Arizona State University reached 100,000 students for the first time in 2017, and reportedly had 135,729 enrolled students this past year. ASU’s student population has steadily grown for years, as the total enrollment was 61,033 in 2005 and 45,929 in 1995.

This level of growth can be jarring and cause some alumni to not recognize their old stomping grounds upon a campus visit. Still, many buildings remain the same.

Fountain Hills resident Shawn Uphoff recently visited her old campus for a legacy graduation. Her niece, Elizabeth Watters, graduated from ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law with a Master of Legal Studies and a Master of Public Administration this past spring.

“ASU is so built up now compared to when I went to it,” Uphoff said. “It’s funny because she actually graduated out of the same auditorium I graduated from.”

Watters was born while Uphoff was in middle school, and they both lived on the same street in Illinois until Uphoff left for Arizona. That was where their close relationship began, and even as a seven-year-old girl at an ASU graduation, Watters was inspired to follow in her aunt’s footsteps.

Uphoff moved back home to Illinois after graduation, and five years later she and her husband moved to Virginia. Uphoff worked in jewelry sales before owning and operating her own company, and she would host Elizabeth for weeks at a time over the summers.

“She traveled a lot with me because I was an independent contractor and we did a lot of sales calls and shows and things like that up and down the east coast,” Uphoff said. “We had a blast, and she just shared with me a couple of years ago, that at that time in high school, she wrote a paper about how she’s so influenced by that experience with me and me always being there for her. I think what she said to me was she always knew she wanted to be a Sun Devil like her aunt Shawn, and here we are.”

Uphoff blazed a trail for many family members to follow. She was the first in her family to come to Arizona, but now her sister and all her nieces and nephews live in the Valley. Uphoff’s parents bought a condo in Fountain Hills when she went to ASU and now her 93-year-old mother lives in town year-round.

Uphoff’s family has had a direct impact on Fountain Hills in recent years, and all of it has benefited the local school district. While Uphoff served as president of the Fountain Hills Parent Teacher Organization, she asked her ASU alumni nephew and CEO of Fourth Element Marketing, RJ Watters, to design a new website for the organization.

According to Uphoff, she used the new website to reach out and recruit sponsors for the PTO. The PTO had already been sponsored by the Verne C. Johnson Family Foundation and the Peter and Theresa Conti Foundation, but currently, the PTO has 21 total sponsors from Fountain Hills businesses and families, including Richard and Shawn Uphoff, and Fourth Element Marketing.

Uphoff has stepped away from her leadership role within the PTO, but she is still invested. Her daughter Emerson is a rising junior at Fountain Hills High School, and Uphoff’s sister is a teacher at McDowell Mountain Elementary School.

Uphoff said that Emerson is not under pressure to become the third generation to go to ASU, but she has that option if she chooses. The Uphoff’s are no stranger to legacy, as their oldest child, now 26 and studying at the University of Jacksonville, followed his father’s footsteps into the Marine Corps after high school.

Uphoff’s family is very close, and she and her mother were able to attend Watters’ graduation this spring. Not everyone could make it because Watters had limited tickets, and her four children and husband took half the provided seats.

Uphoff has only been back to ASU’s campus a few times in the several years since moving back to Arizona, but her niece’s graduation will stand out even against the best college memories.

“It’s kind of like a full circle thing,” Uphoff said. “I went to college here, loved it, thought about staying but didn’t. I moved back to Illinois because of Richard, since he was moving back there. I would say ASU definitely brought us back here, because If I hadn't gone to school here, I’m not sure my husband would’ve accepted the transfer here.”