I think BYU certainly produces and creates the kind of environment that produces people who are interested in public service; it is not all that surprising there are four of us who are senators graduated from BYU. —Sen. Mike Lee
PROVO — BYU is in impressive company in the 113th U.S. Congress convened Thursday.
Four BYU graduates are among the 100 members of the U.S. Senate. Only Harvard and Yale have more alumni serving as senators, according to the Senate website.
Six senators earned bachelor's degrees from Harvard and five completed undergraduate work at Yale. Like BYU, Stanford and Dartmouth also have four graduates on the Senate floor.
Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., elected in November, joined three returning BYU alumni — Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, both R-Utah, and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.
Nearly 95 percent of members of the 112th Congress, which ended Thursday, earned at least a bachelor's degree, according to U.S. News & World Report. In the 113th Congress, BYU will have nine total alumni — four in the Senate and five in the House of Representatives.
"We are grateful to all of our alumni who desire to serve their community and this great nation," Carri Jenkins, a BYU spokeswoman, said. "There is much work to be done on Capitol Hill, particularly during these challenging times, and we wish them well."
Three of the senators shared stories and experiences from their undergraduate days in Provo that helped shape them into the men and leaders they are today.
A 'personal experience'
Lee and Hatch both served as student body presidents at BYU. Lee was student body president as a senior during the 1993-94 school year, 35 years after Hatch held the position during the summer semester of 1958.
Lee earned a bachelor's in political science. He also obtained law degree from BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School.
"BYU is a significant part of who I am. I have a lifelong connection to the university and I feel a strong sense of loyalty to the school and thoroughly enjoyed my time there," Lee said. "I loved everything about going to BYU."
Right before Lee graduated from high school, his father, Rex E. Lee, who had worked at the law school, was named BYU's new president; both served as presidents during a year of Mike Lee's time there.
"(My father) started that job just as I was about to start as a freshman and I had already been accepted," Lee said. "That summer I got a letter from my dad congratulating and welcoming me to the school, and one line in particular read, 'I look forward to meeting you personally this fall.' I put the letter on the fridge with a magnet and a note saying 'Thanks, dad, you didn't have to make it so personal.'"
Though it didn't significantly change his experience at BYU since he was already expecting to have his father on campus, it made for an interesting time — and for access to really good seats at basketball games, he said.
"I think BYU certainly produces and creates the kind of environment that produces people who are interested in public service; it is not all that surprising there are four of us who are senators graduated from BYU," Lee, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said.
"As much as anything, it was an experience that enhanced my faith in God, in my beliefs in the restored gospel, in reference to the LDS Church. That, in turn, has influenced everything else that I've done," he said.
BYU 'shaped' Flake
Flake completed his sixth term as a member of the House of Representatives and transitioned to the Senate on Thursday. He believes that his experiences at BYU campuses in two different states shaped much of what he does today in the Senate.
"It was great preparation for what I'm doing now," Flake said. "I went to BYU-Hawaii for a semester. That's where I met my wife — on the beach on the first day of class; it was a memorable occasion."
Flake had his first political science class at BYU-Hawaii and truly enjoyed it; he later graduated with a bachelor's degree in international relations and a master's in political science. He went on to intern on Capitol Hill for the senator holding the position he will fill in the coming term (Jon Kyl).
"Living in Washington ... my (degrees) were tailored well to what I do now," Flake said. "We came here and really got bitten by the bug, my wife and myself. It is difficult to come here and have an experience like that and not get bitten by the bug. The internship really lent itself to that. (It) leads to public service and government in some way."
A different time
Hatch served, like Lee, as student body president during one of his summer semesters at BYU in Provo. However, his experience was very different, and during a different time.
"When I went to BYU it was in 1952; I was very poor and I wasn't sure I would go to college," Hatch said. "They sent me a scholarship for $25 — that was a lot of money in that day. I was impressed that they thought enough of me to do that.
"I have to say I owe a great deal to BYU. I love the school and I would do anything to help the school. ... I was student body president. It was one of the best summer groups they had and I did put a lot of time into it. ... It was something I really enjoyed."
Hatch was nominated for position of student body president by a man he met and interacted with while on his LDS mission in the Great Lakes region. Though he was working full-time, was taking between 18 and 21 credits and had a pregnant wife when nominated and elected to the position, he "threw everything he could into it," he said.
For Hatch, much of his learning and growing came from his teachers and classes, specifically those that were religiously based. He studied as a history major, with philosophy and accounting minors, and after graduation went to the University of Pittsburgh for his law degree.
"I really love BYU and owe a lot to BYU. The $25 scholarship was the final clincher," Hatch said. His parents wanted him to at least go to college for a year and once he started, he "never looked back. It was the right thing to do."
Crapo's staff said Crapo wasn't available for comment on this story after the election in November. Additional attempts for comment in mid-December were unsuccessful. Crapo graduated from BYU in 1973 with a bachelor's in political science before receiving his juris doctor from Harvard Law School in 1977, according to the biography on his official website.
Crapo was charged with drunken driving in Alexandria, Va., early in the morning of Dec. 23. He will be arraigned Friday.
"I am deeply sorry for the actions that resulted in this circumstance," Crapo said in a statement released the night of his arrest, according to the Associated Press. "I made a mistake for which I apologize to my family, my constituents and any others who have put their trust in me. I accept total responsibility and will deal with whatever penalty comes my way in this matter."
Members of the 113th Congress were sworn in Thursday at the U.S. Capitol in D.C.
Along with the four BYU graduates serving as senators, five members of the U.S. House are Cougars:
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, graduated in 1989 with a B.A. in communications
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, graduated in 1992 with a B.A. in Spanish, Latin American literature emphasis
Del. Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, D-American Samoa, graduated in 1966 with a B.A. in political science and history from BYU; he also holds an A.A. from BYU-Hawaii
Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., graduated in 1986 with an M.A. in public administration
Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., graduated in 1985 with a B.S. in animal husbandry
Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., graduated in 1995 with a B.A.
Top 5 Colleges for Senators in 113th Congress
Harvard University — 6 senators
Yale University — 5 senators
Brigham Young University — 4 senators5 comments on this story
Dartmouth College — 4 senators
Stanford University — 4 senators
Source: U.S. Senate
Mandy Morgan is an enterprise intern for the Deseret News, reporting on values in the media. She is a true-blue Aggie, studying Journalism and Political Science at Utah State University, and hails from Highland, Utah.