From a young age, Julie Buss Varner (BS ’17) wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps and be a nurse. Varner consumed her mother’s medical stories growing up, and the two of them often watched medical shows on television together. Varner’s aspirations of caregiving unexpectedly became a reality when her mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
“I was totally surprised. That diagnosis began what turned out to be two years of active treatments, multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, drug therapy. . . and deep reflection. There were times that I really felt like I was on the edge of life. . . I literally just concentrated on taking each breath, day by day.”
Growing up in communist Bulgaria, Julia Kiriakov Caswell didn't know what it was like to be free. She recounts some of her experiences behind the Iron Curtain and her family's escape.
“[My wife] was very supportive and told me, ‘You can do more than be a mechanic . . . I think you’ve got a lot of potential'. . .In the field of engineering, you have to speak, you have to talk to people, but who was going to hire me when I interview with them?”
After almost 30 years of study, a microbiology professor discovers a virus that could change the battle against cancer.
“"If you want to bring people out of problems with their lives, education is key."
That was Gregg R. Johnson's (MEd '74, EdD '90) motto as he took on the challenge of changing the education program at the Utah Boys Ranch.
“When I lived…it was a mixed blessing. I was alive, but doctors encouraged my family to remove me from life support because they believed it was not possible to have quality of life where I was mentally aware, but trapped in my body.”
“I’d seen some poverty, but I had never seen anything remotely close to what I saw [then] . . . raw sewage all over the ground; the stench was horrifying. All I could see was this God-forsaken disgusting place. All I wanted to do was leave.”
“I [taught] teachers how to do email, how to log onto a computer and how to use a mouse. Some of the teachers didn’t know how!”
“It amazes me when I think that I was just this guy from a small town where I never thought anything remarkable was going to happen.”
“Just put something down on paper. . . . It’s probably bad . . . but then you’ve got something, you’ve put something down, you’ve passed that anxiety.”
“He asked me, ‘How close was I?’ I said, ‘How close to leaving? . . . . You [were] as close as you can get without going’. It was a very empowering experience knowing on that particular flight, I made a difference and kept a dad [alive] so he could raise his kids.”
“Find something you are passionate about, take control of your destiny . . . and surround yourself by people who support you.”
Initially, Andrew Kim Smith (BA '77 MBA '79) attended BYU only because his father offered to pay for his education. But he liked BYU after a few years—it was where Smith decided to serve a mission, met his wife, and was recruited for his first job. Reflecting on his time at BYU, Smith says, “I learned to always be a student, . . . to stay as curious and learn as much as I possibly can.”
“Service expands us. It makes us into people that we didn’t know we could become.”
“What I do doesn’t affect stock prices. It doesn’t affect the global economy. But I know each day that I make a difference to a family member or individual who couldn’t talk before.”
“I really want to do something that will relieve suffering for large amounts of people in a real, lasting way. That’s my dream in life.”
“The exciting part [of engineering] is that you get to bring creativity to solve problems and invent things that have never been thought of before.”
Julie Bangerter Beck (BS '81), 15th Relief Society general president, was a full-time homemaker when she was called to serve on the Young Women general board. During her service in the Young Women and Relief Society general presidencies, she traveled approximately one million miles, gave more than 500 talks, and averaged 15 meetings a week.
“I am far more interested in doing good than I am in continuing any personal success . . I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility and willingness to be of service.”
“People see our pink truck and we’re inside in our blue suits just having a good time. We love seeing people’s faces, wondering, ‘What is happening?’ Their reaction is just priceless. We love it.”
“It's just about the girls. . . . I love the girls, I love watching them grow, and I love working towards that growth. . . . They have my heart.”
“It is wonderful when you can feel close to someone, trust them with your innermost feelings and pass through mortality knowing that you are not alone.”
“BYU just validated that faith is your core, and it doesn’t matter that I live halfway across the world from my country, my temples, my spiritual guide, my religious leaders. I can be all that I want to be in a completely alien environment because of faith.”
A self-taught baker defied the odds--twice--to win Food Network's Cake Wars.
“I [always] thought it’d be so cool to [bake cakes] as a job, but I never really believed that it would get to the point where it’s at now.
"When you’re in a war zone, your faith increases exponentially.”
“I don’t think anyone, regardless of how old they are, expects to lose their mother . . . I felt like [her death] blew a big hole in the center of my family’s life.”
“The effort that I put into [Funded Today] influences or even dictates what the output is, so [I] kind of have control over [my] destiny in a sense.”
