BYU grads Tarbox and Millner make difference at Weber State

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BY ELIZABETH EDWARDS

As an undergrad at BYU, Norm Tarbox, Weber State University’s vice president for administration services, found inspiration for the rest of his life.

“I was a second semester junior and I didn’t know what to do with my life,” Tarbox said. “I knew I loved my college experience and I wanted to continue living and working in that environment. Then when I was walking across campus, I felt inspired that this is what I want to do. I want to be at a university.”

From that point on, Tarbox, who also received an MBA from BYU, angled his education and work experience to work with higher education and be an administrator. He said Weber State, a university of 25,000 students located in Ogden, is the perfect fit for him because he is passionate about helping young people advance in their lives. Tarbox said he enjoys the challenges and adventures his job brings and working on a campus with a student first mission.

As a BYU student, Tarbox said he remembers living at Raintree Apartments and participating in “Utah News Tonight,” as a broadcast journalism student. Growing up, Tarbox was a Cougar fan because his dad was a professor at BYU, but times have changed.

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Ann Millner is currently president at Weber State University.
“[My dad] started dragging me down to football games at age five so I really had no choice, I was a cougar fan,” Tarbox said. “That’s changed now. My emotional connection is to Weber State. I hate everybody else, partly because I’m responsible for athletic program here. I live and die by it. I want them to win.”

Other faculty at Weber State such as Ann Millner, president of the university, also have BYU backgrounds. Millner received a masters in education leadership from BYU.  She said it was a program that broadened her understanding of the history, philosophy and roots of higher education.

“The interaction with professionals in the field enriched the conversations, and discussions and provided an excellent educational environment,” Millner said of the program.

Her extensive educational past also includes degrees from University of Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Texas State and from a joint program offered by University of Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson University. She said she enjoyed her college years because of her love of learning.

“Learn everything you can, and not just narrowly focused learning, but a broad preparation that allows you to really understand the social, the scientific, the technological and the economic context of the world in which we live,” Millner said when asked her advice to students. “They need to understand the complexity and the interplay of the world and the multi facets of it in order for them to be successful, not only in their own professions, but also as members of society — locally, nationally and globally.”

As president of the university, Millner said the most rewarding time for her is commencement because she loves celebrating students’ hard work. Millner has the opportunity to interact with students. Kyle Braithwaite, Weber State student body president, said she is down-to-earth and welcoming. At a recent fundraiser for a Weber State student whose house burned down, Millner was dunked in a dunk tank by students.

“She rolls up her sleeves and gets dirty if she needs to,” Braithwaite said.

Millner, a Tennessee native who initially worked in the College of Health Professions at Weber State, has worked at the university for nearly 30 years and her decision to stay there revolved around the school’s focus on personalized educational experiences.

“I’ve kind of grown up at Weber State,” Millner said. “I’ve had the opportunity to take on many different professional worlds at the institution and stay at the same institution. That doesn’t happen for everybody, so I feel blessed.”

Weber State’s vice president of student affairs, Janet Winniford, said Millner is an incredible advocate for the university and fabulous to work with.

“She’s supportive, she’s empowering, she is genuine, she’s very authentic in her own leadership and she is very unpretentious,” Winniford said. “It’s not about her, it’s about Weber State.”

Millner recently announced her retirement as the president of Weber State. Weber State, now a state-run university offering bachelor degrees, associate degrees, professional certificates and a handful of graduate degrees, was initially founded in 1889 as Weber Stake Academy under the direction of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 1964 the school became a four-year college and it 1991 its name changed to Weber State University. Still, the school has a large LDS influence as 60 to 65 percent of students are LDS, according to Millner.

Braithwaite said he feels a strong LDS presence at the school, especially as many students are active in church institute classes, but not so strong that students of other faith feel unwelcome.

“We want to be a campus that supports all of our students,” Millner agreed. “We want every student at Weber State, whatever their faith, to feel included and respected and comfortable on our campus. We want that environment for every student here.”

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