Alumni News

Learning for Life: Spring 2017

How alumni use their BYU education to serve their communities, neighbors, and families.

Image of someone cutting wood with a handsaw.
Once a theatre and media arts major who was frightened by the power saws used to make stage sets, Joan Oviatt-Jobst came to use saws aplenty throughout her life—in work and service. Photo by Bradley Slade.

I Sawed, I Conquered

Joan Oviatt-Jobst (BA ’76, MA ’78), Hawaiian Paradise Park, HI

Girls typically play with dolls, not power saws, and I was no exception. I hated their noise and feared their danger, knowing my great-grandfather had lost his hand in a sawmill accident. But as a BYU theatre and media arts major constructing stage sets, I was forced to use many of them: jig saws, table saws, band saws, circular saws, radial arm saws.

Once, in a class held at BYU’s scene shop, our instructor had a student demonstrate using the large table saw. When the steel teeth hit a knot, the board exploded and sent wood shards flying—and me running. My classmates thought I’d been hit. I hadn’t, but the shock from the experience left me shaky and in tears.

However, in time I became competent with the tools, which has proved helpful through the years. I have used power saws as a volunteer set maker, and I have repaired furniture, built shelving, and renovated two historic 17-room homes in Salt Lake City.

In August 2014 I was semiretired and living with my husband on a small farm in rural Hawaii. Tropical Storm Iselle hit our district one night, its howling winds snapping utility poles; decimating our macadamia orchard; and crashing trees onto roads, roofs, and power lines. The morning brought a different sound—the buzz of power saws as neighbors and volunteers began cleanup. Civic and church groups, including Mormon Helping Hands, went door-to-door giving aid.

I learned that morning just how comforting the sound of chain saws could be. My husband and I received help from volunteers with saws, but we also helped others. I may be an old lady, but I can still work a power saw.

Write to Love

Ann Schiess Darrington (BA ’00), Morrisville, PA

As my mother’s 75th birthday approached, I felt strongly that I needed to find a significant way to honor her. I pondered what I could give her but came up blank. I asked a friend for ideas, and she suggested I write poems for my mom and wrap them in a box with a photo of us together.

I loved the idea, but it seemed unreachable. I hadn’t seriously written poetry in years, and I had only weeks to prepare this gift. I hesitated for a few days, but deep down I knew it was something I had to do.

But where to start? I remembered a key takeaway from a poetry class with Professor Lance E. Larsen (BA ’85, MA ’87): to write good poetry you have to read good poetry. So I went to the library, checked out a few poetry books, and began reading and writing every day when I could find time. As I fed my inner poet good food, it began to turn my thoughts into poetry, just as it had when I was a student.

After 14 days I had seven solid poems to send. It felt like a miracle.

They may have been poems only a mother would love, but she did love them, and the gift started something new between us. My mother and I continue to send each other poems and have grown closer as we share our writing.

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