Founders Day

To commemorate the founding of the University of Utah in 1850, the Alumni Association each year recognizes alumni and honorary alumni who have distinguished themselves professionally, served the local and national communities, and supported the University in its mission.

February 24
Where: Little America Hotel, 500 S. Main Street, SLC


Distinguished Alumnus/a Award Recipients

To see a video of each award recipient, visit

Gregory J. Goff BS'78 MBA'81 was hired in 1981 by Conoco Phillips, where he held senior leadership positions including senior vice president of the commercial division; managing director and chief executive officer for Conoco JET Nordic (based in Stockholm, Sweden); and president of the international downstream division (based in London). In 2010, he was recruited by Tesoro as president and chief executive officer. Since he became CEO, the company’s stock and growth have soared, and in 2012, ranked him the No. 1 mid-cap CEO based on the previous two years’ metrics. In addition to donating his time as a member of the national advisory board for the U’s David Eccles School of Business, Goff has also generously donated to the school for decades. Active with the National Society of High School Scholars, he has established several Leadership Scholar Awards through personal donations to its foundation. He also serves on the board of trustees for the United Way of San Antonio.

Brent C. James BS'74 BS'76 MD'78 MSt'84 is recognized as being among the most influential leaders in health care nationally and has often testified before congressional committees. He serves as chief quality officer at Intermountain Healthcare, and he also teaches at Harvard University, Tulane University, the University of Sydney, and the University of Utah. Trained and established as a surgeon in Boston, James returned to Utah from Harvard and joined Intermountain in 1987. As the leader of Intermountain’s Institute for Health Care Delivery Research, which offers advanced training program courses for health care executives, James has instructed thousands of other leaders from throughout the world. Since 2002, he has been a member of the committee on patient safety data standards of the National Academy of Sciences. He has also served on the board of directors of the National Patient Safety Foundation of the American Medical Association since 1997. James has published articles in numerous medical journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine.

Gretchen W. McClain BS'84 started her career in the defense and aerospace industry with Hercules, Atlantic Research, and Grumman Corporation before joining NASA in 1990. During her nine years with NASA, she was a senior leader in guiding space shuttle initiatives and played a pivotal role in the successful development and launch of the International Space Station Program as chief director of the space station and deputy director for space flight, managing the space station’s $2 billion annual budget. In 1999, she moved to AlliedSignal (which became Honeywell), where she served in successive vice presidential posts. In 2005, she was recruited by ITT and steadily moved up in leadership of its water business. In 2011, she became CEO of Xylem (and one of only 24 women in the S&P 500 index) when the $3 billion global water technology company spun off from ITT. She left Xylem in 2013 and has since served as a director of both Ametek and Booz Allen Hamilton. She also advises several international corporations and foundations.

Clayton J. Parr BS'60 MS'65 JD'68 has been a leader in natural resources law for more than 40 years. He has represented some of the world’s largest mining and oil and gas companies, and from the inception of Chambers USA-America's Leading Business Lawyers, he has been named one of the top Energy & Natural Resources lawyers in Utah. He has also been continually listed in The Best Lawyers in America. Parr has served as president of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation and the Utah Association of Petroleum and Mining Landmen, and he has chaired committees for the American Bar Association and the Utah State Bar. He has taught mining law at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law and mentored dozens of students and graduates, and he served two separate terms on the law school’s board of trustees, including as president. Parr has also published numerous scholarly articles and book chapters on environmental and mining law.


   Honorary Alumni Award Recipients

John and Melody Taft led the donation of 16 acres of land and a renovated ghost town in Montana’s Centennial Valley to the University of Utah in 2012 for a new Taft-Nicholson Environmental Humanities Education Center, along with their friends Bill and Sandi Nicholson. The programs and workshops at the new U center provide an innovative educational experience that introduces students and visitors to the history and conservation value of the area. Melody and John, a retired California developer, are lifelong naturalists and philanthropists who currently lead the Montana-based International Center for Earth Concerns.

    Founders Day Scholar 

      Emily Dart, a senior pursuing an honors degree in biology, was the 2015 Founders Day Scholarship recipient.
      The $8,000 scholarship is awarded annually to a student who has overcome difficult life circumstances or
      challenges and has served the U and the community. Read more about Emily here.

For additional information, email Mary Thiriot or call 801-581-6995.
For sponsorship opportunities, call David Viveiros at 801-581-3718 or email