Nearly 3,200 undergraduates and more than 600 graduate students were awarded degrees Thursday during one of the most colorful Brigham Young University commencements in recent memory.
Most of the color was provided by writer Roger Rosenblatt, who received an honorary doctoral degree. Rosenblatt's witty, off-beat address seemed somewhat out of place for normally reserved BYU commencement exercises, but he kept the audience laughing."I want to give a speech that is not only memorable but useful," he said. "It consists of a list of jobs. Most of them require little or no work, no prior training, no knowledge whatever."
An honorary doctorate was also conferred on Sir John Marks Templeton, the mutual fund guru who established the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion in 1973.
President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, presided.
"Graduates, you not only enter your new world but you also help to shape it," said Monson, who was subjected to a barrage of camera flashes from among the 16,559 at the Marriott Center as he spoke.
BYU President Merrill J. Bateman presented Presidential Citations to Beverly B. Campbell, former LDS Church "ambassador to the ambassadors"; to former BYU English professor Edward LeRoy Hart; and to Merlin W. and Edna W. Sant, longtime BYU boosters.
Rosenblatt's facetious list of jobs that graduates could obtain included president of the United States ("you can say anything you want and people will listen"), drug czar ("one of the most overlooked but attractive government positions"), media critic ("easy to do at home"), CEO of a major corporation ("the object of this position is to get fired or to get bought out") and Celine Dion ("sing the love song for `Titanic' all day and all night and your career will go on and on").
He managed to insert some vulgarities, and told several pushing-the-envelope jokes that left graduates wondering whether to laugh or be embarrassed. The sarcastic tone of Rosenblatt's address resembled that of the infamous so-called Kurt Vonnegut speech at Massachusetts Institute of Technology commencement last year (actually a column in the Chicago Tribune by Mary Schmich) that began, "Wear sunscreen."
Nevertheless, Rosenblatt, an award-winning journalist and commentator for "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on PBS, seemed to delight the audience with his humor and style.
Monson advised graduates that formal schooling was just a part of their education.
"Learning is not just an in-class activity," he said. "It's an all-day, everywhere process."
Meanwhile, Elder Henry B. Eyring, LDS Church commissioner of education and member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said graduates had been well-prepared to "go forth to serve."
Even though the courses wouldn't show on their transcripts, students who attend BYU learn lessons in service, integrity and leadership that allow them to benefit others once they leave campus, he said.
Bateman spoke on the balance between faith and academics that BYU strives to achieve. That effort allows character and spiritual development to become an accepted part of college education, he said.
"The BYU experience encompasses the whole person," he said. "It is concerned with character and intellect."
The student speaker, David Holland, addressed the need to judge situations and others righteously. Many people today refuse to pass judgment in the name of maturity, and that is dangerous to a free society, he said. Other speakers included Templeton and Paul E. Gilbert, president of the BYU Alumni Association.
Among the bachelor's degree recipients were at least two different parent-child combinations, including BYUSA president Dallin M. Anderson and his mother, Jean-ette.
"The pressures of school, while dealing with the real-life obligations of single parenting a large family, have sometimes seemed overwhelming and impossible," said Jeanette Anderson, who completed requirements for a double major in English and communication.
In all, 3,180 students received bachelor's degrees, one student received an associate's degree, 471 received master's degrees and 155 were awarded doctorates. Also recognized during the commencement were the 1,714 students who graduated in December, when no formal commencement exercises were held.
The graduates came from all 50 states and 36 foreign countries, and bachelor's degree recipients ranged in age from 19 to 56. Ninety-eight percent are members of the LDS Church.