“As a person, I'm greater than that. . . it doesn't define me.”
"It's kind of like my world shrunk. . . just suddenly, everything became measurable to me. How many more times am I going to hold my husband's hand? How many more times am I going to do all these things with my kids?"
“I was going to quit my high school club team because my grandma was paying for it, and it’s so expensive... I was pretty upset. Volleyball had become part of my identity and I wondered, ‘Well, what am I going to do now?’”
“I came home one day from school, and I asked [my mother], ‘Why am I being laughed at in school?’ She told me not to worry because I'm beautiful... There's one statement my mother made to me as a young girl that stayed with me even until today. She told me, ‘You are the queen of Africa.’”
Joe Ferguson (BS ’53) has spent 35,000 hours of his life in the sky. That is the equivalent of almost 1,500 days or a total of 4 years. However, out of all of his flights flown for either the U.S. Air Force, commercial airlines, or recreation, his most important flight was the one he never completed.
“It’s like yoga…We’re all stretched to our own level of uncomfortable and it’s hard for all of us. But as we learn and we relax and we keep at it we’re able to [stretch] further and further than we thought we could.”
"I really am very passionate about helping teens handle life's challenges....All I want to do in life is instill hope in these teens.”
"It is really rewarding to work with young people and to teach them not only about science, but about philosophies of life, and having a purpose. It’s exciting to try and figure out the things that no one has figured out before.”
"I was given so much at BYU. I am happy to give back in some way, no matter how small, in order to give someone else from the Tulsa area the opportunity for a BYU education.”
As a mother of two energetic boys, ages 4 and 2, Christine Amaya’s hands are always full. Juggling parenthood and heavy coursework as a student at BYU is challenging even for the most capable mothers. As a divorcée, however, Amaya must juggle her obligations single-handedly.
“There are times when you are not feeling as if you are singing very well, and it feels really hard in your stomach. It feels as if your stomach wants to collapse but you have to keep it out. I have a voice teacher in New York who told me to picture that an alien is crawling out of my stomach and walking. She tells me to keep it walking to New Jersey. It’s a silly thing, but it keeps my stomach moving forward.”
“I just grew up being a big fish in a little sea... I really think the go-getter in me came from my mom just telling me to never be too good for anyone or any job and just put it all out there.”
“We don’t realize sometimes [that] in sharing our stories, it blesses other people.... The fact that I paid attention to that video, that one, single day—what a difference.”
“I had never done makeup, I didn't know anything about it...I enjoyed it because of all the challenges that I had and the people I met and the places I went for location. What can I say? For the most part, it was really an exciting career.”
"People are who they are because of their experience. Each one of those aspects makes us a unique individual. So what do I bring to the table? Why did I come up with this? I can give one answer to that, and it’s because I have a unique experience. . . . I was at a certain point of time with a certain set of experiences that then led us to come up with this product.”
"[My professors] gave me the freedom to sink or swim on my own, and I think they had faith in me. . . . They’ve shaped my life in terms of being a leader, figuring things out on my own, and realizing that if I don’t get it done, it’s not going to get done. As simple as they might sound, those are good life skills to capture.”
“I was not a good reader. I was not a good speaker. I certainly couldn’t carry a story. But now I’ve won Emmys in writing. Sure, it comes through a tremendous amount of hard work, but it’s all because of the Lord’s blessings.”
“A wig does not save lives or help these kids get treatment, but it allows them to be kids again. . . . It can give them a magical escape.”
“When we started doing compassionate service activities, it made them more aware that there's more going on in their world. They had a bigger, broader picture, and it changed the way they treated each other. . . . They were excited about giving back.”
“Every single one of them, over the course of a little more than a year, has done a 180-degree change in their lives. They’ve gone from nothing except being in jail, to reuniting with their family, working, living on their own, having a family. They’re all great stories and it’s rewarding.”
“Meet some local refugees. As you expose yourself to these people, you will be inspired to help them. You will fall in love with these people.”
“You never know where your journey is going to take you. I studied chemical engineering, and today, I sell rubber duckies.”
“I don’t believe in ‘no.' Somehow, I’ve always believed that I could overcome the obstacle to make things work.”
“I began to think about a trend I saw, that many people wanted experience and inclusion more than competition. I realized that people wanted to be fit and do something healthy, but not necessarily have the pressure of a timed race.”
“Every time I tell people I work for Disney, their faces light up. It makes me proud to be part of a company that brings happiness to people.”
