First Person Classroom Stories from Former BYU Students
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First Person

First Person: When You Had Class

If these lecture halls could talk, here are some stories they’d tell.

A student dressed as the Black Knight from Monty Python stands with raised sword.
Illustration by Travis Foster

Knight Class

By Michael A. Dobson (BA ’05), Greenacres, WA

During my last few years at BYU, I had a highly entertaining group of classmates who all decided to dress up one Halloween as characters from the Monty Python movies. Their costumes were quite elaborate, with chain mail, helmets, and the like. They had a great time going around campus and even got a standing ovation when they entered the Cougareat, galloping along and clapping their coconuts.

But the best moment of the day came during our physical chemistry class with Brian F. Woodfield (BS ’86, MS ’88). During test weeks Professor Woodfield would usually ask the students who had already taken the test what they thought of it. This day was no exception, and Ashley Kagel Gustafson (BS ’06), dressed as the Holy Grail’s Black Knight, sat ready with helmet in hand. When he asked about the test, she quickly put on her helmet, stood up, and declared, “None shall pass!”

Initial Confusion

By I. Leroy Likes (BS ’62, MS ’63), Aurora, CO

Having graduated from a small western Colorado high school in 1957, I found my first week as a freshman on the massive BYU campus to be overwhelming. I read my schedule and glanced at the initials of the building for my first class. I found a building, entered a room that was very nicely furnished, and took a seat. I was a bit confused because there were no other students there, only a woman—presumably the teacher—at a desk up front. I figured it was because I was a bit early.

After a few moments, the lady asked how she could be of help. When I explained that I was there to attend my class, she very sweetly informed me that I was in President Ernest L. Wilkinson’s (BA ’21) waiting room! Horribly embarrassed, I bolted from the building as fast as my legs would carry me. Needless to say, I was tardy for my very first class at BYU.

Birth Day Surprise

By Julie Jacobs Taggart (BS ’07), Orem, UT

As a sophomore trying to get into the BYU nursing program, I took the required Intro to Nursing class. One day our teacher showed a video of childbirth, which, I confess, traumatized me slightly. As I made my way across campus after class, looking at every person, I found it hard to believe that so many women had gone through what I had just watched. With each person who passed by, I thought in bewilderment, “Someone gave birth to you. Someone gave birth to you. Someone gave birth to you.”

Luckily, that reaction didn’t deter me from becoming a nurse nor from bearing five wonderful children of my own. But I didn’t record any of their births—I will let them wait until they take Intro to Nursing to be astonished at the process that brought them into the world.

Wake Up, Ref!

By Shauna Andrus (BS ’81), Murray, UT

When I began my studies at BYU in the early ’70s, I worked most evenings as a referee for intramurals and some girls’ high school games. Refereeing was often the last thing I did before retiring for the night.

Knowing that I was often sleepy in the afternoon, I tried to avoid classes at that time. However, as a member of the women’s basketball team, I had to take a New Testament class at 3 p.m. One day we were discussing the Resurrection with quiet reverence. With the professor’s solemn voice filling the room, I began to doze.

I dreamt I was refereeing a basketball game. Two players from opposing teams grabbed and hung onto the ball. I reacted by jumping out of my seat, thrusting my arms in the air, and yelling, “Jump ball!” waking myself as I did so. I looked over in horror at a boy I had been trying to get to ask me out, who was laughing so hard he nearly fell out of his seat, with the rest of the class joining in. Red-faced and dazed, I sat back down, apologizing profusely to the teacher, who was trying to suppress a laugh himself. If I could have created a hole to crawl into, I certainly would have.

Chalkboard Mutiny

By Rebecca J. Carlson (BS ’95), Laie, HI

Oblivious to the professor standing behind her, an exuberant student continues to graph on a chalkboard.
Illustration by Travis Foster

My freshman calculus teacher was notorious for two things: impossible exams and being late to class. One day while we waited for the teacher to arrive, I got an idea.

We had been learning to find formulas using data points. I jumped up and grabbed the chalk. “Hey, let’s see if we can find a formula for how much you have to study to get an A on an exam in this class. We’ll start by assuming that getting a perfect score is an unreachable asymptote.”

The other students laughed. I sketched a graph and drew the asymptote, the unreachable perfect score, across the top. Then I asked my classmates to tell me what grade they had gotten and how many hours they had studied. They volunteered scores of 40, 50, 70 percent, along with their study times. I was so busy plotting points, I almost didn’t notice when the teacher finally came in.

When I saw him in the doorway, my face turned red. Was he going to be insulted or irritated by my taking over the class to poke fun at his ridiculously hard exams? I sheepishly stepped away from the board and held out the chalk.

Instead, a big grin spread across his face. He sat down in one of the desks at the back of the room. “Please,” he said, “carry on!”

I can’t remember what the formula for getting an A on an exam turned out to be, but I do remember how relieved I was that our teacher had a sense of humor!

Bytes > Bites

By Roger Williams Dunn Jr. (BS ’01), Orem, UT

I loved my BYU computer-science classes and especially programming. Back then, not many students had their own computers, so we used the computer labs. I would get engrossed in designing, testing, and debugging projects for hours on end. Some nights, before heading home, I would have this terrible feeling in my stomach and wonder if I was getting sick. Then the logic would kick in—I’d realize that I had forgotten to eat or drink anything in the last eight hours, as food and drink were not allowed in those labs. I learned my lesson, and now I eat and drink all the time while I program at work. Yes, I get crumbs in my keyboard.

CALL FOR STORIES: Big Cat on Campus

As poor newlyweds at BYU, Nathan G. Frederiksen (BS ’08) and his wife loved both the thrills and the cost of attending women’s volleyball games in the Smith Fieldhouse. They also loved tracking Cosmo the Cougar.

“One night during a timeout, Cosmo reached into his bag of tricks and pulled out a coveted pint of BYU Creamery ice cream,” Frederiksen recalls. “He waved it before the crowd, promising it to the most jubilant fan. Finding the winner about 10 rows back, Cosmo cocked his arm and let the ice cream fly. . . .”

What happened next? An upcoming issue will tell that story. And possibly yours. Were you part of Team Cosmo? Or do you have a memorable fan-meets-mascot moment to share? Send us your Cougar tale. Deadline: Sept 3.

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