Southern Utah University celebrated its 125th anniversary with a memorable Homecoming week. The celebrations started Monday morning with the Homecoming Kickoff Party on the Library Plaza. There, students enjoyed snow cones from the Tiki Shack and took photos with school mascot Thor the Thunderbird.
That evening in the Upper Quad, guests competed in a Mario Kart Tournament. They were invited to race each other around a track circling Old Main on wiggle cars.
Tuesday afternoon, a cardboard boat race was held at the SUU Aquatic Center in the J. L. Sorenson Physical Education Building. Teams raced in boats they had made themselves with cardboard and duct tape prior to the event.
Later that night, the SUU Royalty Pageant took place in the Auditorium Theatre. Ten competitors participated in the event, with Andelin Mbaki winning the title of Royal T-Bird, Addysn Kidd as the 1st Attendant, David Nguyen as the 2nd Attendant and Ryan Elbell as the winner of the People’s Choice Award.
Wednesday started with the event WACky Wednesday, hosted by Thunderbird Athletics at the Library Quad. This was to celebrate SUU’s involvement in the Western Athletic Conference. Students received free pizza and participated in various activities, including cornhole, inflatable hoops and a game of whack-a-mole.
Mics and Mocks was held that night in the Starlight Room in the Student Center, standing room only. While attendees enjoyed three different Homecoming-themed mocktails, they also listened and participated in an open mic night, enjoying music, poetry, stand-up comedy and more from 37 different performers.
On Thursday, the A.P.E.X. event Power of Place happened in the Gilbert Great Hall in the Hunter Alumni Center. At this event, various staff and students shared the stories of SUU’s founders and how they helped build the community and legacy of Southern Utah University.
That afternoon, at the request of President Mindy Benson, an inauguration community service event was held in the Ballroom in the Student Center. There, students and community members made fleece blankets for the Iron County Holiday Assistance, care kits for homeless outreach and letters for those working in community service: first responders, public educators, healthcare workers etc. For those who wanted an outdoor project instead, they met at the Cedar City Veteran Park to repaint the Coal Creek Bridge.
Thursday night, a pep rally and powderpuff football game were held at the Eccles Coliseum. Emcees Allan Ahanonu and Jarem Harris taught the students school cheers and commentated on the game.
Friday morning held a historical inauguration for Mindy Benson as the 17th president of Southern Utah University. Benson is the first female president of SUU and the first to be born and raised in Cedar City, Utah. This event included a variety of guests such as Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young and the Utah Jazz Bear.
Forever Red took place that night in the Upper Quad. The Cedar City community enjoyed various food trucks, games and fireworks. Live music was provided by the bands The Sweet Caroline Tour Neil Diamond Legacy Concert, The Boy Band Project and No Limits.
Saturday was the last day of Homecoming week. It started with a pancake breakfast in the Hunter Alumni Center parking lot. The pancakes were handmade and served by Cedar City community members.
The Homecoming parade took place shortly afterwards on University Boulevard. Several clubs and organizations from SUU and the community were represented as they handed out treats and prizes and played music for those in attendance.
Following the parade, the Thunderbirds played a volleyball game against Utah Tech University. They won their match with a final score of 3–1 sets.
Later that afternoon, a tailgate for the SUU football game was held in the softball field parking lot. People enjoyed free food and live music and built up excitement for the upcoming game.
Homecoming week ended with a football game against Utah Tech University, drawing in a crowd of over 8,000 spectators. The Thunderbirds won with a final score of 31–17.
For many, Homecoming week was a time to bring people together. It was a week of uniting several generations of Southern Utah University students.
“It was amazing to see all the alumni there,” said freshman Clara Delong.
It was also a time to reflect on the growth and community building within the university.
“It’s so cool that we’re seeing more broad representation and celebrating what makes us the unique campus we are,” said Heather Garcia, director of STIL.
Finally, it reminded current students and alumni alike to celebrate being a part of Southern Utah University and its legacy.
“I love SUU,” said President Benson during her inauguration. “It’s not only in my blood, it is who I am.”
Article by: Andrea Rodgers
Photos by: Bria Hansen and Andrea Rodgers