On August 29, 2022, a whopping 2,900 new T-Birds walked under Southern Utah University’s iconic bell tower. They came from all 50 states, countries from all corners of the world, and even every county in Utah. Perhaps most impressive of all, though, is that this year brought in a record number of “legacy students”—the children or grandchildren of SUU alumni.
“Legacy students are so important to the culture of SUU,” said Shala Inskeep, a student services coordinator working in the First Year Experience office. “It helps to keep our alumni connected to what’s happening at the university.”
Legacy students are so impactful to SUU’s culture that the university created a scholarship opportunity for the group in 2009. Out-of-state legacy recipients are eligible for in-state tuition rates—knocking off over $6,000 in cost per semester.
SUU’s legacy students are athletes, student officers, actors and more, and each is taking the opportunity to leave their own legacy as a proud T-Bird.
Cedar English always knew he wanted to be a collegiate athlete; the only question was where.
He applied to various programs and schools across the state, but when it came time to decide, he knew what to do. His grandfather, Robert Johnson, graduated from the university in 1969 when it was called the College of Southern Utah. His mother, Sarah Johnson English, then graduated in 1998. English committed to the SUU track & field team shortly before graduating high school in 2021.
“Being a legacy student has made my overall experience 100 times better,” English said. “I get to do something I love while getting a degree, 20 years after my mom did the same thing.”
English is now working towards a degree in exercise science. When he’s not in classes, he can be found practicing his long jump for the upcoming track season.
“I hope that being an athlete will inspire my little siblings to know they can be one, too,” said English. “I want them to have just as much fun as I have.”
Some students move away from home to go to college, but Noah Denhalter knew his quality education was waiting for him in his hometown.
A lifetime resident of Cedar City, Denhalter’s parents, Matt and Jennifer, both attended SUU. He explained that his parents’ alma mater was his childhood playground.
Noah has fond memories of his experiences growing up in a college town: childhood acting camps, competitions, conventions and more. “SUU does an amazing job at making the university accessible to the community,” said Denhalter. “Not just students.”
Noah grew up seeing his parents utilize their post-high school education, helping him recognize the value of a degree. He never second-guessed his decision to go to school.
“SUU was fun and interesting to me,” Denhalter explained. “I’m proud to go to this school.”
Noah is working towards a psychology degree. He also feels fortunate to attend SUU on the Governor’s Honors Academy scholarship, a full tuition scholarship given to some of Utah’s greatest youth leaders.
Riley Higgs didn’t grow up in Utah, but she still found her place at SUU more than 20 years after her father, Kyle Higgs, attended.
Originally from North Dakota, Riley traveled 1,150 miles to become a T-Bird. SUU’s nationally accredited nursing program, along with her family history at the school, attracted Higgs to Cedar City.
“Not many places really feel like home when they’re away from your parents, your friends and your memories,” says Higgs. “But SUU is really starting to feel like a home to me.”
Riley’s father used to spend hours studying in the library when he was a student, and he showed Riley his favorite place to sit on the second floor.
“Whenever I’m in the library, that is always the first spot I check,” said Higgs. “If no one is sitting there, I go straight there.”
Higgs is studying pre-nursing and hopes to get into SUU’s nursing program in the spring. She is currently working hard at the Cedar City hospital as a registered CNA to gain experience.
Legacy students are hard at work this year paving their own legacies at Southern Utah University. Their dedication to the campus remind both alumni and students of their Southern Utah roots. Once an individual has made a home of SUU, their legacy will forever live on, here at Southern Utah University.
Story by: Brooklyn Rushton
Photos collected by: Brooklyn Rushton
This article was originally published in the October 2022 edition of the University Journal. Pick up a free copy at any of the stands on SUU campus.