One of Brigham Young University’s 2010 Distinguished Service Award recipients was so committed to supporting cancer research, she participated in a fundraiser that required her to swim the icy waters near Alcatraz to the San Francisco Bay shore. Debra Hutchings Forrest (BS ’77) typifies the service, passion and achievements that characterize the five women selected to receive the university awards, presented as part of BYU Homecoming.
In addition to Forrest, who received the Service to Family Award, they include Ruth Jones Jackson (BS ’59), Sundance, Utah, and Catherine Mikat Marco (BS ’82), Toledo, Ohio, both Distinguished Service awardees. Nicole Stevenson Denne (BA ’84) was given the Young Distinguished Service Award, and Gail Saxton Miller, Sandy, Utah, received the Honorary Alumni award.
A former student body president, Forrest was elected a student body vice president at BYU. She co-founded the BYU Women’s Conference, an annual event that draws thousands to campus. A mother of seven, she received the Arizona Parent of the Year Award in 2003 and the National Parent of the Year Award the next year. She credits much of her success to her late husband, William V. Forrest (BA ’76).
Seeing a need to foster self-esteem and leadership in young women, Forrest created a Young Women’s Conference to help girls ages 12 to 16 understand their worth, their capabilities and their unique role as women. The first conference, at the Hilton in Mesa, Ariz., reached its 250-person capacity quickly, and her goal is to expand to several conferences in multiple regions.
“Go Cougars” was one of the first phrases Jackson taught her children and grandchildren, and “Rise and Shout” has been a regular call to action in her home. Jackson has enriched her community, state and nation as an extraordinary volunteer in positions as varied as president of the Utah Governor’s Commission for Women and Families and president of the National Association of Women.
Jackson was the founding director of the University Center in Richfield, Utah, and worked hard at attracting nontraditional students to attend school and graduate. She mentored students and brokered and coordinated courses and degrees delivered by several Utah colleges and universities.
Marco, a physician and professor, has made substantial contributions in the medical and medical ethics fields. Her interest in emergency medicine prompted her to establish a new EM residence program at the University of Toledo, and her first class matriculated in 2009.
Her colleague, Raquel M. Schears, from the Mayo Clinic said, “Catherine Marco has been the most awe-inspiring person I have ever known. She has nurtured a beautiful and successful family unit, despite the pressure of career and academia. She chose marriage and motherhood as her first priority; the rest comes second. As she advances ethical discourse and scholarship in EM, she facilitates balanced leadership through her exemplary mentorship. She amplifies a culture of fair ethics, public service and high-caliber professionalism.”
At BYU, Denne learned that her love for journalism best expressed itself through broadcast news. Now an executive producer at KNBC in Los Angeles, she has held news and sports producer positions in Honolulu, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Dallas and Los Angeles.
“For nearly a decade I told myself I would only work in a city that had a temple,” she said. “President Hinckley made that easier when he started building them all over the world, and I have been able to stick to that goal.”
Among her career highlights was the opportunity to work on a global level when she worked for NBC on the Winter Olympics in Italy in 2006.
Whenever the late Larry H. Miller mentioned business, he would refer to his decision-makers as “Gail and I.” That’s because the renowned entrepreneur and humanitarian did his business in tandem with his high school sweetheart and beloved partner, Gail Saxton Miller. They owned 100 percent of everything: car dealerships, the Energy Solutions Arena, the Utah Jazz, megaplexes and more. Since Larry’s death in 2009, she has become more actively involved in leading the family business. Additionally Gail is vice chair of the Salt Lake Community College board of trustees and established a nonprofit organization to help women and children in jeopardy.
The Miller generosity to BYU has been abundant. The Millers funded the athletic facility for the softball and baseball diamonds and made significant donations to the Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni and Visitors Center project and the Joseph F. Smith Building. They also funded the Joseph Smith Papers, which began at BYU.
For more information, visit homecoming.byu.edu.
Writer: Charlene Winters