Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve will be the presiding authority and main speaker at BYU’s April 2013 Commencement ceremonies honoring recent BYU graduates.
Elder Cecil O. Samuelson, BYU President and emeritus General Authority of the Church, will conduct the event, which is scheduled for April 25 at 4 p.m. in the Marriott Center. Also speaking will be Conrad Rosenbrock, an honors graduate in physics and BYU Alumni Association President Michael O’Connor. Tiffany Delgado and Hilary Heideman will perform a piano duet.
Although 90 years old, Elder Perry is known for his vitality, according to Robert Freeman, a religion professor who taught Teachings of the Living Prophets winter semester.
“In my classes, one of the most prominent things we discuss is his enthusiasm,” Freeman said and referred to a recent discussion about the most recent General Conference. “One of my students said, ‘Did you notice when Elder Perry got up, his booming, strong voice?’ Even though he’s the oldest member of the Brethren, he just has this energy.”
Elder Perry served a mission to the Northern States in 1942, served on the Pacific front of World War II in the Marines and then attended Utah State University. He married Virginia Lee in 1947 and graduated with a B.S. in finance in 1949.
He worked in the retail industry, had three children and, following the death of his wife in December 1974, married Barbara Taylor Dayton in 1976.
This will be his 30th speech delivered at BYU, according to data on the BYU Speeches website, which includes devotionals and firesides. But people, not words, remain Elder Perry’s main priority.
“He’s been quoted saying he’d much rather be with people than giving sermons,” Freeman said. “He’s very people oriented. That’s part of the primary desire that he has to lift the Saints.”
The Commencement speech comes with a tragic timeliness, because Elder Perry was once a stake president in Boston, Mass., which was the scene of the bombing attack on April 15.
Though he doesn’t speak for Elder Perry, Freeman did offer an opinion on Elder Perry’s connection to that area.
“He has a deep love for the Saints in the Boston area,” he said. “I can picture him in my mind on the mound at a Red Sox game throwing out the opening pitch, and he has done that. He is a great lover of the Boston area.”
Conrad Rosenbrock is the student speaker at Commencement, whom the Honors Program selected to represent the student body. He currently serves in a bishopric and will stay at BYU for graduate school, but his decision to come to BYU in the first place was a hard one.
“It felt like the right place to go, otherwise I would have gone to Oxford or Cambridge,” said Rosenbrock, a UK national who grew up in South Africa. “I was one of those people who really believed in following the counsel of Church leaders and building up the Church where you are. But I bit my tongue and swallowed my pride and headed over here. … Looking back I think it was really important (in helping) me learn to balance secular and spiritual things.”
Rosenbrock also married Helen Christensen while at BYU. She takes care of their two-year-old daughter at home and places a high value on a BYU education.
“As a graduate of BYU, I feel my degree in biology has been a significant source of knowledge and help in our family life,” she said. “I can read and understand scientific publications, which (were) useful when someone in the family was ill, or in making decisions about nutrition and the general health of my family. … It is difficult to pinpoint the results of a superb education because it influences every aspect of my life.”