PROVO -- The BYU Athletics Department honored two individuals for their significant contributions to amateur athletics in a special ceremony on Friday in the Gordon B. Hinckley Center at BYU.
Olympian Noelle Pikus-Pace was the 65th recipient of the Dale Rex Memorial Award, and BYU Football Secretary Shirley M. Johnson was the 2010 recipient of the Foundation of Excellence Award.
“We are delighted to honor these two deserving individuals with these prestigious awards,” said BYU director of athletics Tom Holmoe. “Noelle’s skill and courage, displayed on an international stage, thrilled all of us who watched her represent our country and the State of Utah in the Olympic Games. Closer to home, Shirley Johnson has influenced for good and helped shape the lives of hundreds of BYU football players over the past three decades.”
Dale Rex Memorial Award
The Dale Rex Memorial Award is presented annually by the BYU Cougar Club to the person thought to have contributed the most to athletics in the State of Utah.
The 2009-2010 winner, Noelle Pikus-Pace, competed in basketball, softball, soccer and track at Mountain View High in Orem, Utah, before winning All-American honors in track and field at Utah Valley University. At UVU, she was the 2003 NCJAA national discus champion and broke the school record in the high jump. In addition to still holding the Wolverines’ high jump record, Noelle ranks in UVU’s top five all-time in the discus, javelin and shot put.
"There are so many people, many of whom are here tonight, who helped me to succeed and told me never to give up,” said Pikus-Pace in her acceptance remarks. “So when I see my name on this trophy, I feel like their names should be on it too. As I've learned about the Dale Rex Award, and read about the past recipients, I feel like I have little feet and big shoes to fill. I am truly humbled and honored by this award."
Pikes-Pace was quick to embrace the sport of skeleton and became the 2002 America’s Cup Champion. Moving up to the more competitive international circuit, she was a three-time World Cup gold medalist in 2005 with victories at Winterberg, Germany; Igls, Austria; and Sigulda, Latvia. That year she became the first U.S. woman ever to win the overall World Cup Title in the sport of skeleton.
A favorite to medal in the 2006 Torino Winter Games, Pikus-Pace was injured in a freak accident at the U.S. Olympic Trials, where she was hit by a run-away bobsled; courageously she returned to competition just five weeks after suffering a compound fracture to her right leg.
Putting a catastrophic and potentially career-ending injury behind her, Noelle won the gold medal at the 2007 World Championships; her victory, won by the largest margin in the sport’s history, broke the track record at St. Moritz, Switzerland, and she become the first American woman ever crowned as World Champion in the sport of skeleton.
In January of last year she represented the United States in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics Games, placing fourth in skeleton with an overall time less than one second behind the gold medalist. To-date, Pikus-Pace has won 21 total medals in international skeleton competition.
Foundation of Excellence Award
The BYU Varsity Club started the tradition of giving the Foundation of Excellence Award in 1997 to recognize individuals whose efforts and contributions have laid the foundation for BYU’s athletic success.
Since 1980 Shirley Johnson has been a mainstay of the BYU Football Office. Hired by legendary BYU Head Coach LaVell Edwards, she has also worked with Gary Crowton and currently, with Bronco Mendenhall.
"Over the years, people have asked me if I like my job and I say, Yes, I like it. I've liked it for a long time,” said Johnson in her acceptance remarks. “The faces are different; over the years, it may be different people, but the spirit is still the same."
Among other duties, Johnson helps with correspondence, football alumni relations, and many other responsibilities in the day-to-day operation of the BYU Football Office. Once asked in an interview about her family, Shirley responded, “I have 120 children a year—all boys.”
Johnson’s relationships with BYU’s players continue long beyond a student athlete’s time in Provo. She continues to correspond with, care about, and “mother” BYU players long after their time at BYU.
While she loves all “her boys,” whatever career path they may pursue, she may also be the only “mom” ever to have adopted offspring playing on so many NFL teams at the same time.
Over the course of her career, Johnson has worked in the football office through BYU’s appearances in 25 bowl games. She was part of the support staff that helped the Cougars win the 1984 National Championship and 17 WAC and MWC conference titles.
Through it all, her favorite BYU sporting moment is the “miracle” ending to the BYU versus SMU Holiday Bowl in 1980, her first year on the job.