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Australian goes the extra mile to earn BYU bachelor's degree

The procession from the Smoot Administration Building to the Marriott Center for commencement exercises Aug. 17 concluded a particularly long journey to a BYU degree for 71-year-old Margaret Faith.

Sister Faith, who joined the Church in 1963, received her bachelor's degree in independent studies after fulfilling most of the requirements from her home in Adelaide, Australia. Her daughter and son-in-law, Helen and Malcolm Arvidson, made the trip from their home in Australia to share the joyful event with Sister Faith.Besides taking the required number of home-study credit hours, Sister Faith also had to attend six on-campus seminars to earn her degree. In the end, she finished with distinction, a Phi Kappa Phi honor graduate.

During a Church News interview after commencement, she spoke with a Scottish accent that lingers from spending the first 27 years of her life in Scotland.

Her Scottish blood gave her the determination to be self-motivated through the home-study program, she said, "and also the expense motivated me. I just have a set income, so I had to make the most of the money I was putting out."

Why did she embark on the quest for a BYU degree? "I was a nurse for 42 years; I have four certificates and a diploma in nursing administration, and I thought it was about time I got educated," she explained with a laugh.

During a trip to Los Angeles in 1988 she saw an announcement about BYU's independent study program on a meetinghouse bulletin board. "So I wrote and was accepted," she said. "It's taken me six years of approximately four hours a day of study to do this. That's average time. There were days I didn't do anything and days I sat up all night studying."

She made three trips to Provo to fulfill three seminar requirements and then finished the final three just prior to graduation on her trip this summer. She spoke highly of the professors who led her through to her degree. She also said she enjoyed studying "every topic under the sun."

But the highlights were the seminars, she noted. "I always go home on a spiritual high. There's a great spirit here at the university, and the secular knowledge you get and the spiritual uplift you get is so wonderful. The professors bring the spiritual into the secular knowledge. What other university would you go to where you could meet people one day and in two weeks' time they're your friends and you love them and they love you and look after you?"

Now that she has her degree, the mother of four (17 grandchildren, four great-grandchildren) enthusiastically pronounced that she is better prepared for her next project - a mission for the Church.

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