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At 85, Betty West finishes at home what she started at BYU

Completes degree through BYU Bachelor of General Studies program

At age 85, Salt Lake City resident Betty West will walk across the Marriott Center stage as Brigham Young University’s oldest graduate at this year’s August commencement Thursday (Aug. 17), nearly 70 years since she first attended BYU.

As a young woman in the late 1930s, West completed only a portion of the requirements necessary to graduate. The months turned to years and years to decades as she focused her attention on family.

In 2001, West learned of BYU’s Bachelor of General Studies program, which allows former students the opportunity to finish at home what they started at BYU. She was urged to enroll by her daughter, who told her that it was not too late to complete her degree.

West’s initial response was, “Oh, yes it is!” She later retracted and now, 93 credits later, West is putting on the cap and gown.

West completed her course work at BYU’s Salt Lake Center and online through Independent Study. Along the way, she fulfilled requirements in biology, math, and 16 credits of Spanish along with history courses for her emphasis.

“We may withdraw from a challenge if we are afraid we won’t be equal to the task," West said. "Most people, however, find that with a little bit of effort and perseverance, they can meet the challenge and are better for it.”

After graduation West plans to volunteer to help young people with reading and learning skills.

Marcia Stillwell, who will also graduate in August, completed her BGS degree by taking Independent Study courses from her Kennewick, Wash., home.

“The BGS program has been an incredible tool in helping my BYU goals become a reality,” she said.

West and Stillwell are part of more than 420 graduates who have completed their BGS degrees since the inception of the program eight years ago. There are over 2,000 admitted BGS students who reside in 46 states and 20 countries. For more information, visit

Writer: Robert Hunt

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