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BYU to give Cheney honorary degree

Published: Wednesday, April 25 2007 1:05 p.m. MDT

PROVO — Brigham Young University will bestow on Vice President Dick Cheney an honorary degree Thursday when he speaks at the university's commencement exercises, a decision that further frustrated Cheney's opponents on campus.

BYU and its board of trustees will give Cheney an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service and award honorary doctorates to four long-time university supporters.

The other recipients are Ira Fulton, Honorary Doctorate of Engineering; Mary Lou Fulton, Honorary Doctorate of Education; and Jack R. and Mary Lois Wheatley, Honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters.

A number of professors and students who either opposed Cheney's visit or welcomed the visit while criticizing the vice president's policies had said that if BYU chose to bestow an honorary degree on Cheney, it would feel to them like an endorsement of Cheney's policies by the university and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns the school.

"There are a number of faculty and students who are shocked and surprised and dismayed that Mr. Cheney will not only be honored as a commencement speaker but also receive an honorary degree from BYU," business professor Warner Woodworth said. "I believe this is the first time in BYU history the school has so honored a commencement speaker who is in the process of being impeached by Congress."

Cheney will arrive in Utah Thursday at 1:55 p.m. and meet with the First Presidency of the church at 2:30. Commencement begins at 4 p.m.

The visit with the First Presidency is the norm for international leaders who visit Utah. Church and BYU spokesmen said the honorary degree is not an endorsement of Cheney's policies.

Meanwhile, the White House, Secret Service, BYU, media and others are preparing feverishly for Thursday's visit by the vice president of the United States, who on Tuesday was called President Bush's "attack dog" by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada.

Cheney will speak under a blanket of heavy security and amid rallies for and against him.

Reid, a member of the LDS Church, will speak at BYU on Nov. 27.

Cheney and Reid obviously weren't thinking about dueling appearances in Provo when they railed against each other Tuesday, but to Utahns the give-and-take might have seemed as though two boxers were hyping an upcoming fight.

Cheney attacked Reid for saying last week that Democrats would win more seats in Congress in the next election because the war in Iraq is lost.

"It is cynical to say the war is lost because it gives you political advantage," Cheney said.

Reid fired right back.

"The president sends out his attack dog often, (who is) also known as Dick Cheney, and he was here again today attacking not only me but the Democratic caucus. The president is in a state of denial."

The doors at the Marriott Center will open at 1 p.m. when the first of an expected crowd of 21,000 will file through metal detectors. More than 6,000 students will be awarded degrees during the week's graduation exercises.

Tickets are required, and all attendees must be in their seats by 3:30 p.m. Once inside the Marriott Center, no one will be allowed to leave and re-enter. The annual processional to the Marriott Center has been canceled.

BYU is providing refreshments and a blend of live and prerecorded entertainment for the crowd. At 1:30 p.m., the popular student a capella group Vocal Point will sing. Other entertainers will include soloists from the BYU Young Ambassadors, who leave on tour Monday for Hong Kong and China, and the BYU Dancers Company, which leaves Saturday for Puerto Rico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, said John Lewis, BYU vice president for alumni and external relations.

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