Friday May 4, Southern Utah University conducts its 113th annual commencement. Every graduating class, of course, has its valedictorian, the SUU class of 2012 is no exception, but its valedictorian is… exceptional in every sense of the word.
Gwen Knight graduates with a degree in psychology, having maintained a 4.0 grade point average throughout her academic career at SUU. And that while working fulltime as directing case coordinator with the Utah court-appointed special advocate program and juggling her duties as a mother of 11 and grandmother of 22.
In fact, Gwen will graduate at the same commencement as her next to youngest son, Ryan.
"One reason that I did go back to school is because I was so inspired by watching my children graduate...and also I love my grandchildren and want to be a good role-model and help them realize the importance of education. "
Beyond the classroom, Knight has left her mark on SUU as a leader within the Psi Chi National Honor Society and a field advisor to other students in an array of service learning efforts.
Knight has spearheaded an educational partnership between her employer and SUU’s psychology department. Dr. James McDonald is dean of SUU’s College of Humanities and Social Science:
"Gwen Knight is a phenomenal person all around. The fact that she came back to the university and has been an exceptional student really speaks to her drive and her hard work and her tremendous intellectual skill. In addition to that, everyone should really know that she's doing great academic work while also making a huge impact out in the community. She is the volunteer organizer for Casa, the community advocates for juveniles whose parents are in the criminal justice system...Gwen is not just making an impact here at SUU but also in the communities of her choice as well. I'm thrilled she's valedictorian...richly deserved.
SUU president, Dr. Michael Taft Benson agrees that Gwen Knight personifies all that SUU aspires to see in its students.
"...If you talk to her professors and her classmates there is no one who is held in higher regard than Gwen. She's the embodiment of what we're trying to do here at SUU."
Southern Utah University confers 1,746 degrees in its 113th annual commencement. At the head of the class, Gwen Knight: mother, grandmother, public servant, and valedictorian.