The largest class in the 113-year history of Westminster College of Salt Lake City was told Saturday that the 259 graduates are but one sign of a "miracle" that has taken place during the past decade at the school.
College President Charles Dick told graduates gathered at Dane Hansen Memorial Stadium that 10 years ago the college was teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, facilities were deteriorating and the school was suffering from a bad reputation.But he said the college reorganized, attracted new, highly qualified faculty and students, improved its facilities and was reborn. A recent accreditation report even said the rebirth "is nothing short of a miracle."
Dick said the report from the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges said Westminster is now in better condition financially and academically than most small liberal arts colleges.
John W. Gallivan, publisher emeritus of the Salt Lake Tribune and commencement speaker, said that when he was a trustee at the college 11 years ago, the mere existence of the college from year to year was an annual triumph.
"The chant, `Long live Westminster,' is no longer a prayer but is said with confidence."
Just as Westminster was turned around in a short time, graduates were urged to work hard to change the world soon.
"It is not patience but impatience that is the virtue," he said. "There is so much to do and so little time," Gallivan said.
He said many improvements in Utah took years to accomplish. For example, the Salt Palace took 20 years to plan and build. Construction of magnesium industries on the Great Salt Lake took decades. And the Tribune's fight for city-county consolidation has gone on for 50 years, and is not finished.
"Few goals are achievable in one lifetime," Gallivan said, telling graduates to work hard now, be impatient and try to make life on earth "a reasonable facsimile of heaven."
Gallivan was awarded an honorary doctor of human letters degree for his service to Westminster and the community. W. Donald Brumbaugh was also awarded an honorary doctorate for his 20 years as a Westminster trustee and his long career as an educator.
John P. Watkins, professor of the year, told graduates not to be afraid to break away from the herd, and to think for themselves as they have been trained to do with a liberal arts education. He said they should be more concerned with improving themselves than accumulating money and material goods.
"To deny the mind food for thought is to sentence it to death by starvation," he said.
Senior Class President Patricia Teal commended students for helping each other to turn their dreams of a college education into reality.
Alumni Association President John Pavich - who noted that 20 years ago he graduated from what was then the largest class in history with 79 graduates - urged the new graduates to remember their school and to help it continue to grow.