The 2019 Alumni Banquet will be held on Thursday, September 26, at 6:30 p.m., in the Gilbert Great Hall of the Hunter Conference Center at Southern Utah University. SUU’s Alumni and Community Relations Office will honor and celebrate alumni as part of the annual Homecoming Week.

This year, three individuals will be recognized for their contributions and service: Julie Stuart Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Steve Shirts, musician and recently retired Cedar High Band Director and Timian Yoshimoto Godfrey, clinical assistant professor for the doctorate program at the University of Arizona College of Nursing.

Outstanding Alumnus Award - Julie Stuart Castle

Julie Stuart Castle is among SUU’s most distinguished graduates. After earning a degree in political science and history with a minor in communication in 1992, she worked in a succession of highly contributive positions locally and abroad before becoming the leader of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. 

At Best Friends, Julie oversaw the organization’s marketing and fundraising efforts, earning six awards as animal welfare brand of the year, while revenue doubled. She led life saving initiatives such as No More Homeless Pets in Utah and No-Kill Los Angeles, involving a coalition of more than 160 rescue organizations. In 2016, Castle declared a commitment to ending shelter killing in America by 2025. In 2017, she was named CEO of Best Friends. 

In 2018, InStyle Magazine celebrated Castle as one of 50 Badass Women “who show up, speak up and get things done.” TheEveryGirl.com named her among “18 Women Who Inspired Us in 2018.”

Distinguished Service Award - Steve Shirts

Steve Shirts, an honored 1987 SUU graduate, has excelled as a saxophonist, conductor and teacher. He has delivered distinguished service for more than three decades, and today continues to do so, even following his retirement from the Cedar High faculty in the spring of 2019.

Shirts, who also earned a master’s degree in secondary education from SUU, began his teaching career at Cedar High School in 1987 and became a legend there and among music educators throughout the west, garnering armfuls of awards. He is renowned for teaching and mentoring his students in life as well as in music, and hundreds of pre-high school students anxiously hoped for inclusion in his bands when their time came. 

He has long added his musical prowess to the culture of his hometown and beyond in a variety of performances of all kinds.

Young Alumnus Award

Dr. Timian Godfrey 

Dr. Timian Godfrey serves as a clinical assistant professor for the doctorate program at the University of Arizona College of Nursing. She is a 2010 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, capping a SUU career that featured a wide range of exceptional student achievements and honors. 

After graduation, she worked as a registered nurse while earning a master’s degree in nursing-family nurse practitioner at UNLV in 2014, and has since served as a board-certified nurse practitioner in the areas of interventional pain management, orthopedic spine surgery, telemedicine, and emergency medicine. She continues to work in emergency departments on Native American reservations throughout the country, and her experiences inspired her to pursue her doctor of nursing practice degree at Johns Hopkins University, completed July 2019. 

Additionally, this year the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development named her a recipient of the Native American Top 40 Under 40 award.

The annual Alumni Banquet and Honors is open to all SUU alumni and friends. To purchase tickets, call (435) 586-7777.