Sixteen frames, a different child’s face filling each one, cover Sgt. Jeff Strong’s desk in the security office of the BYU Museum of Art.
When Strong isn’t on duty as a sergeant for BYU police, he’s working as a father to 16 children. Four are biological, while the remaining 12 have been adopted from different parts of the country — many struggle with disabilities.
“My wife and I originally set a goal to have only 10 children, but that’s not how it worked out,” Strong said. “After my wife’s life was in danger due to delivery problems with our fourth child we decided to adopt. … I had no idea that we would end up with 16.”
Strong’s children, ranging from ages 1–24, are a diverse group. His adopted children come from different backgrounds and walks of life. But despite his children’s different challenges, Strong still loves and connects with each of them individually.
Many of Strong’s children have mental and physical disabilities. One adopted child was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and another was born without eyes. Witnessing the challenges his children endure in their everyday life has humbled Strong and strengthened his gratitude for life’s blessings.
“I don’t feel as if I have had any obstacles in my life compared to what I see my children struggle with every day,” Strong said. “It makes me very grateful for the little things I have in my life.”
Rachel Bollwinkel, who works for Strong, said even though the sergeant has a lot of children he is an excellent father to all of them. He takes the time to give them individual love and attention.
“Because Jeff is a cop he deals with a diversity of people every day from different backgrounds, and I think that makes it easier for him to relate and love each of his children despite where they came from,” said Bollwinkel, a 21-year-old from Park City. “I know he loves all his children equally; that’s just the kind of person Jeff is.”
Aspiration to be a police officer came at a young age for Strong. Both his brother and close family friend were officers, and he thought highly of them. By the time he was in high school Strong knew he wanted to be a police officer. Strong committed to be a police officer after going through the police academy.
“One of my dreams as a child was to one day serve in a police academy, and I can honestly say that it has changed my life,” Strong said. “Going through the police academy in Sandy, Utah, was a huge turning point in my life and a true eye opener.”
Police officers’ wives often may not support their husbands’ career decision because of the risks associated with the job. But Strong’s wife, Debbie, said she has found comfort despite her husband’s dangerous career path.
“By the time I had met Jeff he had already decided that he was going to be a police officer, and I wasn’t going to stand in the way of that,” Debbie Strong said. “I was worried about him because it is a dangerous job, so I made him promise to wear a bulletproof vest every day to work. … That promise has comforted me over the years.”
Jeff Strong supervises 40 student employees in the security division at the Museum of Art. The compassion he gains from having 16 of his own children has transferred over to his job and the students he supervises, according to Justin Cook, student supervisor.
“He isn’t just your everyday corporate boss that only cares about getting things done and going home at the end of the day,” said Cook, a 25-year-old from Kaysville. “He has a genuine, individual interest in each security guard and makes the effort to get to know each of us on a personal level.”
Cook also said there have been many times he has seen Jeff Strong comfort or give advice to some of his employees about personal problems and trials. Many of his employees view him as a father figure in their lives.
The sergeant has selfless goals for his future and takes one step closer to them every day.
“I hope that 10 years from now I will be down to only five children left living in my house,” Jeff Strong said.
As if 16 children weren’t enough, Jeff Strong said another goal he had is to be a grandfather. He recently achieved that goal and said it’s great to have the benefits of being a parent all over again without experiencing the stress of a parent.
While Jeff Strong’s goals relate to his children, he has one goal concerning his profession.
“I would like to be promoted to a lieutenant in the BYU police academy before I retire, but if I don’t, it won’t kill me.”