Alumni award recipients still bleed Aggie blue

There are a few things USU’s Alumni Hall of Honor recipients have in common. They are dedicated, hard working and they love Aggie blue no matter how many years have passed since their graduation day.More than anything else, these alumni make it an important part of their lives to give back to USU through their businesses and talents and organizing events that encourage other alumni to give back too, said Patty Halaufia, head of USU’s Alumni Relations Office.Though many give time and money to support USU, four who shine above the rest are selected each year to hang on the wall in the David B. Haight Alumni Center. They will be recognized at a brunch Nov. 12, in the Alumni Center. Shelly Anderson Neilson What did Shelly Neilson not do as an undergraduate USU student?Neilson graduated with the class of 2000 after claiming the ASUSU student body president’s office in 1998, working with student tutoring programs, leading planning committees for Homecoming and being involved with Admissions’ ambassador program.Neilson said she had a hand in everything and wouldn’t have had it any other way.”For me, Utah State was influential because of the friendships that helped me become who I am and made me want to be a better person,” Neilson said. “Because of those experiences, me and friends I met at school are contributing members in our own communities.”No matter where Neilson has moved for work or family, she takes USU pride with her, she said, talking up the Aggies to local high school students every chance she can get.She was hired after graduation by a company in Washington, D.C., as an event planner, and while there, kept in contact with USU’s Alumni Association Director Patty Halaufia. Together the two created a new chapter for USU alumni, raising thousands of dollars every year to give back to students.Presently, Neilson is Utah County chapter president of the USU Alumni Association. She raises scholarship money through dinners and other events for Utah County high school students planning to attend USU.”I tell high schoolers that because of Logan’s small community, they get the whole college experience,” Neilson said. “As a student at Utah State, it would have been neat for me to think, ‘Wow, there are people raising money for others to go to school, even after they are done.'” Willie Duersch In the 1960s Willie Duersch was on USU’s football team lineup playing center. More than 50 years later he still finds himself in the middle of the huddle but as one of the team’s steady supporters.Duersch has made Aggie gear part of his daily routine, often sporting a “We believe that we will win” T-shirt, an Aggie football hat and Aggie blue shorts to complete the ensemble. Even his day planner is stamped with the USU logo.In that planner are the names of 1,300 football players he keeps in contact with in order to inform them of upcoming golf tournaments he organizes to fuel scholarship donations, Duersch said. The Coach’s Golf Tournament is held specifically for past USU football players. The money is pooled and dispersed for additional football scholarships, he said.

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