“I wanted to be more a part of my community and be a part of creating community. I liked that public libraries were dedicated to serving everyone and realized they were one of the only indoor spaces left available to the public where you did not have to buy something to justify your presence there.”
“As a student nurse I thought that all of my service would be appreciated. The reality is that one needs to serve for the right reasons and not to worry about that recognition and thanks.”
“Even as young as age 10, while I didn’t fit in, I knew I wanted to leave a legacy. I thought I needed to be open to opportunities and let the Spirit guide me. If hashtags had existed when I was a child mine would have been—and still would be—#lifeisanadventure.”
“Our children can bring us great sorrow, and I’m sure children would say the same thing about their parents, but they bring us such a tremendous amount of happiness.”
“There was a work for us to do, people to help, and if we were humble and willing to work, we could be instruments in the Lord’s hands.”
“It takes very little to change someone’s life; the price of a burger could give someone sight.”
“I have become a better person,” she says. “I am a kinder, more reasoned, and patient human being.”
“I just love to see beautiful, meaningful things.”
“I was sort of a fish out of water in economics,” he says. “My advisors did not know what to say to me. I always knew I wanted to be involved in the entertainment industry, but I found the modeling and projection in my major fascinating. Through economics I could study human behavior with a framework that tells me who people are and what they value by how they use their resources and how they behave.”
Colleen and Gary Worthington are small-business owners who couldn’t take the enterprise out of their golden years—and turned their retirement on its head.
"That was the last time I saw him. That moment was a gift. He had been given the inspiration for me."
"The Savior was the master healer, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I’m not anywhere close to that, but it is a great blessing to work in a field where I can try emulate to Him in some small way.”
"I soon learned that to survive I must positively control my mind or else negative thoughts would destroy me."
Get to know your favorite BYU professors—starting with Camille Fronk Olson, professor of ancient scripture.
“There is no end point in a career. Getting better as a person is the most satisfying part of my career.”
“[Stan] Watts once said of this team, the thing that stood out was how they became leaders in the community, faithful churchmen and stayed married to the same woman.”
"I use magic as a vehicle to do good in the world. There is enough depression, frustration, and sadness; I saw an opportunity where I can focus my life on doing fun things."
“I don’t know, because I’m not a black person at a white university. I’m a Mormon at a Mormon university.”
“My speech really was a challenge. I took speech therapy and recorded my voice. I couldn’t understand a thing I had said and that was very discouraging."
“There’s this wonderful sense of comradery and unity that sports bring. Whether you’re a sports fan or not, I think all people appreciate an extraordinary effort and a great performance.”
“My hope is that everyone realizes that they are somebody. . . Local problems are solved by community members working with us. Go about doing good things in your community.”
“I think the story is rock and roll through and through with an unexpected twist. It has a bit of a shock factor, but if you read it and pause between paragraphs, it brings to mind important, contemporary questions about allegiances during peace and war.”
“Leading in our homes is the purest form of leadership. We don’t hire our children, we can’t fire them, . . . and your kids don’t really get to fire you either. . . . It forces you to really learn good, righteous leadership.”
“I wanted to be a professional artist,but I never imagined I would be sculpting the greatest football players ever to play the game."
“I never thought I could be doing what I’m doing at this age. I’ve had a lot of people tell me, ‘You’re crazy.’ But here I am wrestling at 63.”
"I struggled to find a place at BYU. I did not know many people and had no family nearby for support. One day, as I stood on the second floor of the Cougareat, I pondered my future and decided to go home."
“I was a band nerd and an orch dork who had wonderful school experiences because of music. If we were considered nerds, well, nerds run the world now and determine a lot of today’s culture.”
"How do you liken something unto yourself? It has to be something you already relate to. If I have the scriptures and Legos as the medium, then I am likening the scriptures to me."
Harvey Fletcher will be honored during 2016's Grammy Awards' Special Merit Awards ceremony to receive a Technical Grammy Award.
“Music gives our family an opportunity to serve others by performing, our children learn to interact with adults, and they gain confidence."
"Many don't go for their dreams, but I'm living mine. Go for your dream."
“There is something so vibrant about the dance and rhythms that hits you right in the center of your heart. It is especially satisfying to me as a teacher, because I help children with their rhythm and confidence, which brings a lot of joy to my life.”
"Mark is the Renaissance man of photography."
“There are no band geeks around here.”
