NDSU Alumni Awards

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on this blog! I apologize… life has been busy 🙂 Here’s a bit about a recent happening:

NDSU’s Alumni Association recently presented five alumni with various achievement awards. I’m honored to have been selected as the recipient of the 2014 Horizon Award, which recognizes a graduate of the past 15 years for early career accomplishments or exceptional service to their community. Garry Higdem, Sandy Fiechtner, Darrell F. Strobel, Ph.D, and Gary W. Boehler, R.Ph were presented with various awards at the ceremony on May 1st as well. They’re an impressive lot and it was a bit intimidating to be on stage with them!

The ceremony was held over lunch. The food was delicious. Here’s a picture of some of the people at my table:


My family! A couple of my aunts and one of my uncles came also. And two of my favorite professors from my time at NDSU were there too, Dave Swenson and Betsy Birmingham. My family was on time, even though they got a late start that morning and told me they’d be late (they had a three hour drive). I think it’s because my sister was driving and she was going well over 80. I’m glad they made it safely, but I’m glad they were on time, too, as tables were assigned and ours was front and center. Ha!

Here’s another picture, of all the awardees:


It was fun to meet everybody. Click here to read about the awards and each person who was recognized. The emcee did a great job introducing us, and the Alumni Center made video introductions of everyone too. Here is a link to the video about me. And, because my grandma has requested it, here is the text of my speech:

“I’m honored to have been selected for the 2014 Horizon Award. I’d like to thank Dr. Elizabeth Birmingham for nominating me. I’d also like to thank David Swenson and Dr. Kris Groberg for their letters of support, and Jakelle and everyone else at the Alumni Center for all of their hard work putting this event together.

Inspiration, commitment to excellence, challenge, risk taking.

When I think about NDSU, these are a few of the words that come to mind. I’d like to take a moment to talk about two people who I feel exemplify these terms.

Betsy Birmingham.

Betsy was one of my favorite professors at NDSU. Her classes were an incredible amount of work. Strangely, though, it wasn’t necessarily that she assigned gobs of work, it was that she inspired us to go… not just the extra mile, but maybe the extra marathon.

Betsy has a unique energy I haven’t seen in any other person, that seems specifically engineered to inspire her students to strive for excellence in all of their work. I’ve decided there’s something about her that’s a little bit magical.

I didn’t see it when I was her student, though I knew I liked her classes quite a bit. But now that I teach, I look back on how she taught us in sheer amazement. How did she get us so involved? So engaged? Her classes were consistently both thought-provoking and fun, a feat I’ve found difficult to replicate in my own classes.

As I teach, I attempt to channel some of Betsy’s magic. She is one of the biggest role models I have in my teaching practice.

Dave Swenson.

Dave ended up being another of my favorite professors at NDSU. I say “ended up” because I was a little scared of him at first! Dave challenged me right from the get-go. I remember telling him I wanted to be an art major, after taking his ceramics class one time. He told me he’d sign off on it if I agreed to take the class every semester, including summers, until I graduated. I think this was a nice way of telling me I needed a lot of practice!

Dave pushed me to figure things out on my own, and I still remember how frightened but proud I felt when he had me learn how to use the kilns and start firing my own work. He challenged me to take risks, learn from my mistakes, troubleshoot, and problem solve.  As a result, he started my studio practice on a foundation of self-sufficiency, a skill vital to any artist.

As the years have passed and I’ve spent time in other studios and watched other artists work, I’ve become more and more grateful to Dave for teaching me this skill. Feeling confident in my abilities to “figure things out” has paved the way for me take uncomfortable risks with my work and career. These risks have paid off in the form of new pieces, residencies, and teaching opportunities, to name a few.

My degree and education from NDSU has been a great launchpad. Betsy and Dave exemplify the generous spirit I’ve found across the board here. I regret that there isn’t time to tell you about Kris Groberg, Bill Cosgrove, Mark Aune, Kent Kapplinger, and several others individually as well. Each of these people was an integral part of my experience at NDSU. I owe much of my success to these people and their commitment to excellence, and willingness to inspire and challenge their students.

I can only hope to be able to pay it forward to another young person someday in the future.

I’d like to conclude by thanking my family for their unending support, especially my parents, Eric and Jackie. I’m blessed to be your daughter.

Thank you.”



5 comments on “NDSU Alumni Awards

  1. Jennifer Kill says:

    Awesome, Amy! Love your speech!

  2. jackie uthus says:

    Hey, Amy, glad you are back to your blog! Fun to have the pics posted and the news about your alumni award. Kudos!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Congratulations, Amy!

  4. ldeserres says:

    Amy Uthus! You are such a badass. I’m so proud of you!

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