The judges in the Deseret News-KSL Sterling Scholar Awards program have a common complaint, but it's not about devoting hours to reading stacks and stacks of student portfolios.

The judges say it's almost impossible to select one Sterling Scholar in each category when all finalists are so impressive, not only in their selected field but in a wide range of subjects and general scholarship."I'm amazed at how good some of the students are. They're not just involved in the visual arts. They're outstanding scholars. They deserve to be recognized for overall scholarship," said David Ericson, visual arts judge and owner of the Gallery 56.

On April 3, Ericson and 35 other professionals in the 12 awards categories devoted their day to poring over student portfolios before the final interviews with the 180 semifinalists. After eight hours of study and interviews at Highland High School, the weary judges selected the 12 Sterling Scholars for 1991 and 24 runners-up.

To help in the selection, each judge was given a worksheet to rank the finalists as they read through the portfolios. The judges were told to weigh 50 percent of their points in scholarship, 25 percent in leadership and 25 percent in citizenship. They were also cautioned to judge on actual accomplishment, not potential.

With an array of portfolios spread out before him, English category judge Mark Spencer of the State Office of Higher Education pointed out high grade point averages - none below a 3.9 - and equally lofty scores on the SAT and ACT. Several students recorded perfect 36 English scores on the ACT and there was a perfect 800 on the SAT.

The ACT's average composite score for the finalists was 30, compared with ACT composite score of 20 for the average Utah college-bound student, Spencer said.

West Jordan City Manager John Hiskey, a social science judge, saw similar scholarship among the social science finalists. These students, like their Sterling Scholar peers, received straight "A's", with an occasional "A-minus" or "B-plus," while taking four or five advanced-placement classes.

The social science students were involved in a variety of community projects, from political campaigns and foreign exchange travel to recycling and feeding the homeless, Hiskey said.

A Sterling Scholar music judge for 17 years, Avery Glenn of the State Office of Education said the discipline of music spills over into other areas, with music finalists maintaining 3.9 GPAs and being active in a variety of school and community activities. One finalist, for example, was a champion cross-country runner and musician.

*****

(Additional information)

1991 Judges\ Here is a list of the 1991 Sterling Scholar judges:

English - Barry Laga, Westminster College; Mark Spencer, State Office of Higher Education; James F. Schindler, Jordan School District.

Speech/Drama - Catherine Zublin, Weber State University; Dan Keeler, State Office of Education; Duane Hill, Marketing Concepts.

Mathematics - Jerry Ridenhouer, Utah State University; Mike Redd, Redd & Associates; Norman Tarbox, State Office of Higher Education.

Social science - Peter Diamond, University of Utah; John Hiskey, West Jordan city manager; Richard Eberle, Weber State University.

Science - Danny Blubaugh, Utah State University; Karla Hendrickson, Hercules Aerospace; Harden Eyring, State Office of Higher Education.

Foreign language - Heinz Rahde; Susan Vicchrilli, Translation Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Wolf Von Schmidt, University of Utah.

Visual arts - Robert Day, professional artist; David Ericson, Gallery 56; Richard Christenson, Deseret News.

Industrial education - Jerry Johnson, Salt Lake Community College; Kent Worthington, Davis Applied Technology Center; Richard Thorn, Associated General Contractors.

Business education - Tambi Sorensen, Stevens-Henager College; Ralph Childs, Salt Lake Community College; Ken Webb, Utah Power & Light.

Home economics - Shirley Klein, Brigham Young University; Pauline Richards, Deseret News; JoAnn Mortensen, Salt Lake County Extension Division.

Music - Jerald Harris, Brigham Young University; William S. Goodfellow, Deseret News; Avery Glenn, State Office of Education.

General scholarship - Steve Haslam, Westminster College; Steve Hale, Utah Education Association; Keith Steck, State Office of Education.