[Courtesy photo]

It’s hard to miss the tallest man in town, particularly when he’s the one in costume directing traffic in a crowded event parking lot.

Sam Sturman takes his status as a walking billboard just three inches short of seven feet tall seriously – there are important things to which the associate director of Utah State University-Moab’s Extension Office can help draw attention.

“The success of education is being connected to your community,” Sturman said. “And I think the best thing you can do to understand community is to get involved.”

Since Sturman arrived in Moab in 2003, average student enrollment has grown from three students to more than 120.

He wears his name tag all day, everywhere he goes, to be sure anyone in town looking for a contact at the local university extension recognizes him as the man to approach. “Some of my most effective advising has happened in City Market,” Sturman said.

He can also be found all over town, anywhere he can find a way to be of service to the residents of Moab, both the steady stream and those who ebb and flow with the seasons. In addition to helping with popular Moab Rotary Club fundraising events like Moab Jeep Safari and the April Action Car Show, he has assisted with many of the racing events for years, including The Other Half Marathon since its inception. When the popular musical festivals come in the spring and fall, he helps with ticketing and other tasks and opens his own home to the musicians.

“In a rural community, your volunteering is really important,” he said. “It’s sort of like the old African saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ Without volunteers, it would be impossible to run so many great community events here.”

Representing this positive outlook on the nature of his community and the opportunities it affords is what he’s all about, he said. It pays off in long-term dividends. Recently, a high school student approaching graduation came to him because her older siblings had attended Rotary activities he had facilitated, and she trusted his advice on higher education.

He developed a scholarship program for the local extension, and hands out candy and pencils as readily as advice, said Jan Radcliff, long-time friend and fellow volunteer.

“Sam has a serious side as well,” she said. “I have seen him help students who didn’t have the funds to pay for admission. He lent them the money, never knowing if they would return it or not.”

The Tony Hillerman quote in his email signature encapsulates the guiding principle of his life in Moab, Sturman said: “Find something you really love to do, find a way to make a living at it, and do it.”

This profile was made possible by the generous support of Rocky Mountain Power.

This Week: Sam Sturman