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Alumni Happenings - June 2007
Grand County High School


Russell Tangren and daughter Valerie Tangren,
Class of 1976 and 2007
by Jeff Richards

Valerie and Rusty Tangren
Valerie and Rusty Tangren 2007

Russell “Rusty” Tangren, a member of Grand County High School’s “bicentennial” Class of 1976, and his wife Dianna were proud to attend their daughter Valerie’s commencement ceremony at GCHS last month.

Valerie, 18, is the fourth of Rusty and Dianna’s six children, all of whom either have attended or will attend GCHS. Older sisters Nichole (Class of 2000), Natalie (2003), and Sarah (2005) are all GCHS graduates. Valerie’s younger brother Spencer just completed his freshman year and will be a 10th-grader in the fall, while youngest brother Joshua will be a 9th-grader.

Valerie participated in various sports and activities throughout high school. She played soccer all four years, and also was on the track team her first two years. She also did basketball and cross-country as a sophomore.
“I decided to focus on soccer after my sophomore year, because I had a lot more going on,” recalls Valerie, a member of the National Honor Society. Outside of school, Valerie has worked as a busser and hostess at the Sunset Grill for the past three years. She plans to work there through the summer before moving to Cedar City in the fall, where she’ll attend Southern Utah University. She plans to major in elementary education. “I love working with little children,” says Valerie, who also has years of babysitting experience.

Valerie views her high school experience as a positive one, and feels she received a well-rounded education at GCHS. “There’s lots of classes that I wouldn’t normally have taken,” she says, citing ceramics, jewelry, and even Mr. Ron Dolphin’s U.S. government class. “Politics doesn’t interest me at all, but I really learned a lot in that class,” she adds.

Valerie and her dad even had one high school teacher in common – science teacher Ray Olsen, who retired a couple years ago after a long career in Grand County schools.

Rusty, himself a fourth child, grew up in Moab and is the son of Clair and Gayle Tangren, both of whom still live in the Moab area. Rusty’s older brother Kay C. was five years older than him, and another five years separated Rusty and youngest sibling Brent, meaning that Rusty didn’t attend high school at the same time as any of his siblings.

Rusty TangrenStill, Rusty enjoyed hanging out with his high school classmates, including David Knutson, Kevin Harmison, and Doug Holyoak, all of whom remain close friends today. He recalls working at his dad’s auto body shop after school, where he learned to do auto body work and auto mechanics, which he has continued to do as a hobby or as side work over the years.

Rusty also enjoys hiking and jogging, and has run in a number of local distance races, including the Canyonlands Half Marathon. (Rusty ran on the track team in high school, specializing in the half mile run.) Showing his artistic side, Rusty also enjoys welding and shaping metal sculptures.
After graduating from GCHS in 1976, Rusty spent two years in Germany serving a full-time mission for the LDS Church. Upson returning, he enrolled at Brigham Young University in Provo, where he majored in civil engineering.

His first year at BYU, he met his future wife Dianna Dodson, a fellow BYU student who had grown up in Riverside, Calif. “I didn’t want to go out with him at first, just because his name was Rusty, which I thought was this hick name, and I was this California beach girl,” recalls Dianna.

“I even told my roommate that I would go with Rusty’s roommate instead, but then she said his name was ‘Jed’,” adds Dianna with a laugh.

Rusty and Dianna were married in Manti in December of 1980. They continued to live in the Provo area for the next five years until Rusty graduated with his masters degree from BYU in December of 1985. Rusty then got a job working as an engineer for the Utah Department of Transportation. He first worked in the main UDOT office in Salt Lake for a year or so, then the family moved to Moab for a couple of years while Rusty transferred to a UDOT position in Green River. He then went back to work in Salt Lake for another couple of years before leaving UDOT to work for Thiokol Corp.

The Tangren family then lived in the small town of Howell (north of Tremonton, Utah) for five years while Rusty worked for Thiokol. Then, an engineering position in Moab finally opened within UDOT, and Rusty returned to work for them in the fall of 1994. Early the following year, the Tangrens moved into their current home in Spanish Valley, where they’ve resided ever since.

Rusty and Dianna have been doing more than usual share of gardening and yard work these days, as the family is trying to get things looking nice for two upcoming wedding receptions they’re hosting this summer. Daughter Sarah is marrying Trevor Knutson (son of Rusty’s lifelong pal David) in late June, while oldest daughter Nichole will wed Matt Irish (GCHS Class of 2001) in early September. Nichole and Matt currently reside in Moab and have two boys: Trentyn, 4, and Justyn, 18 months.

Natalie Tangren recently graduated with a bachelors degree in accounting from Utah State University in Logan. Right after her USU graduation last month, she and dad Rusty went on a trip back east to visit New England, Niagara Falls, Gettysburg, and other significant sites. Natalie will soon be living and working in Boise, Idaho.
Meantime, Spencer and Josh plan to work around the house during the summer. Josh plans to go out for Red Devil football in the fall, and both boys plan to play high school soccer in the spring.

After moving around a lot the first 14 years of their marriage, Rusty and Dianna say they’re glad to have finally settled down here in Moab. “We’ve always loved small towns,” says Rusty, noting that even while he was working in Salt Lake they lived in American Fork. “We like it back here in Moab because we’re close to family and friends, and the kids have the opportunity to grow up and go to school here.”

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