Two May graduates of Georgetown University are believed to be the first Latter-day Saints at the school to become part of the prestigious honor society Alpha Sigma Nu. The school is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit institute of higher learning in the United States.
Emily Miller, 22, and Thomas Jeng, 24, both graduated magna cum laude (with high honors), earning bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and International Politics, respectively. They are among only 4 percent of students inducted into Alpha Sigma Nu, the highest honor at Jesuit institutions including all disciplines. They were invited to apply on the basis of high academic excellence; loyalty to Jesuit ideals which include “a deep sense of truth and justice, a commitment to moral convictions, and efforts to advance the good of society;” and giving freely of time and energy in service to others.
Emily, who grew up in Salt Lake City, studied Spanish and pre-med subjects at Georgetown. She has sung with the school’s chapel choir every Sunday morning before heading to Church at the LDS meetinghouse in Chevy Chase, Md., and will be singing with the choir at the Vatican in Rome in June.
“I can relate to Jesuit ideals because we share common ground,” said Emily. “Service is part of Christianity.” She has participated in medical service trips Costa Rica, Mexico and Honduras. She will begin at the University of Utah School of Medicine in the fall and plans to be “extensively involved” in medical services in Hispanic communities in the U.S. and Latin America.
Thomas graduated from the Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, focusing on the politics of economics and business. Born in the U.S. to immigrants from Taiwan, he lived in Taiwan during his teen years. He served in the Canada Montreal Mission, speaking Mandarin Chinese. Fluent in the language, he has been a teaching assistant for an advanced Chinese class at Georgetown. He also has experience with Japanese and French. After returning to Asia for the summer, Thomas is going into management/strategy consulting next fall in Washington with the Boston Consulting Group. He sees his studies in social dynamics as useful in Church service as well as in his career.
Both graduates participate actively in the Washington DC 2nd Ward and in their weekly LDS Institute classes on the Georgetown University campus. Thomas serves as president of the Washington DC LDS Institute Student Council, and Emily is president of the Latter-day Saint Student Association at Georgetown. (Emily became certified so she could drive fellow students to church on Sundays in the van provided by the university.)
Emily noted that “strength in numbers” is one reason for spending time with fellow LDS students. “We share similar experiences and know that we are not alone in clinging to our values.”
Said Thomas, “I make time for Institute because it provides an opportunity for a complete education.” He added that secular education without spiritual growth is not enough to become a “whole person.”
Emily and Thomas deem it an honor to be recognized as Latter-day Saints at a Catholic university. “The emphasis that Alpha Sigma Nu places on service and loyalty in addition to academics reflects the ideal that we are taught to serve with the means we have,” said Thomas. “The honor heightens my self-expectations and responsibility for service.”
David R. Rowberry, director of the Washington DC LDS Institute of Religion and also a chaplain at Georgetown University, described Emily and Thomas as “leaders who live 2 Nephi 9:29, ‘But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.’
“They not only strengthen the other Latter-day Saint students,” he said, “but are known and respected by Georgetown administration, professors, chaplains and other student leaders because of their kind, strong, principled leadership, friendship and service.”