Kante and Nkaya win big at 72nd annual Thunderbird Awards

The 72nd annual Thunderbird Awards took place on Saturday, April 23, at 7 p.m., in the Auditorium Theatre. 

The Southern Utah University Student Association helped to host the event and present all 27 awards, including eight Club of the Year awards.

The two most prestigious awards were won by Nouman Kante, who won the R. Kenneth Benson award, and Junestevie Nkaya, who won the Elaine C. Southwick award. These awards are the most prestigious awards given to graduating students.

Nouman Kante worked as the student body president as well as the Utah Student Association president over the past year. As student body president, he helped create and run several initiatives to better help student life on campus.

Junestevie Nkaya worked as an intern for the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and advocated for human rights. Nkaya plans to continue to serve the public through working for nonprofit organizations, and hopes to, one day, work as a human rights advocate for the United Nations. 

The full list of award winners are as follows:

  • Junestevie Nkaya (Elaine C. Southwick Award)
  • Nouman Kante (R. Kenneth Benson Award)
  • Tamara Yabar (Old Sorrel Award)
  • SUU Outdoors (Organization of the year)
  • Interim President Mindy Benson (Mentor of the Year)
  • Samuel Crittenden (Contributor of the Year)
  • David Nguyen (Sterling R. Church Student Involvement)
  • Mahala Sutherland (Achievement of the Year)
  • Paige Raw (Personality of the Year)
  • Jayson Matlock (Commitment to Excellence)
  • Jayci Hacker and Curt Hill (Gerald R. Sherratt Distinguished Service)
  • Tiger Funk (SUUSA President’s Award)
  • Braxton Jones (Male Athlete of the Year)
  • Pluem Yongyuan (Female Athlete of the Year)
  • Peggy Wittwer (Professor of the Year)
  • Jackson Nowatske (Scholar of the Year)
  • Lawrence Mbaki (Georgia Beth Thompson Service Award)
  • Deon J. Robb (Carmen Rose Hepworth Award)

During the event, the winners for Clubs of the Year were announced as well. The winners were:

  • Asian-American Student Alliance (Diversity CotY)
  • Marketing Club (Professional Development CotY)
  • Psychology Club (Academic CotY)
  • Healthy T-Birds Coalition (Service CotY)
  • Lacrosse Club (Athletic CotY)
  • Chi Phi Fraternity (Greek Organization CotY)
  • SUU Dance Organization (Performing and Visual Arts CotY)
  • Pre-Medical Society (Special Interest CotY)

All eight of the clubs listed received a $250 cash prize to help fund the clubs’ events and activities in the future.

Those in attendance were also treated to performances by winner of the Artist of the Year Award, Olivia Beck, and the award’s finalists Chris Kuhlemeier, Elise Thayne, Mackenzie White and Hannah Bradshaw. 

Afterwards, the attendees were treated to an afterparty with snacks and beverages courtesy of Palette Bakery as well as a concert from professional beatboxer Sungbeats. 

Video footage of the performance:

Article by: Luke McKenzie


Photo courtesy of McKayla Olsen