Spring Awards Honor Cellist, Professor, and Scholars
About 200 people attended the Spring Awards Banquet in April, when the University of Utah Alumni Association presented $550,000 in scholarships for students and honored The Piano Guys’ cellist and a U social work professor. International music star Steven Sharp Nelson BA’02 MPA’07 received the Par Excellence Award from the Alumni Association’s Young Alumni Board, and U professor David Derezotes was honored with this year’s Philip and Miriam Perlman Award for Excellence in Student Counseling.
The Young Alumni Board gives its Par Excellence Award annually to a former student who attended the U within the last 15 years, in recognition of his or her outstanding professional achievements and service to the community as well as the University of Utah. Nelson, this year’s honoree, is the cellist for The Piano Guys, whose videos of their classical and pop music have become a YouTube viral sensation. Nelson received his bachelor’s degree in 2002 in music and then went on to get a master’s degree in public administration, with a graduate certificate in urban planning, all from the U. After graduate school, he worked as a real estate agent and owner of Thornton Walker Real Estate as his cello career took off. His first solo album, Sacred Cello, in 2006 was atop the Billboard charts. He released two more solo albums, Tender Mercies in 2008 and Christmas Cello in 2010. He joined The Piano Guys in 2011, and together they have created one of the fastest-growing channels on YouTube. His videos are watched by more than half a million viewers daily, and since 2011, many have been among the top 10 music videos in the world.
Derezotes, known to his students as “Dr. Dave,” is chair of Practice and Mental Health in the U’s College of Social Work, as well as director of the college’s Bridge Training Clinic. He also serves as director of Peace and Conflict Studies in the U’s College of Humanities.
Derezotes received his doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley in 1989 and joined the University of Utah faculty that same year. Teaching and mentoring of students and practitioners is especially important to him. He strives to incorporate experiential learning in the classroom and community, and he recently began a Bridge Training Clinic site on Salt Lake City’s west side, in cooperation with University Neighborhood Partners, to help empower minority communities, including refugees.
U President David W. Pershing spoke at the April awards banquet and acknowledged the many deserving students receiving scholarships that evening. The record total of $550,000 that the Alumni Association is awarding this year will support the academic dreams of a variety of students, including those who have overcome tremendous adversity, as well as nontraditional students, those who are the first in their families to attend college, and those who come from diverse backgrounds or are in financial need.
Revenue from the sales of University of Utah license plates continues to be the primary source of scholarship funds for the U Alumni Association. Association membership fees, proceeds from the Homecoming 5K, and other private contributions also support the scholarship fund.
Web Exclusive Video
Alumni Net $7,000 for Scholarships in Ski Challenge
The University of Utah Alumni Association’s Young Alumni Board received $7,000 for scholarships from Vail Resorts as a result of participating in the Vail Resorts Epic Ski Challenge.
Young Alumni Board members Peter Black, McKenzie Newton-Schreck, Jennifer Billington, Ryan Kump, and Adam Reeder traveled to seven resorts in California, Utah, and Colorado during three months of competition with nine other teams in Utah and 10 teams in Colorado. This was the fourth year of the Epic Ski Challenge, and the first time for Utah companies and charities to be included. Black and his company sponsor, CBRE, selected the U’s Young Alumni Scholarship Fund as their charity of choice to receive the $7,000. CBRE also will be giving an additional $2,000 to the scholarship fund.
Student Alumni Board Wins Western Regional Award
The University of Utah Alumni Association’s Student Alumni Board has won the Outstanding Internal Program Award from the Western regional division of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s Affiliated Student Advancement Programs.
The award was presented at the programs’ conference in San Diego, California, in early March. The Student Alumni Board was honored for its “U Book Nights,” when most of the board’s 35 members race around the U’s campus to complete six to eight of the 50 University of Utah traditions that are listed in the U Book, a handbook of U facts, figures, and traditions that the board publishes annually.
“We split the board members into teams and send them off with a time deadline,” says Derek Deitsch, a vice president of the board. “They have to take a photo to show they completed the tradition. We then end the night with a visit to one of the fast food places around the U.”