“In Japanese there is an expression – Ichi-go Ichi-eh – literally translated it means ‘one period, one meeting.’ The deeper meaning is that each and every meeting or encounter with each person will only occur in this way once in your life time – so make the most of it."
Inspired by the support they received after learning their daughter had Down syndrome, Aubrey’s parents pay it forward.
Ready to rock and roll?” At a neighbor’s orchard, comms professor Quint B. Randle (BA ’84) pulls on a long-sleeved shirt and veil. It’s time to check his hives. He treats the bees with white puffs of smoke from the fiberboard smoldering in his metal smoker. “They think their hive is on fire and they’re going to have to leave,” he says. “So they drink all of this honey and then they get happy and calm.”
“Good planning can lead to a more functional community. People are happier. Communities are safer. Everyone has the opportunity to live healthier and more prosperous lives.”
“The cast and I were the original fans of ‘Napoleon Dynamite,’ and we started quoting lines after we shot scenes”
“I have heard it said that, all pyrotechnics and action aside, most drama comes down to two people sitting in a room, talking.”
“You don’t have to be a millionaire to make a difference. You can give back in many ways.”
“We all become stuck at different times throughout our lives,” Davis explains. “Our choice to become unstuck and succeed in getting unstuck depends on many factors: who we are, how hard we try, and who is there to help us.”
“We have always and will always continue to love BYU for the difference it makes in people’s lives, including ours."
“About two or three years ago, my vision took a sudden nosedive, and now I can sometimes get just a glimpse of a light. I guess I sometimes have thought of the situation as more of an adventure.”
"During some serious soul searching, I asked myself if I would be doing the same routine the next 20 or more years if I stayed at BYU. I also asked myself if I were up for a new challenge.”
“I have had the privilege of being employed by the Church during a time of great growth, and it has been my pleasure to serve with President Gordon B. Hinckley, a leader who is brilliant, knowledgeable, and savvy. I can’t think of a better time to be so involved with the Church.”
“He has become a bit of a celebrity here,” Kay says of her hometown, but she could have been referring to the entire country. “They haven’t used his last name since he was a junior in high school. They just say, ‘Jimmer,’ and everyone knows who it is.”
"I saw a little girl sitting on a couch, with a TV, radio, and light on. She had eight siblings older than she. This struck me—this was a pinnacle moment. Everyone older than she was had lived without power, and she won't know life without it."
“Even when our children were little, we wanted to serve missions with them for the Church."
"If you decide you want to do something and apply yourself and don’t give up, you can do it.”
“If we don’t first satisfy our employees, it is unrealistic and disingenuous to expect them to meet the needs of the people they serve."
“I have looked at medicine almost as a sacred calling because you are dealing with intimate problems with families, and to be able to assist with reassurance and calmness and to help them with deep concern makes such a difference."
“I told myself back then that I probably could write songs and maybe someday I just might do it."
"I always wanted a career as a singer and composer, but it wasn't until I heard Elder Jeffrey Holland challenge us to pursue our dreams that I decided to fully follow my dream of vocal performance."
“If I put as much time into the stock market as I put into reading articles about players’ potential, I could probably make a heck of a lot more money.”
"People thought I was going to die. I even had a doctor tell my parents to take me home and enjoy what little time I had left."
“I am proud that I chose to dive after almost losing my life.”
“I guess I do a lot of yelling, but it’s not out of anger. It’s out of excitement.”
“When you read the scriptures, we read that ‘today is the day for men to perform their labors’. There is a reason for this life; this is the day for us to make changes in our lives. When you see people in prison…they haven’t had the opportunity to say no to the bad. We are trying to give people the opportunity to make decisions and change.”
“It [carillon music] just becomes a part of being at BYU. People tell me ‘I didn’t realize how much I appreciated it until I was back at BYU and heard the carillon, and it brought back so many memories.’ It’s just fun to be a part of other people’s stories.”
“I had a great time learning to snowboard on the slope just outside the Grant Building, which houses the (BYU) testing center.”
“Being a wife and mother is a challenging job, and not only that, it’s a lot more difficult than an office job because it takes 24 hours a day with no time off.”
“The idea of being of service to others, and making sure that everybody has a chance, that everyone has an opportunity, regardless of our differences . . . that is the path I am trying to take. We ought to find ways to support each other and find common ground.”
“I feel as if I’ve received so much enlightenment during my travel experiences that I need to give back. The people of Nepal gave me so much love and kindness that it is an honor to help them.”
