October 3, 2023


A Launch on Life: USU Alumni Couple Create Engineering Endowment

Proud Aggie Family

Proud Aggie Family Mitch ’89 (lower left) and Leslie ’89 (upper left) Butikofer with their daughters Erin ’20 (upper right), Abby ’21 (lower right) and Jamie (center).

When it came time to send their daughters to college, Mitchel (Mitch) ’89 and Leslie ’89 Butikofer, proud Aggie alumni, encouraged them to consider Utah State University. The couple, who lived in Georgia when it was time for their oldest daughters — Erin and Abby — to look at colleges, they knew the twins had many options, but firmly believed that USU was the unequivocal choice.

“We had such a great experience at USU,” said Leslie, who met Mitch in a physics class during her first semester on campus her junior year. “USU has it all – quality education and quality of life all in an amazing location.”

Swayed by their parents’ loyalty to the school, Erin and Abby followed in Mitch and Leslie’s footsteps and have already joined the ranks of successful USU alumni. Leslie said that Erin, who graduated with Honors and a bachelor’s degree in wildlife ecology management from the S.J. & Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources in 2020, and, Abby, who graduated with Honors and bachelor’s degrees in both mathematics from the College of Science, and Spanish from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, in 2021, do not regret their decision to attend USU one bit. And when the couple’s youngest daughter, Jamie, was ready for college, the decision was natural.

“I have a deep affection for USU; it feels like home,” Jamie said. “USU has opened up a multitude of opportunities for me. My academic pursuits within the Center for Anticipatory Intelligence and Heravi Peace Institute have provided me with a platform to partake in diverse dialogues, ultimately fostering my growth as a more expansive thinker.”

Jamie, who graduates in May 2024 with Honors and dual bachelor’s degrees in philosophy from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and environmental studies from the S.J. & Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources, is taking full advantage of USU’s diverse educational opportunities. Including her bachelor’s, Jamie will leave with a certificate of proficiency in conflict facilitation and management, and minors in anticipatory intelligence, music, and yoga studies, where she is working toward her Yoga Teacher Training Certificate. She said the diversity has not only made her a more aware and well-rounded person, but is helping immensely as she begins the competitive process of applying to law school.

It is easy to see Jamie’s affinity for USU passed down to her from her parents, who both say USU provided them with a variety of opportunities as they worked toward their degrees. Mitch, who was familiar with Utah State because his cousins attended, came to USU on an Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) scholarship.

“The ROTC scholarship took away all the worries about paying for college,” said Mitch, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the College of Science, and a minor in Portuguese.

Mitch credits his time at USU, including AFROTC, for guiding his career path that saw him advance to the rank of Brigadier General after nearly 30 years in service. After leaving USU, Mitch attended the University of Texas San Antonio, where he earned a master’s degree in management of technology in 1993. Mitch was commissioned a second lieutenant into the United States Air Force through USU’s ROTC detachment. He survived the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He commanded at every level from squadron to group to wing. In 2005, Mitch earned another master’s degree in National Resource Strategies from National Defense University in Washington D.C. He recently retired from the Air Force after serving as the Deputy Commander of the United States Air Force Cyberspace Mission Forces. During his career he earned 27 awards and medals, including the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit and the Defense Superior Service Medal.

Leslie transferred from a school in Colorado to attend USU after some of her friends moved to Logan. After meeting with then College of Engineering academic advisor Kathy Bayne, Leslie knew USU was where she wanted to be. One of three women at the time working toward a degree in mechanical engineering, Leslie focused on her studies.

“I was up on campus every weekday from 7:30 a.m. until the night-time hours,” Leslie said. “Between classes and studying, there wasn’t time for much else.”

Her dedication to school payed off when she was awarded a full-tuition scholarship that provided two summer internships and a guaranteed job after graduation. The scholarship allowed Leslie to focus on her studies and provided the couple the opportunity to get married during spring break of their junior year.

Between classes, studies, AFROTC and Leslie’s internship, the couple’s USU experience was incredibly challenging, but so worth their time and effort. After completing an internship at Hercules Aerospace in Magna, Utah, for two summers, Leslie began her career in engineering with the company after graduating from USU. As one of a handful of women engineers at the time, Leslie never felt any bias and enjoyed her professional life there.

“I am an engineer,” Leslie said. “USU has a strong institutional reputation, particularly in its engineering programs, which are renowned for their excellence. My time at USU not only equipped me with the skills to thrive in my career, but also laid a solid foundation for me to excel in my subsequent graduate studies.”

After working at Hercules for a few years, Leslie went to graduate school at the University of Maryland in another engineering program with only a handful of women. After earning her master’s degree in mechanical engineering, Leslie rejoined the workforce for a number of years before leaving to raise her family.

Leslie’s career as a woman in engineering inspired both her and Mitch to give back to the university. The couple had been making regular donations to the College of Engineering in order to help students like they once were.

“We know there are financial considerations when looking at college,” Leslie said. “When we sent the girls to USU, cost of tuition was a factor and USU is relatively affordable if you start looking around.”

Living all over the world due to Mitch’s career in the Air Force, the couple had never put down roots in one place. The fact that Abby and Erin qualified for an Aggie Legacy Scholarship was a huge deal in their decision to send the girls to USU.

“It is hard to stomach the billions of dollars of student debt in this country,” Leslie said. “So, when we were approached by the College of Engineering and asked to create an endowment, we immediately said yes.”

In fact, Mitch and Leslie didn’t realize their annual donations could go toward creating an endowment until they began working with a development officer from the university. Endowments at USU allow donors to transfer their private dollars to public purposes with the assurance that their gifts will serve these purposes for as long as the institution continues to exist. The couple was honored to create an endowment to help students have some financial stability while going to school.

“We know those $500 and $1,000 scholarships can make an impact on a student’s school year,” Leslie said.

However, Mitch and Leslie did not base the scholarship on need, but on merit. The couple both feel that those who do well should be recognized for doing so.

“We would like to help give a student the opportunity to focus more on their studies, possibly go on to a specialized master’s program or work an unpaid internship – take a bit of load off and give them a launch on life,” Leslie said.

Mitch added to this saying that the two of them focused so much on school during their time at USU, that they didn’t often have the opportunity to take advantage of the fun things going on at campus, in Logan and the surrounding area, including Aggie Ice Cream.

“We wanted our girls to experience all of USU – the studies and the many social and educational opportunities that come with it,” Mitch said.

The couple, who are clearly proud of their daughters, say they all have been able to enjoy campus life and take advantage of every aspect of USU including study abroad, extracurricular programs and Logan’s beautiful outdoors.

“We are an Aggie Family and are very proud of that fact,” Leslie said. “We will always call Logan the home of our heart and will continue to return often to enjoy all that USU, Logan and Cache Valley offer.”


David Kunz
Engineering, Senior Development Director
(435) 797-8012

Tony Ahlstrom
Engineering, Development Officer
(435) 797-0769

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