Check out the latest podcast episode Listen

A Brand of Distinction

BYU alumni carry the university’s hefty brand promise 
as they represent BYU to the world.


Realizing his actions would reflect upon the brand he was carrying, Arthur Brooks began trying to live true to the BYU brand. In his words, the magic briefcase “was actually making my life better.”

By Dee T. Allsop (BA ’81)

BYU alumni carry the university’s hefty brand promise 
as they represent BYU to the world.

I’ve always been fascinated by the way we understand and sort out our world through the symbols, colors, and cues with which we surround ourselves. We each tell a story about ourselves by what we choose to wear, what we drive, what we buy, and what we do. Companies and products have become highly proficient in telling their stories through the brands they cultivate. A Nike Swoosh, for example, automatically means something to each of us—the positive attitude to “just do it.”

Rare is it that anyone outside of a university will know the official mission or brand promise of the institution. A year ago, however, tens of thousands carried a short message to the world about what BYU stands for. It was in the form of two words on a T-shirt: “The Quest.” While some people never could get past connecting that quest with the number of wins and losses on the football field, others—who listened—gained insight into what it means to be from BYU.

The mission of Brigham Young University is “to assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life.” That’s a pretty hefty brand promise—there’s a little more to it than Have It Your Way or Just Do It and other slogans from popular brands in the world. But, make no mistake, that is the brand of distinction you carry with you as you represent BYU in the world.

At a campus forum in 2009, Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, spoke about happiness, success, and prosperity, and he shared a story about his “magic briefcase.” As a guest lecturer at BYU a couple of years ago, he was given a briefcase as a gift by a professor here. It was a nice briefcase with the BYU logo on it. A few months later the handle on his other briefcase broke, and he began to use the BYU briefcase. He soon realized that people who saw the briefcase would assume he was LDS. Realizing his actions would reflect upon the brand he was carrying, he began trying to live true to that brand. In his words, the magic briefcase

was actually making my life better. I was happier; things were going really well for me as I was carrying it. And the reason is that the service for which Mormons have become justifiably famous was infecting my life. It was making me better. . . . And I thank you for that. [Arthur C. Brooks, “Why Giving Matters,” BYU forum address, Feb. 24, 2009]

The BYU brand is justifiably famous. A big part of the reason is that the university’s mission has less to do with the institution itself and more to do with you and the kind of person it seeks to help you become—a person “of faith, intellect, and character who [has] the skills and the desire to continue learning and to serve others,” according to BYU’s mission statement.

As graduates of Brigham Young University, you are part of a great alumni family, more than 370,000 strong, who share this mission to “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt 5:16).

At the Alumni Association, we believe the “light” we each hold as alumni can be magnified when we connect with others who share the Spirit of the Y, who share a commitment to do good in a world that has now become our campus.

I invite you to wear the BYU brand with distinction and honor. Let our brand promise continue to lift and inspire you. Find ways you can be connected for good and receive the blessings that come to those who continue to learn and serve throughout their lives.

Dee Allsop is president of the BYU Alumni Association. This article is adapted from a commencement address given April 23, 2009.