Human Ties Awards

Honoring Humanities Heroes

HumanTiesAwardsPhoto2015Human Ties Awards celebrate partners and projects that exemplify Utah Humanities' mission to improve communities through active engagement in the humanities.

At our Human Ties celebration, we join with friends and our Utah community to honor the tremendous work being done locally in public humanities.


With these awards we celebrate everything from grant recipients to education programs to legislative work; all done in support of the humanities.

Join us in recognizing our Human Ties recipients:

2015 Human Ties Recipients

Cassie Cox
Ogden, Utah

Cassie is an English teacher at Two Rivers High School in Ogden, the only alternative High School in the Weber School District. Cassie has been selected as an elite summer scholar by the National Endowment for the Humanities four years in a row. Each time she returns from these trips, she has worked with Utah Humanities to bring literature and learning to life for her students. In addition to her work with NEH, Cassie is a great ally to the Utah Humanities Book Festival. She has used every conference, workshop, and event as an opportunity to increase her impressive network of authors and scholars. As a result she has been able to bring in National Book Award winners such as Kathryn Erskine and other critically-acclaimed authors such as Jay Asher and A.S. King to work both with her students and with the Book Festival at large.

Cassie's most recent project focused on issues of race, justice, and the American civil rights movement, as illustrated by the Emmett Till story.

Emmett Till was a black teenager who was kidnapped and murdered in 1955. The Chicago native was visiting relatives in Mississippi when he was taken from the bed he was sleeping in, brutally beaten, and killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman at a local grocery store. Over 500 students from Ogden and Bountiful spent 4-6 weeks (across a number of content areas) immersed in study of the lasting impact of the Civil Rights Movement, culminating in an opportunity for the students to discuss ideas of race and justice with an impressive panel of experts. Cassie brought together Till's cousin, Wheeler Parker, who was with him at the grocery store, Till scholar Devery Anderson, Chris Crowe, author of Getting Away With Murder: The True Story of the Emmet Till Case, and FBI agent Dale Killinger, who re-opened the Till case in the 1990s and exhumed his body in 2005, to talk with her students.

Teaching is Cassie's life and her passion. She is dedicated to her students, many of whom have lived lives full of challenges and hardships. Using literature, she offers them hope and shows them that, while they can't control their past, they can control their future. Utah is very fortunate to have talented and innovative teachers like Cassie Cox in the classroom.

Uintah County Heritage Museum
Vernal, Utah

We honor Uintah County Heritage Museum for its tremendous partnership over the last four years. It started in 2012 with a one-case exhibit called "Beauty and the Beast," created by museum staff as their project for our Museum Interpretation workshops. Inspired by the scary permanent wave machine in the museum's collection (nicknamed "The Beast"), the exhibit combined objects and archival research to tell the story of how early 20th century films and advertising created the "need" for fancy hairstyles that could only be met by the burgeoning new business sector of professional beauty parlors. They connected this national story to a local story about the quest for beauty, set within the economic and social context of the Uinta Basin. For many small museums in the state, this kind of deep, deliberate interpretation of their collections is new.

When the opportunity arose to host the Smithsonian Museum on Main Street exhibition that we toured around the state last year, the Museum was in the throes of renovating and moving to a new building, but leapt at the chance to use "Journey Stories" as the centerpiece for its grand opening. They curated a companion exhibition about local journeys on the Green River, organized an array of related public programming, and drew 1,600 visitors through the door in the first month!

The Museum also offered to be a guinea pig for Utah Humanities' initial foray into onsite mentored projects. Their staff has been working shoulder-to-shoulder with conservation and collections specialists, learning how to manage and stabilize their significant collection of Fremont and Ute material. This project has helped Heritage Museum staff build capacity to care for and interpret their own collections.

All along, the Heritage Museum has involved its community by hosting history workshops and docent trainings in Vernal. Staff members regularly take advantage of professional development offerings, not only incorporating lessons learned into their own work, but generously sharing their experiences with museum colleagues around the state.

