Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has been selected to address this year’s graduating class at commencement April 19.
Before accepting a call as a member of the Church’s second-highest governing body in 1984, Elder Oaks was a judge on the Utah Supreme Court. He previously taught law at the University of Chicago. Born and raised in Provo, he returned when he was called to serve as president of BYU from 1971-1980. Born in 1932, Elder Oaks married June Dixon in 1952. They are the parents of six children, including Jenny Oaks Baker, a Grammy-nominated violinist. After Sister Oaks died in 1998, Elder Oaks married Kirsten McMain in 2000.
While most might think having members of the Quorum of the Twelve and Quorum of the Seventy is a tradition of the school, it wasn’t until 2003 that the tradition started. Before that, speakers came from various professions. Speakers from years past have included Muhammad Yunus, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Jon M. Huntsman Sr., a philanthropist, and Kenneth Behring, owner of the Seattle Seahawks.
Since 2003, speakers have been selected from general authorities and general auxiliary presidencies of the Church. The only exception was in 2007, when then Vice President Dick Cheney addressed the graduating class.
Shannon Openshaw, BYU administrative assistant to the communications committee, said the school doesn’t make the decision.
“It is chosen by the board of trustees and we are informed as to who the speaker will be,” she said.
The board of trustees for BYU consists of members of the First Presidency, a few members of the Quorum of the Twelve and general auxiliary presidencies of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Jessica Viewheg, a senior from Eagle, Idaho, majoring in exercise science, was excited when she heard Elder Oaks was going to be the speaker at commencement.
“I think it’s really cool that we have apostles to speak to us at graduation because not only can they give counsel and advice regarding our futures in a worldly way, but also in a spiritual way, and help us prepare,” she said. “With apostles, they are always so highly educated and spiritual, so I feel they’ll always have to good things to say.”
Commencement exercises will begin at 4 p.m. on April 19 in the Marriott Center.