A wish fulfilled

Octogenarian graduates from BYU in general studies

Five years ago Betty West's adult daughter asked her if she had any regrets.

"Not many," said Sister West, looking back on her life as a wife and mother. "I just wish I had graduated from college."

It isn't too late, her daughter said. Sister West agreed.

That's all it took for Sister West, now 85, to continue the education she started at BYU in 1938. With the support of her six children, she got online and completed BYU's first independent study course required for a bachelor's of general studies.

Secretly, Sister West wondered if she would pass. If she didn't, she could put her dream to rest for good.

"But I did pass," she recalled. "So I had to keep going."

She took algebra, physical science, human anatomy and four Spanish classes. She took religion classes and everything required for a history emphasis.

Most courses she completed online. However, she also did work at BYU's Salt Lake Center and completed one credit hour on BYU's Provo campus.

Sister West took as many as four classes at one time. "I might not live long enough to finish if I go too slow," she told herself.

Now, almost 70 years after starting her BYU education, Sister West received her BYU degree. She participated in convocation ceremonies Aug. 17.

When she started college classes at BYU in 1938, Sister West never imagined it would take so long. Back then, she was studying business, hoping to become a secretary. But just two years into her studies, she left school, moved to Salt Lake City, married J. Everett West and started a family. Six months into their marriage, on Dec. 7, 1941, the United States entered World War II. After the birth of their second child, Brother West went to war. There was no time for education.

Four more children joined the family after Brother West returned. In the following years, he served as a bishop, high councilor and stake president. After he retired, the couple served a mission at the Hawaii Temple Visitors Center and in Liberty, Mo., where he was director of the historic Liberty Jail Visitors Center. Sister West worked as a volunteer case worker for LDS Family Services.

After Brother West died in 1997, Sister West spent time traveling, mostly to her grandchildren's weddings, gardening and going to the temple.

When she thought about completing her education she always said to herself, "Never say never."

She hopes to be an example to her 31 grandchildren. Many traveled to Utah to Sister West's college graduation.

Others have also taken note of Sister West's accomplishment, sending letters and calling with their congratulations.

Everyone has the same question, Sister West said. They want to know what she will do with her education.

"I plan to take it with me," she replies. "That's the only thing you can take — what you learn. I hope to remember it better in the next life than I remember it here."

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