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Founders Day 2023

The University of Utah Office of Alumni Relations annually presents its Founders Day Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna Awards to alumni for their outstanding professional achievements, public service, and/or commitment to the U.

Additionally, the Honorary Alumnus/a Award is presented to an individual who either did not attend the U or who went to the U for a brief time (a year or less) and who has contributed significantly to the advancement of the U through personal involvement, including donations, volunteer work, and/or other forms of support.

Presentation of the awards will take place on Wednesday, March 1, at the U Alumni Founders Day Celebration at the Cleone Peterson Eccles Alumni House. These annual distinguished and honorary alumni awards, along with honorary degrees, are the highest honors awarded by the University of Utah.

If interested in becoming a Founders Day 2023 sponsor, please email Cory Nelson.


When  |  Wednesday, March 1, 2023 at 6 p.m.

Where  |   Cleone Peterson Eccles Alumni House, 155 Central Campus Dr., Salt Lake City, UT, 84112

Registration  | $200 per person; $1,600 for a table of 8 (This event is recommended for age 12+)

2023 Distinguished Alumni Awards recipients

Clifton Gregory Sanders PhD’90

As the chief academic officer for Salt Lake Community College, Clifton Gregory Sanders PhD’90 provides executive leadership, strategic planning and budget oversight for Academic Affairs programs, services and personnel. Clifton also serves as a member of the college’s President’s Executive Cabinet. Previously, he was the school’s Dean of Science Mathematics and Engineering. Clifton is also a current mentor of graduate minority students at the U. He was named a Distinguished Alumnus by the U’s Department of Chemistry in 2017, received the Arts and Letters Distinguished Service Award by the Utah Academy of Sciences in 2011, and Salt Lake City Weekly’s Best Straight-Up Jazz Band award with The G Brown Quintet in 2004.

“I am deeply grateful to God for my education and many partnerships with the University of Utah throughout my career. Earning a PhD from the U’s world class Chemistry Department paved the way for my journeys and achievements in research and development, STEM education, academic leadership and community service.”

James S. Hinckley BS’71 MS’77 & Lyn Hinckley BS’73

James S. Hinckley BS’71 MS’77 is chairman of the Hinckley Institute of Politics Board of Directors and Investment Committee, positions he has held since 1990.  He was a member of the Chrysler Corp. West Region Dealer Council 1982 through 1990 and the Chrysler Corp. National Truck Advisory Board from 1988 through 1992. Jim was president of the Utah Automobile Dealers Association from 1988 through 1989 and was inducted into the Utah Automobile Hall of Fame in 2013. He is a sustaining member of the U’s National Advisory Council, and has been a member of the National History Museum of Utah’s Board of Advisors since 2018.

“I love learning and sharing my enthusiasm for knowledge by creating opportunities for education and growth. My involvement in both academic and community-facing organizations at the U has allowed me to engage with and support students of all ages throughout their educational journeys.”

Lyn Hinckley BS’73 has been an avid supporter of the Hinckley Institute of Politics since 1973, and has served the institute in a variety of capacities over the years. Lyn is a community advocate for the McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention and is deeply committed to furthering the objectives and mission of the Natural History Museum of Utah. Lyn was previously an elementary school teacher and worked with the Junior League of Salt Lake City.

“For many years, I have been the fortunate beneficiary of countless opportunities for meaningful participation including in support of students through the Hinckley Institute and with my grandchildren as they learn and expand their knowledge at the NHMU.”

Anke Friedrich BS’90 MS’93

Anke Friedrich BS’90 MS’93 is an endowed professor of geology at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich where she established a Master's degree program in geology, led international student field trips involving U students, and set up student exchange programs with several international institutions, including the U. She is an adjunct professor at the U's Department of Geology & Geophysics and in 2019 she received the department’s Distinguished Alumni Award. She played a crucial role in establishing one of the world's first continuously operating space-geodetic networks, which served to monitor the tectonic activity around Yucca Mountain, the then-proposed nuclear waste repository site. Anke volunteered for the Salt Lake Olympic Games before moving to Potsdam and helping to establish the first research group in Active Tectonics at a geological institute in Germany. As a student, she was a member of the U’s alpine ski team, earning All-American honors by winning three individual NCAA championships in giant slalom and slalom.

"I benefited enormously from the vibrant and collegial environment at the University of Utah both as a student-athlete and a geology major. Therefore, I am very grateful to my former ski coaches, faculty mentors, and fellow students for their tremendous support and friendship over the years."

Charles Rich BS’62 MD’65

Charles Rich BS’62 MD’65 served as president of both the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and American Academy of Neurological Surgeons and was vice chairman of the American Board of Neurological Surgery. He was also a neurosurgical delegate to the American Medical Association House of Delegates, and was chief medical officer of the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympic Games before joining the Utah Sports Commission Board of Directors. Chuck was president of the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine’s Alumni Association for eight years, a member of the U Alumni Board of Directors for three years, a neurosurgical consultant to the University of Utah Athletics Department, and a member of the Crimson Club Board of Directors. He and his family also served as a foster family for basketball student-athletes, and contributed athletic scholarships for many years.

“Utah is now complimented for its ‘connectedness’—a culture where so many have known each other for so many reasons over so many years. The University of Utah plays a central role in providing that valuable resource.”

2023 Honorary Alumni Award recipient

John Bircumshaw

Legendary Utah fan John Bircumshaw popularized the “Flash the U” gesture. His passion for the University of Utah Gymnastics program has led him to become a staple in the Utah gymnastics world; he travels with the team, provides a community for the gymnasts’ parents, and is the person that out-of-town parents can depend on to help their daughters. John was hired by Utah Power in 1973 as a meter reader. He apprenticed and became a journeyman lineman before becoming director of apprentice training from 1996 through 2015.  John received the Spirit of Excellence Award from the company for his involvement in building the Olympic Rings for the 2002 Olympic Games, where he served as venue captain at the figure skating and short track speed skating venue. John also served as a Park City volunteer firefighter, a member of the Volunteer Ski Patrol at the Park City Ski Resort, and volunteer director of the resort’s Saturday Patrol.

 “The University of Utah provides a high-quality education for all of the Student Athletes who have the opportunity to attend school and participate in sports.”

View a list of past Founders Day award recipients.

Watch our past Founders Day award recipient videos.

Against the backdrop of the past year, we are in a reflective place that centers our values of inclusion and equality for all. As we mark the founding of the University of Utah in 1850, we want to recognize the work that is still ahead of us to critically review and question the histories related to the founding of our university. We recognize the enduring relationship between many indigenous people and their traditional homelands. We acknowledge that this land is the traditional and ancestral homeland of the Shoshone, Paiute, Goshute, and Ute Peoples. The university remains committed to continued partnerships with tribes through research, education and community engagement activities.