“Archaeology rocks. You are physically interacting with the past, and key is to find the story because that is what people are interested in . . . the Henry Morgans and the Captain Kidds . . . How do we tell their stories? What do we know, what can we find out about them that we might not have known before? It’s those stories and the history that let us know who we are and where we came from. We all came from somewhere.”
“Honestly, I don’t know why more girls don’t get into science and engineering. It’s so cool. If you just look at the world around you, everything has engineering in it. With everything you see, somebody had to design and figure out how to do it. Somebody had to come up with a way to lock a door; someone had to design cars. Hey, somebody had to figure out how to get mascara to stick to a brush.”
“It was pretty dead there from about midnight to 5, but they were required to have someone on staff, and so when I got hired I told my boss, ‘I'm just going to write books all night,’ and he replied, ‘That's great. At least you won't sleep on the couch like the person before you.’”
“You’ve just got to find somebody who is in worse shape than you and help them be happy.”
“My vision is that attendees will leave the festival with a firm commitment to make changes in their personal lives that will lead to a stronger America.”
“I want people to create their own meanings and find their own stories. For me, the art process is not complete unless it becomes thought provoking for the viewer.”
“As a boy I used to go to the Coliseum in Los Angeles and watch fabulous fireworks shows, and when I suggested it for Provo, I’m sure people wanted to throw me from the room.”
“It broke my heart whenever Zach asked me why he couldn’t play like the other kids. A park is the perfect place for children to socialize and connect with each other, and I hated seeing him sidelined.”
“You are what you eat, so eat something sweet. Baking was magic to me as a child. It still is.”
“A scholar is someone who is inspired and following a passion and willing to become better than he or she is.”
“With all the color and action, it’s as if I’m in a cartoon.”
“I’m a provider, defender, protector, and record keeper as I help prepare my babies for loving adoptive homes.”
“If we do not act in behalf of the family, that is itself an act of opposition to the family.”
“If this were only about rugby, I would have left years ago. It’s all about the boys, and that’s what keeps me in the game.”
“All families, regardless of their structure, have to communicate, deal with conflict, handle finances, and manage children, if they have them.”
“There is something singular about going to a live performance and being hit with a visceral human sound and realizing it is coming from a person opening his or her heart and soul.”
“Yoga is a yoking of the body and mind. If both are healthy, our spirit can really soar,”
“I call the title my Miss America card, and I have an instinct about when it will help me get in a door or when it is better left unused.”
“We need to strengthen support for human rights in North Korea and other places around the world as well,”
“I know what it’s like to live what many people would call a glamorous, interesting, intellectually stimulating life, and I can say with the full conviction of my heart—with full power in my soul—that nothing is more important than the work I’m doing within the four walls of my own home, with my children.”
“Some rootbeers use licorice as a flavoring, and that gives it a strong taste. I don’t care for that as much.”
“Dr. Huizenga predicted I would die April 23, 2024. I was blown away. I began to cry, not for myself, but for my 8-year-old daughter, who would lose her father in her early 20s if this happened.”
“I wasn’t interested in just doing one lovely thing. I wanted us to do something that had to last long enough that it would require some level of sacrifice.”
“I’m a real advocate for blogging. If you have a day without tantrums, for example, or you happen to find a pair of shoes on clearance in your 4-year-old’s size, the New York Times isn’t going to care. But when you write it on your blog, your readers totally get it.”
“I hope I can do this until I die. I’m still pinching myself after more than 20 years. I would like nothing better than someday dropping dead into a bottle of ink.”
“I would never have guessed when I started my education at BYU that I would now be working with law enforcement and forensic scientists around the world to help solve murders, rapes, and other brutal crimes, but here I am. It’s an incredible place to be.”
“No, this long bout of Crusoe-envy seemed to be more physical than spiritual; an appreciation for what Teddy Roosevelt called the ‘doctrine of the strenuous life.’ Roosevelt bemoaned the ‘timid man,’ the man living ‘a life of slothful and ignoble ease.’ The man I fear I've become. As a kid, I used to snicker when I shook an uncallused hand. Now I've got two of my own. I used to bathe in the evening after a hard day's work. Now I shower in the morning.”
“Because my body is used to going the distance, I don’t hurt after a race. I hope I can do this until I’m dead.”
Law School (JD '86)
South Jordan, Utah
Favorite BYU class: Criminal law with Woodruff J. Deem, which Hamilton says was also one of the most intimidating classes. Deem would often call on a student to stand and would then grill the student for the whole class period.
Worst BYU grade: Securities law. "I couldn't even read that stuff."