Utah Valley University (UVU) officially announced the retirement of Dr. Ross “Rusty” Butler, Associate Vice President, International Affairs and Diplomacy. Many of us, including myself, will miss Dr. Butler, an extraordinary individual with a great vision; a diplomat by nature; a globally minded educator; and a very passionate and generous advisor, who is always eager to help people and those in need both in the State of Utah and globally.
I am confident that many officials at the United Nations (U.N.), including foreign diplomats, are grateful to Dr. Butler for his great leadership and contribution to the promotion of the activities of the U.N. in the state of Utah and vice versa over more than two decades. Thanks to him, UVU became famous for hosting one after another U.N. Permanent Representatives from many countries who both enjoyed local hospitality and provided engaged learning experiences for students and faculty on how to advance many aspects of the U.N. agenda, starting with gender equality or climate change to the promotion of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and post-2015 agenda.
As a focal point (coordinator) of the Mountain Partnership under F.A.O.-U.N. at UVU during the last 10 years, Dr. Butler was able to transform UVU into a leading institution in North America in advancing the sustainable mountain development (SMD) agenda of the U.N. As a result, UVU is now known internationally as a regular host of the International Women of the Mountains Conferences, a major international gatherings advocating for both gender and SMD agendas of the U.N. in the State of Utah, the Rocky Mountains region and globally.
There is a category of people who enjoyed special favors from Dr. Butler: the students at UVU. I was always surprised how he was, and continue to be very generous in providing funds and any support to them as part of their engaged learning experiences on the local, regional, and global levels. He created a tradition at UVU to annually visit the United Nations during sessions of the General Assembly, and as a rule he included students as members of the delegation. For Jesler Molina, one of the UVU students, it became a turning point in his life, when he, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Butler, made a statement during the U.N. Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals at the ECOSOC room in December 2013. Another UVU student, Yanko Dzhukev, became the first UVU intern at F.A.O.-U.N. in Rome, Italy starting in January 2016, and he received a stipend from the office of International Affairs and Diplomacy led by Dr. Butler. Tony Medina, another UVU student, will participate at the 60th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, March 14-24, 2016, and the funds for his trip are again provided by Dr. Butler.
Dr. Butler was always proud to be the Honorary Consul General of the Russian Federation (until January, 2016 when his appointment ended) in the State of Utah, and helped to facilitate dialogue and cooperation between the two nations and peoples. Even if today’s relationship between the United States and the Russian Federation are on a low level, he still continues to work with many institutions and people there in order to be prepared for better times. I also know that he is respected by many in the Russian Federation, including government officials, and has so many close friends there.
I also know that many of my compatriots in the Kyrgyz Republic will always appreciate the support and friendship rendered by Dr. Butler and his wife Danielle, both to the government and the people of our mountainous nation located in Central Asia since 1999. That year Dr. Butler invited me (as the Ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic in the United States and Canada) and my wife, Cholpon to visit the state of Utah. It was a trip which laid the ground work for the partnership and friendship between the people of our two nations. As a highlight of our relationship, the Governor of the State of Utah, Olene Walker, visited Kyrgyzstan during the summer of 2003, and the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, Askar Akaev, paid a reciprocal visit to Utah in September 2004.
Since then, thanks to the leadership of Dr. Butler, UVU and the State of Utah was visited by many educational, cultural, and business groups from Eurasia. Legislative delegations from Central Asia, and from Kyrgyzstan in particular, visited Utah and established partnerships with Utah State legislators. As a result, Utah State Senators John Valentine (now Utah Tax Commissioner) and Curt Bramble led legislative groups to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan during 2008-2010. Dr. Butler was always among them, facilitating dialogue, providing protocol, and strengthening friendship and long-lasting relationships.
Dr. Butler is well-known as a person who never rests, and who is always in a great shape mentally and physically (still running marathons and triathlons). I do hope that he will continue his efforts to be engaged with the United Nations and other international institutions with the involvement of youth and students. He was able to build such a strong and effective partnership for UVU with many global institutions, which needs to be shared with other universities in the state of Utah and in North America. We still need him and he needs us and the students in particular.
Utah Valley University will host a reception honoring Dr. Ross “Rusty” Butler, Associate Vice President, International Affairs and Diplomacy on Wednesday, March 16, 2016 from 3:00-5:00 p.m. in the Sorensen Center 213b. It would be great if you would be able to join us in thanking Dr. Rusty Butler for his leadership and friendship by attending this reception or sending him a direct note of appreciation (RButler@uvu.edu).
Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, Focal Point for the Mountain Partnership at Utah Valley University