Community leaders, residents, higher education officials and others gathered Saturday, Sept. 10, in Moab to celebrate a $15 million gift that will reshape the higher education landscape in the area for years to come.
Wendy Walker-Tibbetts and her family — together with Utah State University President Stan Albrecht and many others — gathered at the David Bonderman home in Moab to announce the gift to USU’s Moab Center. Funds will be used for the construction of an education/research center.
Walker, a life-long Moab resident and entrepreneur, attended USU in Moab and knows first-hand the difference an accessible, affordable, quality higher education can make in rural Utah.
“Not everyone can go to the big city to get an education,” said Walker. “Utah State’s educational presence in Moab has helped me and many others get ahead. Higher education is critical to our future education and economic success, and it is time to take it to the next level.”
President Albrecht said the Walker contribution is significant both to Moab and to the university.
“Wendy and her family have provided USU and Moab with a founding gift that we hope to leverage and build upon as we work closely with the Moab community to expand and enhance USU’s presence,” he said.
The gift is similar in scope and impact to the Marc and Debbie Bingham gift with which USU built the entrepreneurship and energy research center in Vernal, the president said.
The gift is the outcome of a unique private/public partnership between USU and Walker.
“USU has been working closely with Wendy and her company to develop proprietary technology that we will introduce into the market,” said Robert Behunin, USU vice president for Commercialization & Regional Development. “The outcome of our technology commercialization efforts will result in not only new technology but manufacturing jobs for Utah, enhanced economic development for the Moab area and more educational opportunities for students.”
The partnership model is critical to USU’s ability to fulfill its land-grant mission, Albrecht said.
“Our regional campus operations — which include the Uintah Basin, Tooele, Brigham City and southeastern Utah — rely on partnerships like the ones we have formed with the Walkers and the Moab community to bring together all the necessary stakeholders so we can move forward strategically,” he said.
Albrecht said the Walker gift builds on a foundation set by at least two other important partnership contributions. First, in 1995 the Ron and Katherine Holyoak family donated 20 acres of land in Moab for a future campus. Second, as USU was finalizing the Walker gift, Moab City formalized its commitment to higher education by establishing an education fund and set aside an initial $75,000 for that fund.
For some time now, USU and the local Moab community have been engaged in an effort to accelerate its higher education activities by forming critical partnerships. The embodiment of that effort in Moab is known as HEAT: Higher Education Action Team. Under the leadership of USU Moab Center Director Steve Hawks, HEAT is comprised of local government officials, business leaders, state and federal partners and local USU personnel.
“Together, we have charted a new course for higher education in the Moab area, and that new course has lead to new programs, like recreation resource management and social work, as well as new faculty to support those programs,” said Hawks.
Albrecht said the gift and the efforts of the entire community are a remarkable achievement.
“The alignment of interests and resources between private companies, private individuals and the public sector will bring about monumental change in Moab and will forever alter the educational and economic landscape for the good as new opportunities, programs and facilities are added,” he said.
“My family and I are proud to play a part in the growth and development of higher education in Moab,” said Walker. “We want to encourage others to join us, in whatever way they can, to build a legacy of higher education excellence in Moab.”
Steve Hawks: 435-259-7432, 435-210-1020
Robert T Behunin: 435-797-9607
Tim Vitale: 435-797-1356