Building a Legacy Together

Founders Day at the U is a testament to the influential achievements of its alumni family

Since its establishment in 1850, the University of Utah has experienced remarkable growth and evolution. In celebration of its storied past, the university annually hosts Founders Day, honoring distinguished alumni and honorary degree recipients who have profoundly impacted their communities, professional domains, and the institution. The accolades bestowed during this event rank among the highest honors the university can award. Meet the honorees for this year.

Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

Jesselie B. Anderson BA’68 has made lasting contributions to Utah’s community, particularly in children’s advocacy, the arts, and education. A decade-long member of the Utah Board of Education and a collaborator with Utah’s congressional delegation, Anderson has influenced various organizations and served in pivotal roles at the U, including on the President’s Campaign Cabinet Executive Committee and the U Hospitals and Clinics Board of Directors.

Edna Anderson-Taylor BFA’59 was the first woman on KUED and the beloved Miss Julie of Romper Room on KSL TV for 17 years. Following her TV career, she worked at KSL Radio and co-founded American Women in Radio and Television in Utah. In retirement, she led the Assistance League and, with her husband, Jerry, funded scholarships for underrepresented students in the U’s Communication Department. They recently established the Edna Anderson-Taylor Institute, a platform focusing on women in journalism.

Verlinda Montoya BSN’82 MS’90 served as an elder, medicine woman, and spiritual leader for the Northern Tiwa and Hopi tribes, contributing 40 years to health care for the underserved. As Heart of Humanity Home Care’s CEO, she provided culturally respectful health services. A Lakota-Sioux adoptee, she led traditional ceremonies for 20 years. Her passing from cancer is mourned by the U community, and her family posthumously received her award.

Graduate of the Last Decade (GOLD) Alumni Award

Anjanette Watts Walsh DDS’19 provides vital dental care to Native communities in Utqiaġvik, Alaska, one of the country’s most remote towns, which experiences 24 hours of darkness from November to January. She’s a dedicated provider in an area known for extreme conditions. A Salt Lake City native, Walsh’s commitment stems from her deep appreciation for the local people and culture. At the U, Walsh was co-president of the Student Advisory Committee and student speaker at the School of Dentistry’s 2019 Commencement. 

Distinguished Service Award

Ron McBride shaped Utah Football for 21 years, clinching 88 wins, six bowl games, and two conference titles. His legacy includes inductions into multiple Halls of Fame and receiving the NAACP’s Martin Luther King Jr. Award. Off the field, he established a foundation that supports after-school programs for at-risk students.

Vicky McBride BS’82, a dedicated U alumna, has contributed to education and counseling, and has served on several boards, including Friends for Sight, Combined Health Appeal, and Prevent Child Abuse. Together, the McBrides have significantly impacted Utah student-athletes’ lives. They are parents to four U-educated children.

Visit by Sept. 6 to submit a nomination for the 2025 Founders Day Awards.


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