By JoLynne Lyon
When Cathy and Mark Wilkey met at Utah State University, it was the beginning of an Aggie tradition.
She was from Salt Lake City, he was from Nephi. They were both drawn to the USU campus. Mark came for a visit one rainy day in May, looked out to the west and saw the sun shining on the Wellsvilles.
“I just couldn’t get it out of my head,” he said.
On another rainy day he saw yet another sight that changed his life. It was Cathy, walking past the old Merrill Library. “She ignored me the whole walk,” he said.
“He was the big man on campus, so I was a little intimidated,” Cathy said.
But she must have gotten over it, because they married the September after she graduated in business. Mark had already earned his business degree by then. They started a family and set an Aggie tradition in motion.
Cathy returned to USU in 2002 for a second bachelor’s in elementary education. She worried about coming back to school as a non-traditional student, but she found a supportive environment. “They said, ‘You’ve had life experience and that really adds to the degree. They really bent over backwards for me.”
She earned her elementary education degree in 2004 and has been teaching ever since.
As their 11 children began reaching college age, they began following their parents’ footsteps to Old Main Hill.
“There was really no thought of going to another university,” Cathy said. “Utah State had been so good to Mark and I, and we couldn’t imagine them going anywhere else.”
This week’s commencement ceremonies will honor three Wilkeys: Brothers Jacob and Michael, who are both earning master’s degrees from the school counseling program, and Lizzy Kite (formerly Lizzy Wilkey), who earns her bachelor’s degree in family finance. All three of this year’s Wilkey graduates are from the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services.
Jacob’s family encouraged him to go to USU, but people from a lot farther away talked it up, too. “When I was on my mission, I ran into a lot of people in Wisconsin who were alumni, and they absolutely loved it,” he said.
He came to CEHS and loved it too. “It’s a fantastic college because it’s all about people. There’s such a good feeling here.”
The family’s Aggie degrees don’t end there. Jacob and Michael had already earned bachelor’s degrees before they started the school counseling program. Their brothers Ben and Jonathan have earned bachelor’s degrees, too, and Jonathan is now in his first year of the school counseling program. Samuel is currently working on his bachelor’s in exercise science.
Josh went to USU before transferring to another university. Rachel was just accepted to USU this year. Two Wilkey spouses, Garret Kite and Jessica Wilkey, have earned their bachelor’s degrees here as well. And three more of Mark and Cathy’s children are waiting to go to Utah State.
The family’s connection to USU is so strong, Cathy and Mark moved back to Cache Valley when four of their children were enrolled at USU. They would come to Logan for their children’s events and realize they were homesick.
“We’d come up here and get misty-eyed,” Cathy said.