The managing director of the Perpetual Education Fund, a rugby coach featured in the movie Forever Strong, a performing arts group founder, a military hero, a foster home director, and two long-time BYU benefactors will be honored during Homecoming 2009.
Receiving Distinguished Service Awards are Richard E. Cook (BS ’52), of Salt Lake City; D. Larry Gelwix (BA ’74), of Salt Lake City; and Dagny J. Merrill (BS ’63), of Shingle Springs, Calif. The Young Alumni Distinguished Service Award recipient is Derek J. O’Malley (BA ’96), of Monterey, Calif. Amanda DeLange (BS ’96), of Xi’an, China, is the Service to Family awardee, and David G. and Marsha K. Derrick, of Farmington, Utah, will receive the Honorary Alumni Award.
Cook is the managing director of the Perpetual Education Fund for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For eight years he has directed the program, which has assisted about 35,000 people with loans for education leading to employment. A former top financial executive at Ford Motor Co., Cook is a member of the National Advisory Council of the Marriott School of Management. Because of his influence, the Marriott School named a lecture hall in the Tanner Building the “Ford Room.” Cook funded the Ford/Cook Professorship and contributed significantly to the Cardon International Sponsorship program, which brings international graduate students to BYU.
Gelwix is often heard on Utah radio and television as the Getaway Guru who highlights travel specials. The owner of a successful travel agency in Bountiful, Utah, Gelwix has actually received more attention for his volunteer work after his day job. He has coached Highland High School rugby for almost 34 of his 59 years. He uses rugby as the vehicle to raise more than championship teams. His focus is championship boys, but his win-loss record going into the 2009 season is 379 wins and nine losses. Gelwix’s success has led to media interviews around the world, and true stories of his players were woven into a recent movie called Forever Strong.
Merrill is the founder of Performing Groups for Youth (PGY), an extensive singing, acting, and dancing program for youngsters from ages 3 to 20. She organized the program 30 years ago and has never received payment or compensation. PGY offers scholarships to children who could not otherwise afford to pay the modest tuitions. Her groups perform extensively, and Merrill and her husband take the teams across the world. In 2002 she founded Marble Valley Private School, under the auspices of the nonprofit Educational Foundation, a program for youth that offers education based on Judeo-Christian values.
O’Malley is an Air Force major and F-16 pilot who planned and flew in the initial “shock and awe” campaign of Operation Iraqi Freedom. For his combat actions, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with a Valor device for heroism. Following his combat deployment, he attended the U.S. Air Force Weapons School, where he was a distinguished graduate and recipient of the Flying Award. He later returned as an instructor and earned six outstanding instructor awards. In March 2009 he received the Anthony C. Shine award from the Air Force, an annual honor for one fighter pilot for outstanding contributions to the community and for proficiency in a fighter aircraft. He was recently selected to the initial cadre for the F-35, the Air Force’s newest fighter.
DeLange has run the Starfish Foster Home in China for several years and currently has responsibility for 46 babies. Most of them have health defects and have been abandoned by their parents. DeLange provides a home and raises money so they can have surgeries for such problems as heart defects, cleft palates, and spina bifida. These surgeries raise the children’s chances of being adopted. She has been able to facilitate the adoption of 20 babies. Additionally, she is working with the Shaanxi Provincial Red Cross in arranging medical missions so specialists can offer care to the babies in China.
The Derricks have been great friends to BYU, particularly to the physics and astronomy program and the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. Fifteen years ago they donated a large telescope for the Eyring Science Center. They followed this gift with a research-quality telescope, and the two instruments have led to BYU’s recognition as one of the best schools in the United States for teaching astronomical research techniques. Additionally, the Derricks provided funding for the planetarium, which elevated astronomy education significantly.