By Todd R. Michaelis, ’90
DENVER-AREA freshmen this year took their first BYU quiz before even setting foot on campus. As part of a traditional barbecue at the home of former Denver Chapter chairs J. Craig, ’78, and Bertha Hiskey McIlroy, ’76, the quiz was composed of questions about BYU. The students all flunked. “The only thing they got right was the school colors,” Craig says.
The barbecue, created to provide a college send-off for new BYU students, was only one of the many events in which the McIlroys were involved as chairs of the Denver area chapter of the BYUAlumni Association.
They say they accepted the position because of their love for BYU. “We had such memorable experiences at the university and wanted to bring more of BYU to Colorado,” Bertha says. Craig worked on campus for many years in Guest Services and Performing Arts Management, and Bertha taught dance at BYU. As former employees, they knew the impact BYU could have.
To learn their responsibilities, they attended a chapter-leader training program at Aspen Grove, where they received ideas and made friends with people from across the country. The next step was to apply what they learned by strengthening the Denver Chapter.
“When we started, many changes had just been implemented in the chapter’s structure. Elder Robert K. Bills, Area Authority Seventy, helped us get the word out to all the local stake presidents, who provided needed support as we implemented new strategies,” Craig says. Advertising in small community papers also helped.
To be more efficient as chapter leaders, the McIlroys soon organized committees, including a network/placement committee and an activities/community relations committee. In addition, an executive committee included representatives from the Law Society, Management Society, and Cougar Club. “The constituent groups may seem proprietary on campus, but out here we all work together,” Craig says. Collaborative events between the constituent groups included the Law Society’s Book of Mormon symposium, the Management Society’s golf tournament and executive lecture series, and the Cougar Club’s tailgate parties. Other chapter activities involved missionary work and raising funds for student scholarships.
A highlight for Bertha was serving as host for the International Folk Dance Ensemble and Young Ambassadors during the groups’ tours through Colorado. “These groups entertained members and others, and the performances provided opportunities for missionaries to bring investigators to an uplifting activity,” Bertha says. Many religious leaders in the community also enjoyed the entertainment.
“Most Denver people were impressed that such talent could come from a university group,” Craig recalls.
The McIlroys want the chapter to help further the purposes of the university and the Church and provide ways for people to gather, share experiences, and have wholesome activities.
One of the most gratifying experiences for Craig was being able to award Chapter Replenishment Grants to BYU students from Colorado. “Brandon J. Wilson, ’04, from Ft. Lupton, Colo., was working hard at a trailer fabrication plant and considering a student loan to make it through his senior year,” Craig says. “I called and asked if he would be interested in having the pain of a student loan removed; I announced he was the latest recipient of the Denver Chapter Replenishment Grant. He and his mom were very excited and have expressed their gratitude to us several times.”
The McIlroys served as chapter chairs for more than seven years. Now the mantle has passed to Craig and Kristene Poulsen. The Poulsens believe their greatest asset is strength in numbers. “It’s important to get people together and be supportive of each other,” Craig Poulsen says.
For information about chapter leaders and activities in your area, see alumni.byu.edu/chapters.