Commentary

An Influence for Good

In ways large and small, hundreds of thousands of BYU alumni make a positive difference in the world.

didn’t truly understand what BYU meant to me until I left.

After receiving three degrees at BYU, I had grown to love this university. I met my wife here, and I felt a spirit on this campus that I had felt nowhere else. I learned leadership through my assignments in student wards. I learned what walking hand in hand with the Lord did to my faith and my ability to serve Him. I learned my profession and was well prepared to take on my life’s work both temporally and spiritually. But it took leaving to fully appreciate the impact of this place.

I was hired as an assistant professor at Northern Arizona University. Hired at the same time was a young professor from the University of Utah. One day he asked me a question: “Terry, being trained as a psychologist, how do you square your LDS Church beliefs with the atheistic theories of your profession?”

I had never anticipated such a question, but my answer came out quickly and smoothly. I said, “There are enough theories of human behavior within the field of psychology that I have never felt that I had to compromise my belief in God with the theories of man.” I had never before thought through that answer, but for me it was the perfect answer. Without question, my experience as a student at BYU had taught me that the greatest of all the theories of men are clearly those that have coexisted within the true and everlasting laws of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That declaration to my friend at that point in my career provided the framework for my professional and gospel studies for the rest of my life.

I have had a full and rewarding career, from academia to executive consulting to human resource management for a major corporation. As with so many other alumni, BYU had a profound effect on my life, and through my life and career, BYU has influenced others.

Solar Eclipse
Photo courtesty Fuse/iStock

The accomplishments of BYU graduates are truly impressive, and the influence for good that we collectively have in the world is awe-inspiring. More than 400,000 alumni of this school are scattered throughout the world, affecting communities, corporations, families, church congregations, neighbors, and so many more. One example of that influence is found in a recent recognition for five of our alumni: Thinkers50 has created a list of the top 50 management thinkers in the world, and 10 percent of the list is made up of BYU graduates, led by Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen (BA ’75), ranked no. 2 (see p. 57 to find out who else made the list). Nurse Alison Tanner Wright (AS ’75, BS ’76) is also having an influence—from her work with a children’s center in South Africa to her efforts to help homeless people in Salt Lake City (see p. 55). Another example is Duane D. Oakes (BS ’89, MA ’90), whose life was changed by mentors at BYU and who now gives back by mentoring students at Mesa Community College (see p. 64).

Through a program called RISE, BYU Alumni is collecting inspirational stories of alumni like these—and like you. We are seeking and sharing stories that show how lives were impacted by BYU and how they have then affected the world, in ways big or small, influencing thousands of people or even just one. In the last two years we have collected more than 7,500 stories, and we are eager to collect many more. We have found that as we share these stories, the “Spirit of the Y” can shine even brighter to the benefit of so many. Please share your story; visit rise.byu.edu to read stories and submit your own. Let us celebrate your success with you. Connect with us, and help us connect you—for good—with the world.

Terry Seamons is the president of the BYU Alumni Association, a former vice president and managing director of the consulting firm RHR International, and a former senior vice president for Entergy Services. He teaches part-time in the BYU psychology department
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