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The University of Utah Emeritus Alumni Association will confer a dozen Merit of Honor Awards at its annual dinner tonight. Recipients are chosen based on contributions to the U., their communities and their profession.

"It's quite an honor just to get nominated, much less to get an award. This is recognition by one's peers of having done a good job in one's life," said Neil Hancey, director of the Emeritus Alumni Association. "Every year the Emeritus Alumni Board selects about 10 to 12 people to win this award."Beth Summerhays was the first woman elected to the Granite School District Board of Education, serving two terms as president. She is the former placement director at the U. and former vice president and president of the Emeritus Alumni Association.

Royden Derrick was president of Western Steel Company and Steel Erection and Rigging Company and a member of the Quorum of the Seventy for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was chairman of the Utah Board of Regents and a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors. He also served as chairman of the Salt Lake Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

H. Willis and Leah Baxter Higgs are involved in the U.'s College of Mines and Earth Sciences and College of Engineering. H. Willis Higgs is a director of Franco-Nevada Mining Corp. Ltd. and was president of Cerro Corporation in Peru, Chile and the United States.

Mona Snelgrove Layton has volunteered for the American Cancer Society, Diabetes Association, the Heart Association, the LDS Church Office Building and a first-grade classroom, all in addition to raising 14 children - 10 of their own, nine surviving, and four Indian Placement students.

Former pediatrician Stanley Child is a clinical professor at the U. and is a past chairman and current member of the Bioethics Committee at Primary Children's Medical Center. He serves on the Traveler's Aid Society Board and volunteers at the 400 South homeless clinic.

Jack Okland has been president of the Associated General Contractors and on the National Board of the Associated General Contractors. He has been director of Key Bank of Utah, served on the Governor's Advisory Commission and has been the Norwegian Consulate on the Rotary Club and the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce.

The works of Marie Barker Nelson have been recorded by world-class symphony orchestras. In 1994, she was nominated for the Freidheim Award, presented by the Kennedy Center for composers who have had their work performed by a major American orchestra. Her work is slated to be performed by the New York Chamber Orchestra in Carnegie Hall and by the London Symphony. The Utah Symphony has also commissioned a work that will premiere in 1997.

Former assistant football coach and head track and wrestling coach Marvin Hess is a member of the Amateur Wrestling Hall of Fame, The Utah Old Time Athletes Hall of Fame and the Southern Utah University Hall of Honors. In 1991 he was voted Amateur Wrestling News' Man of the Year.

Marion Burrows Smith is co-founder and executive director of the Intermountain Specialized Abuse Treatment Center and co-founder and executive board member of Utah Girls Village. She was regional director of LDS Social Services Day Camp and director of Camp Uintah, a therapeutic residential camp, and Camp Reach Out for inner-city youths. She has won numerous awards, including the Utah Chapter to Prevent Child Abuse, Advocate of the Year Award.

Retired judge James Sawaya sat on the bench for the City Court of Murray and the Third District Court. He has been chairman of the Board of District Court Judges and the Board of Senior Judges of Utah and was named Outstanding Judge of the Year by the Utah Bar Association. He has also been a member of the board of Catholic Charities.

Don Wheeler is chairman and CEO of Wheeler Machinery Company and co-chairman of ACM Equipment Rental and Sales Company. He is the former chairman of the Salt Lake Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank and former president of the Salt Lake Rotary Club, the Utah Mining Association and the Utah Foundation. He has been on the boards of Pacificorp, First Security Advisory, Mountain Sales Legal Foundation and the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce. He has also served on the Utah Liquor Commission, the Salt Palace Board and the Utah Air Conservation Committee.

The Alumni Association will also welcome the Class of 1956 to the Emeritus Alumni Association for those who graduated from the U. 40 years ago.

A reception and dinner will be held at the Olpin Union Ballroom beginning at 6 p.m. Reservations for the dinner can be made by calling the Alumni Office at 581-6995. The cost of the dinner is $20 per plate.