Lauding President Russell M. Nelson’s “significant contributions to medical science during his distinguished career as a cardiac surgeon,” University of Utah officials presented the Church leader with an honorary degree citation and doctoral hood during a special ceremony on Tuesday, June 15.
The recognition — held in the Church Administration Building in downtown Salt Lake City — followed an all-virtual general commencement ceremony on May 6 in which President Nelson received an honorary degree of Doctor of Science.
“In recognition of his leadership in his profession, and his groundbreaking work in global health,” the honorary degree acknowledged President Nelson “for his vast accomplishments as a scholar, educator and religious leader.”
During the ceremony, Michael L. Good, interim president of the University of Utah, and university Board of Trustees members Christian Gardner, Katie Eccles and H. David Burton honored President Nelson for training generations of cardiac surgeons and for his influence on people throughout the world.
Former Presiding Bishop Burton — who will soon complete eight years as a member of the University of Utah board of trustees — read the citation.
President Nelson was accompanied to the ceremony by his wife, Sister Wendy W. Nelson, and his counselors in the First Presidency, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring. Also attending the ceremony were President M. Russell Ballard, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Elder Ronald A. Rasband and Elder Dale G. Renlund, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Russell Marion Nelson was born on Sept. 9, 1924, in Salt Lake City. After graduating from high school at age 16, he enrolled at the University of Utah and pursued his dream of becoming a doctor. He graduated first in his class at age 22.
President Nelson completed his residency at the University of Minnesota, where he was a member of the team that developed the artificial heart-lung machine. He went on to perform the first open-heart operation in Utah, in 1955.
President Nelson was one of three individuals to receive honorary doctorates from the University of Utah this spring. C. Hope Eccles, an education advocate, and William J. Rutter, known as the “father of biotechnology,” also received honorary degrees.