Weber State to honor distinguished alumni during homecoming week

OGDEN, Utah – Each year during homecoming week, Weber State University hosts the WSU Salutes awards ceremony to honor alumni who have made a difference in the community and contributed to the success and reputation of the university. 

This year’s ceremony will be Oct. 7 at the Val A. Browning Center’s Allred Theater at the Ogden campus. The event is free to attend and will also be livestreamed at alumni.weber.edu/wsusalutes

The 2022 honorees include the following: 

Emeriti Homecoming Royalty

David G. “Dave” BS ’77 and Kathleen “Kathi” Thomas BS ’78

Pacing anxiously in the very green room The Beatles used before their iconic performance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, 18-year-old Dave Thomas and his fellow Weber Trumpeteers — a contingent of young Ogden brass instrumentalists — appeared destined for fame as they prepared to take center stage on Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour in 1969. Unfortunately, a week after taping, the TV network canceled the show and the Trumpeteers’ performance was lost to the ages.

Undaunted, Dave returned home, attended Weber State and married the woman of his dreams, fellow Wildcat Kathi Alford. After five years of teaching school, Dave started composing jingles for radio and TV commercials. He eventually founded an advertising agency in 1982 and sold it seven years later to Evans Group. He served as president and CEO of the company’s Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and Denver operations before Evans Group was sold to Publicis in 1998, and Dave became president of its Salt Lake City office. Following a run for a seat in the U.S. Congress, Dave founded ThomasARTS, a full-service marketing and communications firm. His career highlights include branding the 2002 Winter Olympics and collaborating with dozens of local and national brands. His professional accomplishments and community service have been recognized by the Utah Advertising Federation, the Arthritis Association’s Utah/Idaho chapter, Salt Lake Community College and the WSU Emeriti Alumni Council.

After taking the lead in raising the couple’s three active sons, Kathi Thomas, a gifted early childhood educator, established Mrs. T’s Preschool in Farmington, Utah, which became one of the most beloved and respected preschools in Davis County. Over the years, she has acquired an extensive collection of children’s books, which is ingeniously displayed in the family’s home.

Distinguished Service

Steve Ballard

A proud, fifth-generation Ogdenite, Steve Ballard owns and operates two local restaurants, Sonora Grill and Thai Curry Kitchen, and Ogden Produce Company, an indoor hydroponic farm that grows leafy greens. Viewing higher education as a means for upward mobility, Ballard partnered with Weber State in 2013 to instigate Dining for Dollars at Sonora Grill, an annual fundraiser that benefits the university’s Oportunidad Scholarship Fund. The scholarship promotes educational opportunities for students who do not qualify for federal aid and is intended to remove financial barriers for low-income or immigrants who dream of becoming the first in their family to earn a college degree. So far, Dining for Dollars has contributed more than $193,000 to the fund, which has provided scholarships to more than 52 students.

Steve, whose personal philosophy is, “For every dollar you invest in your business, you should invest $10 in your community,” has served on numerous community boards, including the Ogden-Weber Chamber of Commerce, Visit Ogden and the Ogden Downtown Alliance. He and his wife, Emily, and their four children live in downtown Ogden and enjoy traveling, skiing and gardening. 

Lewis W. Shurtliff Awards for Contributions to Education 

Dr. Jacqueline “Jackie” Thompson MS ’97

Jackie Thompson’s advocacy of safe, supportive educational environments for students of all ethnicities is legendary in Utah. The groundbreaking policies she championed as Davis School District’s first African American assistant superintendent provided the foundation on which to build a deeper appreciation for equity, diversity and inclusion. 

Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, Jackie is the oldest of nine children. With her father serving in the U.S. military, much of her childhood was spent living in various states and abroad. She earned a bachelor’s degree at Idaho State University and taught elementary school in Idaho and California before relocating to Utah to work at Hill Air Force Base. She pursued a master’s degree at Weber State and later received a doctorate in education curriculum and instruction from Utah State.

Jackie was hired by Davis School District in 2000 and retired in 2017 as director of educational equity. Four years later, the district persuaded her to come back and oversee equity and diversity issues. Jackie also worked as a gender equity and education specialist for the Utah State Office of Education.

In the wake of her second retirement, Jackie maintains an ambitious agenda of civic engagement and motivational speaking. She has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the YCC Spirit of the American Woman Award for Public Education and the Utah Women’s Achievement Award presented by the Governor’s Commission for Women and Families. In 1999, she was chosen to be Mrs. Utah. Jackie and her husband, Eddie, have two sons, two daughters-in-law and four amazing grandchildren.

Distinguished Alumna

Judge Cristina P. Ortega BA ’98

Cristina Ortega graciously credits Weber State University for changing the trajectory of her life. “I came on campus giving myself just one year to either sink or swim,” she recently recalled. “Little did I know that great educators like sociology professor Daniel Gallego, history professor Henry Ibarguen, criminal justice professor Michelle Heward and political science professor Frank Guliuzza would be the fuel that lit the fire within me.” Cristina maintains these mentors encouraged her to love and embrace her ethnic roots and provided the academic skills she needed to fulfill her dream of becoming a special victims prosecutor.

