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To commemorate the founding of the U on Feb. 28, 1850, the U Alumni Association will celebrate four outstanding alumni and two honorary alumni at the annual Founders Day banquet, Tuesday, Feb. 24.

To commemorate the founding of the University of Utah on Feb. 28, 1850, the U Alumni Association will celebrate four outstanding alumni and two honorary alumni at the annual Founders Day banquet, Tuesday, Feb. 24, at the Little America Hotel, beginning with a reception at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7.

This year’s Distinguished Alumnus/a Award recipients are Gregory J. Goff, a leader in the energy sector; Brent C. James, an internationally known expert in health care delivery; Gretchen W. McClain, an accomplished aerospace engineer; and Clayton J. Parr, a widely respected natural resources attorney. Naturalists and philanthropists John and Melody Taft are the 2015 Honorary Alumni for their extensive contributions to the U’s Taft-Nicholson Environmental Humanities Education Center.

The Alumni Association will also recognize Emily Dart, a senior pursuing an honors degree in biology, who is the 2015 Founders Day Scholarship recipient. The $8,000 scholarship is awarded annually to a student who has overcome difficult life circumstances or challenges and has served the U and the community.

Distinguished Alumnus/a Awards:

Gregory-J.-GoffGregory J. Goff, B.S. ’78, MBA ’81
In his first job after his Master of Business Administration, at Conoco Phillips, his employer recalls he quickly realized Goff was “the smartest person [he’d] ever worked with” and fast-tracked him into leadership. He held senior leadership positions, including chief executive officer for Conoco JET Nordic (based in Stockholm) before being recruited in 2010 by Tesoro to become its president and chief executive officer. Since he became CEO, the company’s stock and growth have soared, and in 2012, ranked him the No. 1 mid-cap CEO based on the previous two years’ metrics.

Brent-C.-JamesBrent C. James, B.S. ’74, B.S. ’76, M.D. ’78, M.St. ’84
Chief quality officer at Intermountain Healthcare, James also teaches at Harvard University, Tulane University, the University of Sydney and the University of Utah. As head of the Institute for Health Care Delivery Research, James has instructed health care leaders from throughout the world, and he has often testified before congressional committees. He serves on a committee for the National Academy of Sciences and a foundation board of the American Medical Association, and he has published articles in medical journals including the New England Journal of Medicine.

Gretchen-W.-McClainGretchen W. McClain, BS’84
A brilliant engineer, McClain started her career in the defense and aerospace industry with Hercules, Atlantic Research and Grumman Corporation before joining NASA in 1990. During her nine years with NASA, she was a senior leader in guiding space shuttle initiatives and played a pivotal role in the successful development and launch of the International Space Station Program as chief director of the space station and deputy director for space flight, managing the space station’s $2 billion annual budget. She went on to become CEO of the global water company Xylem, where she was one of the only 24 women in the S&P 500.

Clayton-J.-ParrClayton J. Parr, B.S. ’60, M.S. ’65, J.D. ’68
A leader in natural resources law for more than 40 years, Parr has been continually listed in The Best Lawyers in America and has chaired committees for the American Bar Association and the Utah State Bar. He has assisted with acquisition and exploration rights worldwide, as well as drafting and lobbying for geothermal legislation in Utah. He has mentored dozens of students and graduates of the U’s S.J. Quinney College of Law, where he has taught mining law, and he has published numerous scholarly articles and book chapters on environmental and mining law.

Honorary Alumni Award:

Melody-and-John-TaftJohn and Melody Taft
The Tafts are lifelong naturalists and philanthropists who now lead the Montana-based International Center for Earth Concerns. They led the donation of 16 acres of land and a renovated ghost town in Montana’s Centennial Valley to the University of Utah in 2012 for a new Taft-Nicholson Environmental Humanities Education Center, along with their friends Bill and Sandi Nicholson. The programs at the new U center provide an innovative educational experience that introduces students and visitors to the history and conservation value of the area.

Founders Day Scholar:

Emily-DartEmily Dart
Halfway through the spring semester of her freshman year in 2011-12, a hemorrhage from a malformed blood vessel in Dart’s frontal lobe made brain surgery an uncomfortable reality. She underwent the surgery in May 2012 and then began the arduous process of recovery. She now is back attending classes full time and plans to go on to pursue a master’s degree in public health and work in epidemiology and pathology.


Learn more about all of this year’s honorees at