An integral part of each year’s Homecoming festivities is the Alumni Association’s recognition of outstanding alumni. The following seven individuals received awards during this year’s Homecoming Spectacular for lives of exceptional service to their families, their church, their communities, and their professions.
Alumni Service to Family Award: Gary S. and Lynn Fechser Anderson
Lynn and Gary Anderson are the parents of five–three biological and two adopted children. Their oldest child, Chuck, and their youngest daughter, Christine, were born with epidermolysis bullosa (EB), a rare genetic skin disease that affects an estimated 100,000 children in the United States. Children so afflicted suffer from painful wounds that can cover as much as 75 percent of their bodies. Any activity, even as simple as walking, bathing, or eating, can cause scarring and chronic sores. These children live with constant pain, and most have no hope of living beyond the age of 30.
The Andersons cared for Chuck and Christine until their deaths–Chuck of skin cancer at 27 and Christine of heart failure at 14. In 1991 Lynn, with Gary’s unfailing support, established the Epidermolysis Bullosa Medical Research Foundation, a nonprofit organization that has raised more than $500,000 for EB research.
“Many parents must face the trauma of raising disabled children and the tragedy of their untimely death,” says filmmaker and family friend Kieth Merrill. “That is not what makes Lynn and Gary Anderson remarkable. It is the fact that they rose above the anguish of their own heartache. They transcended cynicism, bitterness, and doubt. They never allowed their private anguish to mar their public countenance. They carried the burden as a blessed responsibility and, in doing so, lifted all within the reach of their influence.”
Honorary Alumni Award: Helvécio Martins
Although he was forced to leave school at age 11 to help support his family, Helvécio Martins never abandoned his desire for more education. When he was 23, with the encouragement of his friend Rudá Tourinho Assis (who later became his wife), he returned to school, completing the equivalent of junior high and high school while working full-time. In fact, he took his final high school examination on his wedding day, the only day it was given.
Helvécio continued his education, completing preparatory school and then earning a university degree in accounting and actuarial science while continuing to work full-time. When he completed his degree at age 32, Helvécio was offered a position with Petrobas, Brazil’s largest corporation. He advanced rapidly within the company, eventually attaining a position that brought him national renown.
Despite his success Helvécio was not satisfied with his life and began investigating different religions. In 1972 he, his wife, and their four children joined the LDS Church. Helvécio never wavered in his devotion to the gospel, even though he could not hold the priesthood.
Six years after the Martinses’ conversion, the Church announced President Spencer W. Kimball’s revelation extending priesthood blessings to all worthy males, and the Martinses were sealed in the São Paulo Temple. Helvécio continued his service to the Church, first as a counselor in two stake presidencies, then as a bishop, a mission president, and, in 1990, a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, as the first black Church member to be a General Authority.
Honorary Alumni Award: Grant A. Strebel
A lifetime of hard work has enabled Grant A. Strebel to leave a lasting legacy that will continue to benefit the youth of the LDS Church and BYU.
When Grant returned to Utah from the Swiss-German Mission in 1931, the United States was in the grip of the Great Depression. Making a living in the Depression was a constant struggle. Grant worked for a florist seven days a week for a dollar a day.
Seeking better job opportunities, Grant moved to California, where he met and married Jean Macdonald. A friend noted, “Their marriage would lead to a lifelong friendship. Jean was his helpmate, supporter, and admirer throughout the next six decades of her life. The names of Grant and Jean are inseparably associated.”
After working for the Safeway grocery store chain for several years, Grant became a salesman for the New York Life Insurance Company. He held that job for more than 60 years. He and Jean traveled widely and were avid about hunting and fishing. Unable to have children of their own, they translated their love for the outdoors and their devotion to the Church into endowment programs in biology for BYU students.
To that end, Grant Strebel has made significant contributions to the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum, both monetary gifts and valuable collections (most notably the Mario Gracchi collection of seashells). He has established the Jean Macdonald Strebel, Anton Strebel, and Minnie Katherine Strebel Memorial Endowment to honor his beloved wife and parents.
Distinguished Service Award: Tufuga Samuelu Atoa
Quiet and dignified service characterized the life of Tufuga Samuelu (Sam) Atoa, who died June 29 of this year.
Sam Atoa received the first Samoan scholarship to BYU. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1957 and, in 1974, a master’s degree in educational administration. He returned to Samoa in 1958 and spent the ensuing years in service to his community, church, and nation.
In 1962, Sam was given the chief title of “Tufuga” in his extended family. This gave him a voice in local and national government. Over the years he served in many capacities, including chair of the public service commission, board member of the National University of Samoa, and government director of Polynesian Airlines Limited. He was tireless in his devotion to the development of sports in his homeland and served as a member of the National Olympic Committee. In 1994 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the Western Samoa Sports Federation and the National Olympic Committee. In 1995, for his unflagging and varied service, he was given the Government Order of Merit by the prime minister of Western Samoa.
Balancing his great service to his country was Sam’s dedication to the LDS Church. He served in many callings, including national director of public affairs, regional representative, temple president, stake president, and bishop.
Sam and his wife, Helen Evans Atoa, are the parents of five children and 11 grandchildren.
Distinguished Service Award: Kim B. Clark
“No success in business can compensate for failure in the home,” said Kim B. Clark, dean of the faculty at Harvard Business School, to a group of new students recently. Appointed dean in the fall of 1995, Kim is widely known and respected for his scholarship, his advocacy of ethics in business, his devotion to his family, and his modest, down-to-earth style.
A friend and colleague, Steven C. Wheelwright, notes, “The school has experienced a major leap forward under his leadership and currently has great momentum in its research, faculty development, executive education, MBA program, and technology efforts.”
Kim earned his AB, AM, and PhD degrees in economics at Harvard. However, immediately following his mission to Germany, he attended BYU, where he met and married his wife, Sue. The parents of seven children, they also often provide a home to a number of others who need a good, stable family environment.
He has served consistently in church callings, including time as the bishop of the Cambridge Ward, as Scoutmaster, and, currently, as executive secretary of the Belmont Ward.
An outstanding researcher, Kim has a distinguished list of publications, including 13 books and many scholarly articles. His latest book, co-authored with Carliss Baldwin, is Design Rules: The Power of Modularity, forthcoming from MIT Press.
Distinguished Service Award: Charlotte Cannon Johnston
Charlotte Cannon Johnston, along with her husband, Peter, was among the founding members of the Inner City Youth Charitable Foundation. The foundation, in cooperation with Ricks College, provides summer camps for Chicago’s inner city youth. The camps expose participants, most of whom are members of the LDS Church, to experiences, people, and an environment often very different from what they’ve known.
Serving others has always been a priority in Charlotte’s life; she not only supported her husband through years of medical schooling and nurtured their four children, but she also served in her church and community. Her priorities were evident during her education at BYU, where she was president of the Associated Women Students during 195051. Charlotte has served as stake Young Women president and as the first stake Relief Society president of the Chicago Heights Stake.
When her youngest child was in high school, Charlotte returned to school at the University of Chicago and earned a master’s degree as a reading consultant. Later she did additional postgraduate work at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, studying the relationship between emotions and learning. Until her recent retirement she worked at a local Montessori school helping children burdened with reading problems.
Throughout these busy years Charlotte and Peter have opened their home to countless students. As a result of her years of service, Charlotte has many friends in Chicago and elsewhere.