Time and again, the Uintah County Heritage Museum has stepped up to the challenge of being a robust steward and proponent of its community heritage. Its work actively demonstrates how history and culture can help a community understand its origins and evolution. Every day, the Museum puts the humanities into action, thanks to Museum Director Sam Passey and his colleagues.

Representative Brad Wilson
Kaysville, Utah

We honor Representative Brad Wilson as a friend of the Humanities.

CEO of Destination Homes, Brad has chaired the Davis County Chamber of Commerce, and received the Chamber's Advance Business Prosperity Award. He's also past chair of the Davis County Economic Advisory Council and of the Children's Aid Society. He was named as one of Utah's top 40 under 40 business professionals. He has a business degree and serves on Weber's National Advisory Council.

Representative Wilson is widely considered a rising star in the Utah State Legislature. A member of the legislature just since 2011, he is Vice Chair of Executive Appropriations and was elected assistant majority whip by his peers at the last session. The Davis Clipper endorsed him, saying "he is a public servant, not a politician" who "inspires and rallies people to work together for the public good."

For the past three years, Brad has inspired and rallied legislators to work together to approve state funding for Utah Humanities (which, of course, we consider the public good). Of course, he had the support of Senators and Representatives from both sides of the aisle and from around the state, but Brad has been our champion, and for that we present him with a 2015 Human Ties award.

2013 Human Ties Recipients

Legacy Award
Louise Excell and David Pettit
Springdale, Utah

Louise Excell and David Pettit received the 2013 Legacy Award in gratitude for their history of generous personal and professional support of the humanities. Louise became involved in Utah Humanities programs several years ago, when she helped to organize a series of discussions on the future of Utah’s southwestern region called “Embracing Opposites,” which won a national award for creative and effective humanities programming. She has also served with distinction on our board, has spoken to groups around the state as part of our Road Scholars Speakers Bureau, and has helped to facilitate many humanities discussions. David is a highly respected landscape photographer known for capturing the beauty of the southwest.

Bridging Cultures Award
Welcoming Utah
Diana Paredes and Luis Garza
SLC, Utah

Comunidades Unidas (Communities United) mission is to eliminate ethnic disparities by promoting grassroots outreach, education, and capacity building, as well as advocating for long term policy change. Their Welcoming Utah initiative strengthens relationships between Utah’s native-born and foreign-born residents with community dialogues, workshops, film screenings, and other activities that provide opportunities for new and old Utahns to share experiences and stories.

Academic Partnership Award
Jennifer Bauman: Venture Course at Westminster College in Salt Lake City
Lindsay Fullerton: Venture Course at Southern Utah University in Cedar City
Tonia Wilson: Venture Course at Weber State University in Ogden

Venture is a free college-level humanities course for people living on low incomes, a way for people of modest means to study philosophy, art history, American history, literature, and critical writing and thinking. Facilitated by these three site directors, Venture helps people use the humanities to find new ways to imagine their lives.

Humanities in Action Award
Museum Initiative
Bill Sanders
Heritage Museum of Layton

Bill Sanders, director of the Heritage Museum of Layton, received the “Humanities in Action” Award for his key role in our Museum Interpretation Initiative. Bill demonstrates how history, research, analysis, and interpretation are important to the community’s understanding of its origins and evolution. His museum preserves and exhibits artifacts, documents, and photographs that trace the historical, cultural, recreational, and economic development of north Davis County.

Distinguished Alumna Award
Diana Major Spencer
Mayfield, Utah

Another former board member refers to Diana Major Spencer as one of those efficient, energetic people everyone goes to-- the “STP syndrome” faced by small towns—the Same Ten People who are called on to make every project work. Diana represented Sanpete County on Utah Humanities board, worked on marketing and educational programming for the Utah Shakespeare Festival, and served as chair of the English Department and Dean of Humanities at Snow College. She has been a frequent UH project scholar, and the person who saved the Beaux Arts Casino Star Theatre in Gunnison as a gathering place for movies and community events. Not least is Diana’s involvement with this event. In 1988, she coordinated the very first Human Ties event, presenting the first Governor’s Award in the Humanities.