PROVO, Utah—As slides listing student achievements rotated overhead, faculty and staff made the annual pilgrimage to the Marriott Center to attend the 2015 University Conference. BYU president Kevin J. Worthen greeted the congregation warmly as the overhead hum of jazz music disappeared and he prepared to announce awards and give a formal address.
Worthen expressed his appreciation for BYU’s gifted professors as he presented university awards. Five professors from the College of Humanities were honored for their contributions to the university.
Karl G. Maeser Research and Creative Arts Award
Mark E. Davies (Linguistics and English Language)
Lance E. Larsen (English)
Abraham O. Smoot Citizenship Award
Edward S. Cutler (English)
Adjunct Faculty Excellence Award
Deborah L. Harrison (English)
Douglas K. Christensen Teaching and Learning Faculty Fellowship
Martha M. Peacock (Comparative Arts and Letters)
Worthen followed up his own remarks from last year’s University Conference by focusing on BYU’s mission statement, “Assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life.”
Worthen began by congratulating the university on the reaffirmation of its accreditation and its student successes, then asked, “What about the future?”
He referred to President Eyring’s talk at his own inauguration when he stated that BYU’s course was laid out in one sentence by Brigham Young: “Put forth your ability to learn as fast as you can, and gather all the strength of mind and principle of faith you possibly can, and then distribute your knowledge to the people.”
Worthen explained this statement’s significance through three insights. First, those at this university have an obligation to learn as quickly as possible. Second, learning of this sort requires both a strong mind and faith. Third, our responsibility does not end with the acquisition of knowledge; we are required to distribute the knowledge we have gained to bless others. By following these three steps, we will create an environment of “learners and lifters,” in the words of President Eyring.
The relationship between learning and lifting is already being accomplished at BYU through mentored learning and research and off-campus internships, Worthen explained, citing the example of a group of engineering students who designed an inexpensive, lightweight motorized wheelchair. These types of experiences will be a high priority in the upcoming year.
Worthen encouraged faculty not to focus strictly on sharing secular knowledge with students, however, but to remember to act as spiritual mentors as well, calling on them to point students towards the “true source of all knowledge and wisdom and service and power.”
He concluded the session by sharing his testimony of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. “They have been and always will be attentive to the needs of all they who study and serve others here and who go on learning and serving others over a lifetime and beyond,” said Worthen.