Kim S. Cameron’s classmates may have voted him the school’s “most preferred man” when he was studying sociology at BYU in the late 1960s, but the athlete, Hinckley scholar, and student body vice president didn’t have the assurance to ask Melinda Cummings (BA ’74) for a date.
She was the daughter of Hollywood actor Robert Cummings, and her arrival on campus had created considerable attention among the student body. Despite urgings from several persons, he protested there was no way he, a hometown Provo boy, would date Melinda Cummings.
“It would have been like asking Miss America out,” he explains. It took a social orchestrated by celebrated Program Bureau director Janie Thompson to get them together.
“We were at an event where couples were matched with pink and blue cards,” Melinda says. “Janie accidentally on purpose paired us together.”
They started dating, and the relationship became serious after she joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I had come to school in Provo by happenstance,” she says. “My father had been invited to perform at the Valley Music Hall (in the Salt Lake area) and Elder Russell M. Ballard was on the board of directors. He invited my parents and me to come to BYU and look at the campus. He arranged a visit that included meeting the dean of students, Elliott Cameron, who is Kim’s father. I actually met both his parents before I met him.”
The school’s code of conduct, which she considered unusual for a major university, resonated with her. Melinda had had the opportunity to play a co-starring role in the movie “The Graduate, but had turned it down because it would have required her to compromise her standards.
She was also thrilled to work with Janie Thompson, perform with Thompson’s Defense Department tours, and be a charter member of the Young Ambassadors. She considers singing with Ralph Woodward in the cappella choir another highlight, but a life changing moment occurred when she acted in the BYU film, “Pioneers and Petticoats.”
“I had a scene where I was supposed to bear my testimony, and as an actor, I didn’t want to do anything dishonest,” she explains. “I had been praying to get an answer so I could do the scene well, and I was distraught when it was time to film and I had no answer. As I started to speak the words I had rehearsed—which included a testimony that Brigham Young was a prophet of God—I got a witness that David O. McKay was a living prophet and the gospel had been restored on the earth. It happened while I was saying those words. When I finished, the girls in the audience were crying, and I could tell they were real tears. I had been given a glycerin tear, but my tears were real, too. I asked them why they were crying, and they told me they realized I knew the gospel was true. It was a profound experience.” (Her sister, Patricia Cummings Goldhamer, also attended BYU and joined the Church.)
“Kim and I were dating at the time, and the relationship became deeper after I joined the Church,” she says. “I think the light of the gospel had a lot to do with it.”
Kim also became part of the Young Ambassadors, and they toured the United States, the Caribbean and Japan together. After they married in 1970 Kim accepted a job teaching at Ricks College where they began a family and performed together in the musicals 1776 and No, No Nanette. At that time, Ricks only allowed married couples to kiss on stage. When Kim began doctoral studies at Yale University, Melinda used her radio vocal talents to be the Mystic (Connecticut) Seaport lady, and when Kim completed his education, he joined the faculty at the business school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Melinda ran a creative drama school from home. They later moved to Boulder, Colo., where Kim directed a research center that studied the dip in the number of college age students that happened in the wake of the baby boomer generation; Melinda was president of the Young People’s Theater. BYU later recruited him as associate dean of the Marriott School, which he left when he was invited to be a dean at Case Western in Cleveland. He now the William Russell Kelly Professor of Management and Organizations at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.
An automobile accident propelled Melinda in another direction and she is actively involved in family history.
Throughout their lives, the Camerons have extolled the value that comes from attending BYU.
“We have always and will always continue to love BYU for the difference it makes in people’s lives, including ours,” Kim explains. “But I feel the best contribution we can make is in other places. BYU is bulging with talented people. We are simply happy helping wherever we are.”