First Person

First Person: Meaningful Mentors

A tip of the hat to passionate professors, life coaches, and difference makers.

Snowshoeing students at the base of a tree at night.
Illustration by Travis Foster

Adventures with Phil

By Krista Roy Hiatt (BA ’13), Springville, UT

There’s no one who loves trees more than landscape-management professor Phil S. Allen (BS ’83, MS ’85), but thanks to Phil’s enthusiastic dendrology lectures, my husband is a close second. However, Phil’s influence extends way beyond the classroom. Our family has been blessed again and again by Phil’s passion, selflessness, and endurance.

The tight-knit friendship within the landscape program can be largely attributed to Phil’s many adventures, including snowshoe trips to the nation’s largest white fir during the full moon. Each year Phil takes landscape students to compete at an event where they network with landscape professionals and face off in various landscaping events. Because of that network, my husband continually secures contracts for his landscaping company, an entrepreneurial endeavor that Phil mentored us in.

The only thing to rival Phil’s energy is his solemnity. Phil mourned with us when our first child passed away. And years later, despite his raw grief from the recent passing of his own child, he still toed the start line of my first ultramarathon with me. After the race, we found Phil soaking a swollen ankle in a creek near the finish line. He had sprained his ankle at mile 17 and still finished the 50-mile race. Could we be surprised? No. Phil Allen is the picture of passion, selflessness, and endurance, a mentor we can never sufficiently thank.

Problem Solved

By Carol Talley Roskelley (BA ’99), Missouri City, TX

After a relationship ended I threw myself into school and tutoring in the BYU Mathlab—one of the positives that lifted my spirit from a sea of negatives. The joy I felt in helping students solve their problems masked the failure I felt in my personal problems.

One day in the Cougareat a friendly stranger approached me and thanked me. “Not all of the people in the Mathlab are so kind,” he said. “I really appreciate it!” Then he went on his way without another word.

For the next week, each day, at different times and in different places on campus, I crossed paths with this stranger who repeated the same greeting, “Hi, nice Mathlab girl!”

My curiosity was piqued, and, when our paths crossed again, I told this stranger my first name. He told me his. After we talked for 45 minutes, I decided to slip my last name into the conversation. He picked up on my hint, looked up my phone number, and called to ask me out. A few months later, we agreed to many future dates by being sealed to each other. I may have been his mentor, but he made all the difference in my life!

Positive Psychology

Michael T. Shoemaker (BS ’94), Magna, UT

In 1991 I transferred to BYU and became one of nearly 2,000 psychology majors, with only 12 full-time psychology faculty. I learned that if I wanted to get into a good graduate program, I would need to do research with a faculty member. I talked about research with the teacher of my first psychology class, Darhl M. Pedersen (BS ’57, MS ’58), but nothing resulted.

Undeterred, I went to his office one morning and waited. When he arrived, I said with a smile, “Good morning, Dr. Pedersen. I am very interested in doing research with you. Have a good day.”

I returned every morning for the next three days and nervously repeated the same message. On the fourth day he replied, “Please come in,” and assigned me to work on numerical input. He later gave me the opportunity to be mentioned on a research article and eventually to coauthor an article.

Working in Dr. Pedersen’s small office every day for a year, I learned what matters most. Each afternoon he called his son and spoke to him for a few minutes. I never tried to listen to what he was saying, but I still remember his quiet and tender tone on those calls.

Today, I have a teenage son. In my interactions with him, I still remember the kindness of Dr. Pedersen’s daily phone calls and believe that in some ways I am a better father for having known him.

Violin professor and student with a bushel of apples
Illustration by Travis Foster

Inspiring Music

By Anne Johnson Lambert (’56), Provo

“He shut his eyes, leaned his head back, and conducted with pure inspiration.” That’s how my friend Darrel Stubbs recalls Laurence Sardoni, conductor of the BYU Symphony Orchestra in the 1950s. “We played our hearts out for him.”

I was in high school when this superb musician and father figure invited me to tour with the symphony orchestra to California. Can you imagine what that meant to a 15-year-old? The next year he invited me to join the tour to the Pacific Northwest. Those tours changed my life. I also met a lot of incredible BYU students—really cute boys!

Our first-year music theory class was at 8 each morning. For our final he allowed us to bring our waffle irons and make pink waffles in the upper classroom of the old Social Hall. We burned out all the sockets in the building as we sang “Red Eyes at Sunrise.”

As my violin teacher, he opened my eyes to some of the greatest music in the world. His selections for the orchestra still inspire my soul after more than 50 years. He allowed us to pay for our lessons with bushels of apples when we could not afford to pay with anything else. He would even drive my brother and me home to Springville when our lessons ended after dark.

No one person has had more influence for good in my life than Laurence Sardoni.

Repeating History

By Shalyn D. Nelson (BA ’91), Enterprise, UT

As a history major I had some outstanding professors, but the three-hour evening courses, led by Dr. LeGrand L. Baker (B ’63), left a permanent impression on me. His passion for the Constitution and his love for the United States motivated me to learn as much as possible about both. Often he would tell us to put our pens down and then regale us with stories that made the framers of the Constitution live and breathe. I also loved how he brought in prophecy, scripture, and testimony to demonstrate the inspired nature of the founding of the United States.

In my profession as a teacher of American history and government for the past 25 years, I’ve tried to emulate Dr. Baker’s approach. Hundreds of my students, though having never met Dr. Baker, are the recipients of his talents, scholarship, and passion through me.


We Want Your Stories

Campy Memories. Aspen Grove: two words that conjure rustic cabins, pine-scented air, burbling streams, and great times with family and friends. Just 25 minutes from campus, Aspen Grove has been a BYU education and recreation destination for nearly a century. Whether you worked on staff or attended a family camp, youth conference, or professional event, we want to hear your woodland adventure. Deadline: June 4.

BYU Magazine pays $50 for stories published in First Person. Send anecdotes of up to 300 words to firstperson@byu.edu. Submissions may be edited for length, grammar, appropriateness, and clarity.

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