I Bravely Went Where I’ve Never Gone Before

I did something today that I’ve never done before:  I attended a college graduation.

I skipped my own (including the one in which I received my doctorate), and, at his earnest request (since he didn’t want to go himself), also skipped the graduation of the only one of my sons who has finished a degree thus far.  A second son is very close to finishing, and the third is en route, so we’ll see what happens now that I’ve set this fateful and ominous new precedent.

My Havana-born daughter-in-law graduated today from Brigham Young University’s College of Humanities, and her parents and three other family members have been with us from Miami for the past couple of days to share in the experience.  She is their first college graduate.

I’m very proud of her.

I was impressed, too, with the concluding remarks of John Rosenberg, BYU’s dean of Humanities (and, thus, my dean), which he based on 3 Nephi 6:12:

“And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning; yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches.”

After thanking faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their tithes and offerings, and after expressing gratitude to the donors who have made generous contributions to the University, thus allowing it to keep its charges far below other private institutions and, even, below most public colleges and universities, he reminded the new graduates that their tuition is, itself, a kind of “tithe.”  Literally.  It covers only about a tenth of the actual cost of their educations.

With that in mind, he encouraged graduates to contribute, themselves, to the University as their financial means permit.  Perhaps, at the beginning, only a dollar or two a month, but more as their resources grow.  Thus, they will help others, including others coming from poor backgrounds, to enjoy the blessings they themselves have been given.

In a sense, this is reminiscent of the nineteenth-century Church’s Perpetual Emigration Fund and of the modern Church’s Perpetual Education Fund, which was modeled on it (and which is one of the most exciting programs in Mormondom).

I hope they listen, and I hope that they’ll be moved to give back.

In that light, I was pleased to hear that, whereas, in the past, the College’s graduation ceremonies used to be followed by “free” refreshments (mint brownies, coconut macaroons, and punch) out on the lawn to the south of the Marriott Center, those funds are now used to help needy students through what the dean informally calls “Refreshment Scholarships.” 

This is no small amount.  There were something on the order of 575 College of Humanities graduates this afternoon, and probably at least five or six times that many family members and friends.  So, by the time you buy punch and mint brownies and coconut macaroons for four or five thousand people, you’re talking about a substantial expenditure.

Devoting those funds to scholarships is a much better idea.  Most people, I’m guessing, were going to celebratory dinners after the ceremonies, so missing out on refreshments wasn’t likely to affect their lives much for the worse.

And, anyway, I hate mint (and, accordingly, mint brownies) and coconut (and thus, derivatively, macaroons), so it’s no skin off my nose.

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