After offering brief remarks to the graduates, President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, led an ovation of appreciation for retiring BYU president Rex E. Lee at the conclusion of summer commencement ceremonies Aug. 17 in the Marriott Center.
Pres. Lee requested a release from his position in June due to health problems, and the commencement was his last as president. He has been serving in that position since 1989.Just prior to the benediction, Pres. Faust said: "By special authorization from the First Presidency this morning in the Salt Lake Temple, who constitute the chairman and the two vice-chairmen of this university, I invite all of you to now stand, if you would care to, to recognize by your applause the great leadership and service that President Rex Lee has performed as the president of this remarkable university."
His invitation led to a thundering ovation that lasted more than a minute.
Pres. Lee was honored at the commencement along with 2,507 graduates, three recipients of honorary doctorates and three recipients of presidential citations. Pres. Faust presided over and conducted the commencement ceremony.
In his closing comments, Pres. Faust told graduates: "You came here to prepare to meet life's many challenges. You also came here to further your knowledge of God. So in addition to gaining secular knowledge, you came here to progress spiritually.
"At this stage in your lives, one is justified in asking: What is more important in the learning process, the secular or the spiritual? But I suggest to you that you will learn faster and better and more surely through the spiritual."
He continued: "Through the gift of the Holy Ghost we can learn all things. And if that is not enough, we are also told we can learn the truth of all things. There are three things that we should know about the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God: It is very real, it is available to every person who lives righteously so as to enjoy it, following it is the sure and only solution to our problems."
He concluded: "As graduates of Brigham Young University, you can make a difference. You must make a difference. You are part of the greatest work in the world."
Pres. Lee did not mention his impending retirement during his remarks, which centered on the Ten Commandments.
He said: "When first revealed some 3,400 years ago they were law, rules of conduct by which people were required to direct their lives. And because they were law, failure to observe these rules of conduct resulted in official sanctions imposed by governing officials."
Then he added: "The Ten Commandments today remain an important part of our vocabulary, our culture and our traditions, both in Judeo-Christian cultures, and to a lesser extent in others as well."
He then talked about the specific commandments, emphasizing a few before concluding: "I promise you, my friends, that your lives will be fuller, happier and more successful to the extent that the observance of the commandments is a central part of your life."
Pres. Lee directed the conferring of honorary doctorates on former Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek (see story below), Ruth Hardy Funk and graduation speaker John I. Goodlad. They were given the degree Doctor of Public Service, honoris causa.
Sister Funk distinguished herself as an educator and served as general president of the Young Women from 1972-1978. She was a high school music teacher and also instructed more than 1,000 piano students. She was elected to two terms on the Utah State Board of Education and served as chairwoman and vice chairwoman of that body.
In 1984, she received the Distinguished Service to Public Education Award, and in 1992 was awarded the National Association of State Boards of Education Distinguished Service Award.
She contributed to her community by chairing the Utah Governor's Commission on the Status of Women, and initiating the compilation and writing of materials for the book, "Utah Women and the Law."
Goodlad, a professional educator, accepted an invitation from the BYU College of Education after his retirement from UCLA 12 years ago to assist with the developement of the BYU-Public School Partnership. Through his assistance, BYU personnel are using their expertise to provide professional development for teachers and consultation on curriculum innovation in 38 partner schools. Goodlad also has published several works on education.
Pres. Lee presented presidential citations to South African community leader Julia N. Mavimbela, composer Crawford Gates and lumber businessman E.W. "Al" Thrasher.
Sister Mavimbela, a member of the Church since 1981, organized women's clubs to encourage homemaking and thrift. Fluent in seven languages, she used her teaching skills to direct literacy programs. She also served as president and vice president of the National Women of South Africa and helped organize Women for Peace, a multiracial organization promoting a peaceful transition to democracy.
Brother Gates launched his distinguished career as a composer-conductor-educator in 1947 when he produced the musical play "Promised Valley" for the Utah Pioneer Centennial. He composed the music for the Hill Cumorah pageant and has composed more than 785 titles in many different genre including piano pieces, choral music, symphonies, oratorios, ballets and pageants.
A long-time leader in the lumber industry, Thrasher deeded redwood property to the Church in 1976. The property was sold for $14 million and became the founding endowment for the Thrasher Research Fund established in 1977. The organization focuses on assisting the millions of children living in developing countries who are victims of disease, poverty and ignorance.
It was also noted at graduation that BYU topped 300,000 alumni and that Tricia Rencher Powell of Centerville, Utah, was chosen through a random selection by computer to represent the 300,000th.