4 BYU alumni among 100 senators in upcoming 113th U.S. Congress

Published: Thursday, Jan. 3 2013 5:25 p.m. MST

Senator Mike Lee speaks during the investiture ceremony for then-new U.S. Attorney, David B. Barlow, at the Frank E. Moss Courthouse in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 9, 2011. Lee is one of eight national leaders who are Mormons.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

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.

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