Cristina graduated from WSU with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, magna cum laude, with an emphasis in law enforcement and a dual minor in Latin American studies and legal studies. She earned a Juris Doctor degree in 2002 from the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah. After graduation, she served as a deputy district attorney in the criminal division of the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office. She prosecuted narcotic, general felony and special victim offenses. Cristina then worked as a deputy county attorney at the Davis County Attorney's Office, where she continued in the specialized prosecution of special victim cases involving sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. Prior to being appointed a Second District Court judge in 2021, Cristina served as an assistant United States Attorney for the District of Utah. In that capacity, she coordinated the Project Safe Childhood program and focused on the federal prosecution of child exploitation offenses. She also served a one-year detail as counsel to the United States Attorney for the District of Utah.

Cristina is very active in her community with a keen focus on higher education. She was appointed by Gov. Gary Herbert to serve on the University of Utah Board of Trustees and as a regent for the Utah System of Higher Education. 

Distinguished Alumnus 

Dr. Todd Rose BS ’00

Todd Rose swears he would not be where he is today — personally or professionally — without Weber State University. 

Although school teachers and principals had labeled Todd a class clown and troublemaker and encouraged his parents to temper their expectations about what he would be able to achieve in life, Todd explained in his 2016 book, The End of Average, that he felt sure he had something special to offer. “It just seemed like there was a profound mismatch between who I really was and the way the world saw me,” he wrote.

At WSU, Todd forged his own path to the American dream based on both his strengths and weaknesses. He traces his academic transformation to three psychology professors who mentored and believed in him, even when he didn't fully believe in himself. He found out after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2000 that one of them had even taught an extra class and donated his pay to the psychology department so Todd could be hired as his research assistant.

In 2007, Todd earned a doctorate from Harvard University and shortly after became a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he led the laboratory for the science of individuality. He was also the faculty director for the Mind Brain and Education program. Currently, Todd is the president of the Boston-based think tank Populace, as well as the author of three bestselling books.

Emeriti Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Linda Inouye Oda BS ’67

Linda Oda may be small in stature, but her reputation for intelligent, tenacious conflict mediation is colossal. Her Japanese American family made a life in Utah not by choice, but out of necessity after fleeing Los Angeles to escape internment during World War II. Her parents opened a successful market on Ogden’s 25th Street, but one snowy November morning in 1961, an unidentified intruder entered the store, stole $100 from the cash register and beat her father to death.

The family managed to keep their store open as Linda navigated high school and graduated from Weber State with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Her educational journey wasn’t easy. She balanced what little time she had to study with minding the store and caring for her mother who had suffered an incapacitating stroke.

Linda taught school for a few years before working as a reading specialist for several Utah school districts. She earned a doctorate in education at Brigham Young University while serving as principal at C.H. Taylor Elementary in Ogden. She joined the faculty at Weber State, oversaw the Davis School District’s Quality Teaching program, and was asked to develop materials to educate children about World War II internment camps.

Linda directed the Office of Asian Affairs during Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.’s tenure. She coordinated the Utah State Board of Education’s English Language Learner program and spearheaded numerous efforts at Weber State to improve curriculum for children from minority populations. She continues to volunteer at the university’s division of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

WSU President’s Award

William H. “Bill” AS ’51 and Patricia “Pat” Child

The rags-to-riches story of Bill Child is as improbable as it is inspiring. He grew up on a small farm in Syracuse, Utah, and attended Davis High School before enrolling at Weber College in 1950. A talented track athlete, Bill joined Phoenix social club and enjoyed his professors so much, he decided to become a teacher. He married his high school sweetheart, Darline Willey, in 1951 and continued his education at the University of Utah while working for his father-in-law, Rufus Call “R.C.” Willey. R.C. owned a tiny store next to a cornfield and sold appliances from the back of a pickup truck. 

In 1954, Bill was offered a teaching position in his hometown, but the dream evaporated with the unexpected death of his father-in-law. Shortly before passing, R.C. had given Bill the key to his store and asked him to look after it. What Bill didn’t know then was that the IRS was auditing the business and a local bank sought to recall the loan that financed the store's inventory. An even greater tragedy occurred in 1965 when Darline died from a rare medical condition. She was only 31 and left behind four grieving youngsters and a brokenhearted husband. 

A blind date with Pat Wright in 1966 proved to be Bill’s salvation. Pat, from Salt Lake City, eventually accepted Bill’s marriage proposal, moved to Syracuse and helped raise Bill’s children while adding four more to the family.

Meantime, Bill poured his time and energy into growing his former father-in-law’s eponymous store into Utah’s largest furniture and appliance chain. In 1995, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway company purchased R.C. Willey and Bill continued to serve as CEO until his retirement in 2002. The “tiny store” that Bill took over in 1954 now boasts more than $1 billion in annual sales. It is a testament to the ideals of hard work, integrity and endurance. 

Now living in Salt Lake City, Bill and Pat support numerous charitable organizations and educational programs in Utah and other states. “My education provided me with the confidence I needed to solve problems,” Bill said. “I’ve tried to be honest in all my dealings, both personal and business. People being able to trust you is a huge part of success.”

Author:

Karin Hurst, Office of Marketing & Communications
801-626-7337 • karinhurst@weber.edu

Contact:

Karin Hurst, Office of Marketing & Communications
801-626-7337 • karinhurst@weber.edu