Extolled as "a young man who decided he would never follow the crowd" and who became "a tremendous leader in faith, education and higher ideals affecting people around the world," President Gordon B. Hinckley on May 6-7 was given an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Salt Lake Community College.
President Hinckley was among four persons so honored May 6 at a "Presidential Graduation Gala" conducted at the school's Salt Lake City campus by college President H. Lynn Cundiff and at the college's commencement the next day. The other recipients were Emma Lou Thayne, an accomplished poet and the author of the words to the well-known LDS hymn "Where Can I Turn for Peace"; Blake M. Roney, chief executive officer of Nu Skin Inc.; and Alberta Henry, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People — Utah Chapter.
The complimentary words about President Hinckley were spoken in an introduction at the gala by Randall Mackey, chairman of the college's board of trustees.
For his part, the Church president eschewed any commentary about his own accomplishments. Instead he complimented the college president and his associates "on this institution, this school which began in a very small, humble way and which has now grown until it touches for good the lives of some 60,000 students each year."
President Hinckley was in a jovial mood, saying he had noticed a young woman whose "toes have been tapping very restlessly" to the dinner music provided by the Bud Hutchings Orchestra. "She wants to get these speeches over so she can dance!"
And he teased President Cundiff, who is stepping down from his position.
"I don't know why you're quitting!" he said. "The way you've been doing, I'd stay at it."
He made reference to the fact that an interim president would serve while a replacement is found. "In the Church, at BYU, we don't fuss around with an appointment committee, a search committee," he said. "We appoint a new president the day we release the old one. And the marvelous thing is it works out!"
The audience laughed and applauded appreciatively.
In remarks at the commencement exercises, President Hinckley spoke of President Cundiff's reference in closing comments at the gala regarding a mother rearing on her own four children under the age of 5 years. Retelling the story, President Hinckley said she "came with timidity and diffidence to the school here and enrolled." She "is in the class today graduating with an honorable degree in nursing," he said. "What a tremendous thing that is, to lift people, to give them hope, to give them encouragement, to give them capacity to go out and become contributing members of society."