and with various groups around the world. He spent fall of 2005 on a sabbatical studying Brazilian music in Rio de Janeiro. He has written or contributed to more than 40 books for guitar and has recorded several instructional videos. He is an internationally renowned guitar educator having taught workshops at many schools and is a frequent clinician for guitarists and educators at various conferences. 

Christiansen continues his academic and professional pursuits, even in retirement. He currently serves as director of curriculum for Consonus Music. He lives in Logan with his wife, Katherine. The couple have three grown children.  

Chuck and Louise Gay
Distinguished Service

Chuck and Louise Gay have dedicated themselves to serving others throughout their time in Cache Valley to the benefit of the community, the state of Utah and internationally.

Together, the Gays have created a connection of friendships and professional associations that solidifies their devotion to bettering the future and making the world a more beautiful place to live. Chuck, with a long history at Utah State University Extension, and, Louise, a gardener, are both well known and admired. 

With experience in both the public and private sectors, Chuck had a long and storied career as range specialist. Since coming to USU in 1983, he served in many capacities until retiring in 2013 as USU vice president for Extension, a position he held for 11 years. He had previously served as the assistant dean of USU’s College of Natural Resources and as an Extension associate professor of range science. He worked as a consultant to the livestock industries of more than 30 countries including long-term work in Paraguay and Morocco. Chuck continues to represent Extension twice a year at the Council for Agriculture Research, Extension and Teaching meetings. 

Louise spent her professional life working as a gardener at a Cache Valley nursery called The Greenhouse. For 27 years, Louise was a mainstay at the nursery, where customers returned annually requesting special order creations. Throughout the growing season, she would complete nearly 500 special orders, while also creating complete pots for purchase. Her enjoyment in the creation process obviously reflected in the beautiful sought-after arrangements. 

Chuck and Louise reside in Mendon, Utah where they continue their service to the community in retirement. Over the years, the duo have involved themselves in a number of service callings. Chuck has a wide resume of service work ranging from being a member of the Director’s Council for the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian, to the local Utah Festival Opera Company and the Kiwanis Club. Louise received the Hearts & Hands Award from the Utah Nonprofit Association and Utah Society of Fundraisers in 2010 and has served as a volunteer tutor and board member of the Bridgerland Literacy Program.

Michael J. and Suzanne Stones
Distinguished Service

A couple committed to helping others, Michael J. and Suzanne Stones, support a variety of causes in the Cache Valley community. 

Michael and Suzanne have a strong kinship with Utah State University and enjoy providing patronage in many areas at the institution. The couple established the Excellence in Athletics Endowed Scholarship Fund in Athletics and the Olympic Scholarship in the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department in the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services. As members of the Old Main Society, Michael and Suzanne also enjoy helping the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Jon M. Huntsman School of Business and University Libraries.

A physician specializing in internal medicine at Intermountain Healthcare’s Budge Clinic in Logan, Michael completed his medical degree at the University of Utah School of Medicine in 1976. He is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and holds professional memberships with the American College of Physicians, the American Medical Association, the American Society of Internal Medicine and the Utah Medical Association.

After helping her husband through medical school, Suzanne focused on raising her children while also playing an active role in the community. She has served as a volunteer community representative of the Logan Regional Hospital Governing Board and been active on the Hospice Community Council for Intermountain Homecare. Over the years, she has worked as a medical technologist and health science instructor at Bridgerland Applied Technology College, as an adjunct health science instructor at Weber State University and as an academic advisor at USU in the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department. Suzanne has a bachelor’s in medical technology from the University of Utah and a master’s in economics from USU.

The proud parents of three grown daughters, Michael and Suzanne reside in Logan, Utah. They enjoy spending time with their family, particularly with their grandchildren. 

Contact: Scott Olson, 435-797-0931,

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