The 87th graduating class from Dixie College topped last year's record by graduating 220 more students. For the past 10 years, each year has seen more students graduating, making Dixie College for the past five years the fastest growing institute of higher learning in the state.

Walking through the "D" to receive their diplomas were 890 graduates, receiving 897 degrees and 218 vocational certificates. This year's graduating class consisted of 500 women and 390 men. The average age was 23. The youngest graduate was 17 years old and the oldest was 60. Five countries and 23 states were represented.Valedictorians for the Class of 1998 were DeAnn Crump, Phoenix, and Bernice Marketta Wilson, Mesquite, Nev. Both carried a perfect 4.0 GPA. Crump will leave Dixie College to join Norwest Bank Corp. in Phoenix, while Wilson will be married after graduation to Joe Marchant of Centerville. The couple will attend Virginia Tech in the fall, relocating to Blacksburg, Va.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was the commencement speaker. He received an honorary degree along with Peggy Sears. Both were honored for their efforts toward the betterment of education and their concern and aid for Dixie College.

Hatch is noted for his efforts to improve education for students and his public service. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he has been a leader in the fight for tougher anti-crime laws.

Peggy Sears is a quiet force behind cultural enrichment at Dixie College. She was an unconditional supporter of her husband, the late Robert N. Sears. The couple moved to St. George in 1979 and became very involved with Dixie College. They contributed to numerous scholarships and created an art scholarship endowment. In 1990 The Sears' were awarded the Utah Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts.

Three local individuals were honored during commencement exercises.

Distinguished Citizen Awards were given to Timothy Burton Anderson, Rebecca L. Ryder and Rodney F. Savage.

Anderson serves as president of the Dixie College Foundation and served on the state Board of Business and Economic Development. He has also been a trustee of the Industrial Assistance Fund of Utah. This is in addition to his law practice. Anderson also has written a novel, screenplay and articles in regional and national publications.

Ryder is chief operating officer at Dixie Regional Medical Center and has 20 years of experience in nursing and health care. She serves on the Dixie College Health Occupations Advisory Committee. She is also active in civic affairs.

Savage has operated a local accounting firm for 25 years and served as an officer and member of the Dixie College Foundation for 20 years. He was reared in Richfield.