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Distinguished Utahn: Pamela Atkinson honored for her service

Community advocate lauded for work with leaders and less-fortunate

Touted by friends and associates as "Utah's own Florence Nightingale," a "ray of sunshine to so many" and the "Mother Teresa of Utah," community advocate Pamela J. Atkinson can now add "Distinguished Utahn" to the list of titles her friends have given her.

Honored for her role as an advocate for impoverished, underprivileged and homeless residents in the Salt Lake City area, Ms. Atkinson became the 19th recipient of the Distinguished Utahn award given by the BYU Management Society's Salt Lake Chapter. Community leaders and members of the society honored Atkinson during a dinner held at Little America Hotel Thursday night.

Pamela Atkinson, left, visits with President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Sister Harriet Uchtdorf.  Ms. Atkinson was honored May 3 by the BYU Management Society as a Distinguished Utahn.
Pamela Atkinson, left, visits with President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Sister Harriet Uchtdorf. Ms. Atkinson was honored May 3 by the BYU Management Society as a Distinguished Utahn. Photo: Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

"I am accepting this award on behalf of the many people I have worked with," Ms. Atkinson said. "We all work together to make things possible. … We are all part of a team, and when we work together, extraordinary things happen."

Ms. Atkinson, who grew up in humble circumstances in England, knows what it is like to be without and has been serving in the Utah community for many years. Much of her initiatives have joined forces with churches in the community and work closely with local government.

Pamela Atkinson talks with Senator Orrin Hatch and her daughter Heather Hooper and grandson Alex Hooper in Salt Lake City  Thursday, May 3, 2012.
Pamela Atkinson talks with Senator Orrin Hatch and her daughter Heather Hooper and grandson Alex Hooper in Salt Lake City Thursday, May 3, 2012. Photo: Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve shared a few remarks during the night's program.

"I must say, England's loss is Utah's gain," Elder Ballard said. "From your difficult days in England to your prominent days serving as a citizen in Utah, you continue to better the lives of the poor, the homeless and anyone who has crossed your path who has needed some kind of help.

Pamela Atkinson smiles at attendees during a reception honoring her as the 2012 Distinguished Utahn by the Salt Lake Chapter of the BYU Management Society.
Pamela Atkinson smiles at attendees during a reception honoring her as the 2012 Distinguished Utahn by the Salt Lake Chapter of the BYU Management Society. Photo: Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

"Your bright mind and charming personality combined with your compassionate sense of caring for the needs of others are great assets for our city and for our state."

Rose Olivas was one of the many who stood and applauded as Ms. Atkinson walked to the podium to receive her award.

Pamela Atkinson talks with Elder M. Russell Ballard and wife Geraldine in Salt Lake City  Thursday, May 3, 2012.
Pamela Atkinson talks with Elder M. Russell Ballard and wife Geraldine in Salt Lake City Thursday, May 3, 2012. Photo: Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

"She is well-respected by everyone," Ms. Olivas said. "You can see it on their faces. She takes time to see how they are doing, including our staff."

When Ms. Olivas started working with Catholic Community Services more than 20 years ago, she first knew the name Pamela Atkinson because it is the name of a grant used by her organization. Now, two decades later, she knows the name as a friend and associate — a designation many can relate to.

She said that whether Ms. Atkinson is talking to a less fortunate person in the community, a janitor at one of the many organizations she is involved in, a high-ranking leader in government or in one of the local churches in the community, Ms. Atkinson is able to uplift all around her.

Photos of former Distinguished Utahn award recipients lined the walls of a banquet room during this year's event.
Photos of former Distinguished Utahn award recipients lined the walls of a banquet room during this year's event. Photo: Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

"She sees the needs in the community," Ms. Olivas said. "Not because she's reading about it, or hearing about it, but because she's there."

Former LDS Young Men's leader Charles W. Dahlquist spoke at the event and singer Alex Boye performed.

The BYU Management Society is a worldwide organization — founded in 1977 — that champions moral and ethical leadership throughout the world.

Previous honorees include former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, R.C. Willey Co. CEO William Child, philanthropists Spencer F. Eccles and Jon and Karen Huntsman, as well as LDS leaders President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson.

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