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USU Homecoming 2017: "Aggie Family Reunion"

Monday, Oct. 09, 2017

an aerial view of the Utah State University campus and Old Main in the fall
Art and Mary Heers, USU Alumni of the Year

Art and Mary Heers, USU Alumni of the Year

Adam Nielsen, Young Alumnus

Adam Nielsen, Young Alumnus

Willie and Patty Halaufia, Grand Marshals

Willie and Patty Halaufia, Grand Marshals

The Utah State University honors several distinguished Alumni during Homecoming 2017, “Aggie Family Reunion.”

The 2017 Homecoming Honorees include Alumni of the Year — Art and Mary Heers; Distinguished Young Alumnus — Adam Nielsen; and Grand Marshals, Willie and Patty Halaufia.

Art and Mary Heers, Alumni of the Year  

Art and Mary Heers are active, passionate, well-educated Aggies that discovered Utah State later in life. After completing degrees from Stanford, the couple relocated to Logan so that Art could pursue an engineering career with Campbell Scientific. It was then, at age 38, that Mary decided to deviate from her psychology degree and complete a bachelor’s in theatre arts as well as a teaching certificate at Utah State University.

Mary’s experience is so varied that you would think she were living multiple people’s lives—and succeeding in them all. She is a teacher, a thespian, a producer volunteering at Utah Public Radio, a dairy herdsman and even played a cameo role in Napoleon Dynamite.

With all of this, however, Mary is best known in the local community for her work at Preston High School. As a high school English teacher and director for the school musicals and plays, she has coached hundreds of budding actors and musicians. Nothing brings her more joy than to see young people bowing to the cheers of a standing ovation. Her love and support for the arts has extended to USU, where she has served on the advancement board for the Caine College of the Arts.

Among Mary’s many accomplishments are coaching her high school’s decathlon team to two state championships, receiving a key to the City of Preston and serving as a Fulbright teacher on exchange in Warsaw, Poland.

Art is a self- and spouse-proclaimed workaholic. As one of the first employees and current principal engineers at Campbell Scientific, he has helped the company grow to the world industry leader it is today. He loves his work and, while eligible for retirement, he shows no sign of slowing down. This extends to his extracurricular activities where he is an active runner, cyclist, and skier. Art has qualified for the Boston Marathon twice and has been on the LOTOJA podium (the Logan to Jackson Cycling Race) for his age group.

Art and Mary have two children and are parents to a large black rescue dog. They recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Adam Nielsen, Young Alumnus of the Year

Some of life’s pursuits require complete dedication and full immersion. Adam Nielsen has been able to balance two of these pursuits: the life of a model Aggie and that of a professional musician. Adam graduated from USU in 2005 with a degree in music. As a student studying piano, he practiced 4-6 hours each day on top of his coursework. This left little time for social activity, with the exception of the close bonds forged with other music majors who called the Chase Fine Arts Center home.

Adam enjoys a diverse career as a soloist, chamber musician and is an associate faculty member of the Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts at the Juilliard School. There, he holds the position of principal coach and music advisor to the undergraduate vocalists and is also a coach and assistant conductor for the Juilliard Opera.

A native of Layton, Utah, he made his solo debut with the Utah Symphony under Joseph Silverstein at age 16. Among his many accomplishments are first-place at the inaugural Steinway National Collegiate Artist Competition, a competition for which he won a Steinway grand piano; second-place at the Kingsville International Piano Competition; the Robins Awards, “Talent of the Year;” and winner of the Stony Brook Concerto Competition.

With his many accolades and successes as a musician, Adam has always kept USU on his mind and close to his heart. Since graduation, he has returned to campus every year to play concerts and work with current USU students. He has collaborated with the Utah Symphony; USU’s own Fry Street Quartet; Cindy Dewey, head of USU’s music department; and many guest artists.

Upon completion of his master’s degree at Juilliard, he accepted a one-year faculty appointment at USU to teach piano, music theory and ear training. It was during this time that he recognized his love for teaching and later completed a doctorate from Stony Brook University with the goal of making teaching an enduring part of his career.

Adam currently resides in Astoria, New York, with his husband Steven.

Willie and Patty Halaufia, Grand Marshals

Willie and Patty have been involved in many ways with USU for over 40 years. As USU students, Patty was a member with the Chi Omega sorority and Willie, a Sigma Chi, played football on scholarship. With the Greek houses situated near each other, the two met when Willie was concluding his time at Utah State and Patty was just beginning.

Their first date was a motorcycle ride on Willie’s Triumph 650 to Tony Grove up Logan Canyon followed by dinner at Sherwood Hills. Willie’s bike had a signature (and loud) exhaust so Patty always new when she could catch a glimpse of him on his return to the Greek house. Their courtship, which included one, if not several, True Aggie Nights, lasted approximately a year-and-a-half when Willie eventually realized it was time to come to terms with adulthood.

After graduating with a degree in Physical Education and Health, Patty began a long and distinguished career that eventually led back to her alma mater. In her many alumni, fundraising and event-related roles, Patty has come to know countless alumni and is very likely a contender for having attended the most university events in USU history, including many athletic events.

She and Willie have been season football ticket holders since graduation.

Patty’s service to Utah State and its students has been apparent in her work with the Student Alumni Association (SAA) and her sorority. She has received several local and national honors, including Outstanding SAA Advisor, Outstanding Personnel Advisor for Chi Omega and the Gerald R. Sherratt Award, one of USU’s prestigious Robins Awards. She has been an advocate for women in business and a mentor and example to many other women in and out of the Utah State Community.

Willie, who has a reputation as an extremely loyal and humble man, volunteered for Vietnam in 1969 and is a decorated veteran. He has worked for Cache Valley Electric for 42 years, work that has taken him all over the country and world.

Willie and Patty have two children and have encouraged them, as well as all university alumni, to find something they’re passionate about at Utah State that will bring them back and allow them to support it with their time and money.

For more information on Homecoming week visit the Homecoming website.

Contact: Joshua Paulsen, 797-8275,

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