One of the highlights of BYU’s annual Homecoming celebration is the BYU Alumni Association’s recognition of outstanding individuals for exemplary and exceptional service.
This year’s Alumni Association President Tom Hart and President-elect Paul Gilbert presented awards to the following individuals at Homecoming Spectacular, Oct. 11 and 12.
Alumni Distinguished Service Award: Gary L. Benson
As an educator, Gary Benson has taught at the university, community, state, national, and international levels that entrepreneurship is the key to empowering and uplifting individuals, groups, and nations.
A professor and the Irvin L. Young Entrepreneurship chair in the College of Business and Economics at the University of Wisconsin, Gary has designed an entrepreneurship program that enables students to run their own businesses while completing their degrees.
Practicing what he preaches, Gary regularly organizes citizen groups to paint the exteriors of the homes of elderly, unemployed, or disabled inner-city residents. Gary has also helped develop entrepreneurship programs in Russia, South Africa, China, Mexico, India, and Cuba.
Alumni Service to Family Award: Kristin Cotterell and Val C. Sheffield
Kristin and Val Sheffield live by a philosophy of commitment not only to their own family but also to families around them facing difficult circumstances.
While completing doctoral and medical degrees at the University of Chicago, Val and his family lived on the south side of Chicago. During this time, a period of struggle for the young family, the Sheffields saw families at risk and came to understand the importance of a helping hand.
As a volunteer, Kristin has brought the arts to “safe houses” and homeless shelters to provide an outlet for children involved in troublesome situations. As a medical doctor, Val’s motivation for his research and clinical practice has been to alleviate the suffering of children. He participates in satellite clinics situated in various rural areas of the midwest where families would not otherwise have access to medical care.
The Sheffield’s philosophy of caring and sharing is a family commitment. Val, Kristin, and their five children frequently open their home to those in need of assistance.
Alumni Distinguished Service Award: Harold Brown
A few years after serving a mission in Argentina, Harold Brown was called as the president of the only branch in Mexico City, where he helped to activate one-third of the members who had left the Church. Later, while working in the U.S. Embassy in Uruguay, he assisted in building that country’s newly established mission.
In 1949 Harold was called back to Argentina to serve as a mission president. After his time as a mission president, he completed a degree in political science at BYU and then doctoral studies at Harvard.
For the next three decades Harold continued to lead the growth of the Church in Mexico and Latin America. He served as president of the first Spanish-speaking stake of the Church during the 1960s, as Regional Representative to Mexico and Central America during the 1970s, and as the first president of the Mexico City Temple in the 1980s.
Honorary Alumni Award: Robert F. Driver
Being a successful leader and businessman has never gotten in the way of Robert Driver’s concern for people; rather, it has enabled him to help others. Robert started selling insurance while attending San Diego High School. Upon graduation in 1927, he started his own company, which is still thriving today.
For 10 years Robert served on the San Diego Community Welfare Council–including two years as president–responsible for community coordination of welfare services.
While president of Project Concern and the International Primary Medical Association, he helped build medical clinics in Bali and Vietnam. He was also responsible for funding and building the Children’s Hospital in Tijuana, Mexico.
Robert has also been involved with American Indian Services, giving Native American students increased educational opportunities, particularly at BYU.
Honorary Alumni Award: H. Tracy Hall
Those acquainted with H. Tracy Hall might say that he does his best work under pressure. In 1954 while working on a research team at the General Electric Research Laboratory, he invented the Belt, a device capable of generating the extremely high pressures and temperatures needed to transform graphite into industrial diamond.
Tracy’s invention was considered so important that a federal government secrecy order was placed on it. When he became a professor of chemistry and director of research at BYU the following year, the restriction kept him from using his own device. Within a year, however, he invented the Tetrahedral Press, which had capabilities equivalent to the Belt. Then it, too, received a secrecy order.
About two years later the orders were removed from Tracy’s inventions and he was free to pursue his endeavors in high pressure/high temperature research. During the next decade, Tracy and his colleagues published almost 150 peer-reviewed scientific papers, attracted the attention of scientists from all over the world, and obtained more than $1 million in grants for research.
The recipient of numerous awards from professional societies, Tracy holds 17 U.S. and 70 foreign patents.
Honorary Alumni Award: Fred A. Schwendiman
As an administrator with both BYU and the LDS Church, Fred A. Schwendiman managed the educational property of the Church and university for more than
Business school at the University of Utah and at Harvard prepared Fred for the heavy responsibilities ahead of him. In 1953 he was made student housing director at BYU and by 1974 he was overseeing the university’s physical plant, in charge of the planning, construction, and maintenance of the 380 buildings on campus. During this time he was also made administrator for physical facilities in the LDS Church Education System. As Support Services vice president of BYU from 1979–1984, he directed purchasing, food services, physical facilities, and housing. For 22 years Fred also managed the physical services at the Missionary Training Center.
After his retirement from BYU, Fred and his wife, Noni, resided in Jerusalem where he was project director for the construction of BYU’s Jerusalem Center.
Fred helped organize the first student stake at BYU in 1956 and later served as president of the Third Stake for 12 years.