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University Awards

Each Homecoming, the BYU Alumni Association honors individuals or couples who have given outstanding service in a variety of ways. See Past Honorees

Nominations are due by October 31 for the following year. Nominate Honorees

Ambassador Niankoro Yeah Samaké

Alumni Distinguished Service Award

The high price paid by Yeah Samake (MPP ’04) for an education as a child in rural Mali was not lost on him. As one of 18 children who often went to bed hungry, his father’s unshakeable commitment to educate his family despite deprivations ultimately led Samake to do graduate work in public policy at BYU—which he did “with the pure intent and strong determination to return and serve.” His foundation, Empower Mali, built housing for teachers, installed solar water pumps, installed electricity-producing playgrounds, and 26 middle schools in rural villages. It also coordinated many medical and dental missions. Samake became mayor of Ouélessébougou in 2009 and brought trust and transparency to his town. A hospital, high school, and West Africa’s largest solar panel field were built, running water was expanded, and new businesses founded. A two-time presidential candidate, Samake has also served as Mali’s ambassador to India and nine other Southeast Asian countries, doing groundbreaking work for Mali’s national interests and economy. His wife, BYU grad Marissa Coutinho (BS ’07), is from India. They have two children and one on the way.

Kristen Cox

Alumni Distinguished Service Award

Kristen Cox (BS ’95) isn’t remarkable because she’s the executive director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget and is also blind. She’s remarkable, period. She views her blindness as a character trait, not a limitation, and has set her sights high. Her philosophy that we can all achieve great things directs all that she does in both her personal and professional life. Under her leadership, Utah’s state agencies recently achieved a combined 27 percent overall improvement in the quality, timeliness and cost of government services and she’s challenged them to do more. Her awards are too numerous to mention. She is a wife, mother of two, former missionary to Brazil, hiker, snow and water skier, paraglider, and yes, a high-ranking government official. She recently co-authored the book “Stop Decorating the Fish, a fable about creating positive changes in the workplace. All proceeds of the book are donated to the National Federation of the Blind.

María Guadalupe García Cardiell

Alumni Distinguished Service Award

Maria Guadalupe Garcia-Cardiell (BA ’81, MA ’91) began running at age 13 in Toluca, Mexico, and in some ways she’s never stopped. In 1976 she was the first foreign athlete recruited by BYU to be given a full scholarship. Attending BYU as an athlete was one of many difficult choices she made, often against her family’s wishes, that in the end proved right. Marrying a fellow athlete (Guillermo Garcia, MS ’91) who is blind was another. She credits BYU for fundamentally changing her life by providing support, role models, and friends that continue to bless her today. Cardiell’s storied four-decade career in marketing, advertising, public relations, and television in both the public and private sector also had a focus on the underserved and marginalized. She has helped establish and promote virtual university and digital literacy programs throughout Mexico and Latin America, produced events like the 1994 World Cup and Super Bowl XXIX for Mexican television, partnered with organizations like IBM and General Motors for Monterrey Tech, and organized fifteen international congresses of education.

Amy Rees Anderson

Honorary Alumni Award

Amy Rees Anderson is a successful entrepreneur, angel investor, philanthropist, author, and public speaker. She is the Managing Partner of REES Capital, an angel investing firm; the founder of the IPOP Foundation, a charity promoting entrepreneurship and self-reliance; and a member of 13 boards. In 2018, Amy launched the Amy Rees Anderson Academic Entrepreneur’s Program for female students at USU. She also contributes to both Forbes and the Huffington Post and wrote the recent ForbesBook, What Awesome Looks Like: How to Excel in Business and Life. Previously, Amy was the CEO of MediConnect Global, a healthcare technology company she grew and sold for over $377 million. Amy has been the recipient of many awards including the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Utah Business CEO of the Year, and BYU’s Entrepreneur of the Year. She’s been featured in Inc Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Businessweek, and many other national publications. In 2015 Amy received an honorary PhD from Salt Lake Community College.