OGDEN, Utah – Botany professor Dawn M. Gatherum and Alumni Relations executive director Lynell L. Gardner are the recipients of the Weber State University Alumni Association’s 2012 H. Aldous Dixon Awards. The duo will be formally recognized at a luncheon in their honor March 6.
What better name than Dawn for a professor who, for 41 years, has illuminated the inquisitive minds of students at Weber State? Dawn Gatherum tells an interesting story about his name. His parents lived in the southern Utah town of Escalante when his mother went into labor. The couple drove through the night to reach a midwife 66 miles away in Panguitch, Utah. “They came over the mountain, made it to the midwife and I was born at dawn,” Gatherum said.
Gatherum planned to become a veterinarian, but a negative experience with college chemistry courses sent him searching for a new major. “I went into botany only to find I needed those same courses,” he said, “so I buckled down and finished chemistry.”
Weber State hired Gatherum as a lab manager and technician in 1971, but he soon discovered his passion for teaching. “I filled in for faculty when they went on sabbatical,” recalled Gatherum, “and I just had a blast.”
With an eye toward a full-time teaching position, Gatherum left Weber State temporarily to work on his Ph.D. He completed his course work in a single year.
Students describe Gatherum as exciting and enthusiastic. He is a tireless promoter of hands-on experience, organizing countless field trips to botanically intriguing parts of Utah, Oregon and Mexico.
“There’s nothing like getting into the field,” Gatherum said. “It’s exciting to watch students recognize plants they’ve only seen in slides.”
Under his direction, WSU’s Botany Club grows and sells greenhouse plants to fund a student scholarship. Gatherum has directed the prestigious Ritchey Science and Engineering Fair of Utah for 12 years. The regional competition draws hundreds of junior and senior high school scientists to campus every year. Through extensive fundraising efforts, Gatherum is able to take winners of the senior division to the international fair.
“They get to visit with students from around the world,” said Gatherum, “so even if they don’t place, the experience is worth its weight in gold.”
Gatherum, who has served on numerous campus committees, will retire in June. While reluctant to leave behind his beloved students and longtime colleagues, he looks forward to finishing a research grant from the U.S. Forest Service, volunteering for church and community service, and spending more time with his wife, Eloise, and the couple’s eight children.
He also plans to garden. “The next time you eat a salad,” Gatherum said, “thank a botanist.”
When Lynell Gardner’s husband, Gaylord, handed her a newspaper notice for an alumni director position at WSU, she thought, “I might want to work there. Then my husband and I could live in the same city.”
At the time, Gardner lived and worked in Salt Lake City. Her engineer husband had a job in Ogden and lived near the mouth of Ogden Canyon.
“I hoped I would get an interview,” Gardner said, “but I never anticipated getting the job.”
That was 11 years ago, and Gardner not only got the job, she used her unique blend of spunk, intelligence, ingenuity and humor to forge an administrative style that will be nearly impossible to replicate or replace when she retires in April.
Growing up, Gardner hoped to become a math teacher. Ironically, she followed nearly every career path there is except teaching. She was a real estate agent, a secretary, a supervisor for the U.S. Census Bureau, the administrator of a biology department—even the assistant to a film producer. In addition, Gardner earned a master’s degree in public administration, volunteered as a juvenile court truancy mediator and mentored single moms.
Gardner put her wealth of experience to good use at WSU. She cultivated affinity partnerships with local businesses to boost Weber State University Alumni Association (WSUAA) assets.
“With operating income from a different source,” said Gardner, “we can use membership dues to increase the number of scholarships we provide.” Gardner also campaigned for the Alumni Association president to play a role at commencement ceremonies, and lobbied to lengthen the WSUAA president’s term of office. She worked with campus departments to provide more services to alumni and served her colleagues as chair of WSU’s Professional Staff Advisory Committee.
During Gardner’s tenure, WSUAA created a donor recognition path at the Lindquist Alumni Center, resurrected lost campus traditions like the ringing of the Victory Bell, and established new ones such as the Wildcat Alumni Band. The organization also enhanced the WSU Salutes event and started a campus-wide recycling program.
Gardner’s approach to alumni work reflects her personal mantra of reach, serve and engage. While she will miss Weber State and the loyal Wildcats she met here, she is looking forward to her next great adventure. She has even prepared for the future by taking a gerontology class.
“Professor Van Orman says the people who are most successful in retirement are those who have a plan,” Gardner said.
Each year since 1970, the H. Aldous Dixon Award honors outstanding members of WSU’s faculty and staff in memory of President Dixon, who served as the school’s chief administrator from 1919 to 1920, and again from 1937 to 1953. Award recipients have demonstrated careers of excellence and have gone above and beyond the call of duty to support students.
The 2012 H. Aldous Dixon Awards Luncheon is March 6 at noon in the Hurst Center for Lifelong Learning on WSU’s Ogden campus. The public is invited. Cost is $12 per person. RSVP by February 29 at alumni.weber.edu or 801-626-7535.
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