The BYU Alumni Association will honor six of its accomplished alumni and two honorary alumni during Homecoming 2012. Awardees include doctors, humanitarians, church leaders, performers, parents and volunteers.
L. Gordon Carter (BS ’65), Bruce Lloyd Olsen (BS ’63, MA ’65) and Benjamin J. Rodriguez (’75) will receive Distinguished Service Awards; Dallyn V. Bayles (BFA ’04) will receive the Young Alumni Distinguished Service Award. In addition J. Glade (BA ’69, MA ’71) and Carol Ray Soelberg (BS ’69) will be given the Service to Family Award and Robert and Cynthia Wakefield the Honorary Alumni Award.
When L. Gordon Carter and his wife Susan retrieved their son from his mission in Ecuador more than 20 years ago, they found it impossible to forget the intense poverty they observed.
Determined to make a difference, the Twin Falls, Idaho, couple offered their services to a foundation in Salt Lake City and completed three service expeditions before deciding to create their own charity. From their home in Twin Falls, they developed Charity Anywhere, an apt name for an organization that serves across the world.
“We began by going to Mexico and building small homes,” he explains. “Then we expanded into Ecuador and arranged for medical and dental work.”
They have helped in several countries and worked with orphanages in Tijuana, Mexico. Additionally, the Carters look for ways to serve stateside. They have provided toiletries to shelters for abused women and children and have worked with senior citizens by organizing quilt-making activities for third world countries.
BYU has been a vital part of Bruce Lloyd Olsen’s life since his student days when he was editor of the Daily Universe one year and student body president the next.
Following graduation, Olsen became an assistant dean and an assistant to presidents Dallin H. Oaks and Jeffrey R. Holland.
The North Salt Lake City resident was a mission president in Boston and returned to BYU as an associate professor before becoming director of Church Public Affairs. Olsen continued to keep his pulse on BYU as a member of the alumni board and was president of the Alumni Association before serving as president of the San Diego Temple. He would like the name on the alumni president’s board to read, “Didn’t die; went to the temple.”
For more than 20 years, Las Vegas reconstructive plastic surgeon Benjamin J. Rodriguez has traveled to dozens of third world countries on charity medical missions. Many patients linger in his memory, including Lucy, whose mouth and eyes had been burned open from a fire.
“I realized that with her mouth fused open she had not been able to drink liquids in normally since her injuries,” Rodriguez says. “I grafted skin onto her lips and eyes. She could swallow again, and she could shut her eyelids and not lose her sight.”
Rodriguez chose plastic surgery because it is the last specialty where a doctor is trained to operate on the human body from head to toe. He also likes helping patients who come to his Las Vegas clinic achieve results they could not get on their own. But his work repairing cleft lips and palates, debilitating third degree burns, scars, and other deformities gives his career an added dimension because they are so life changing.
When Dallyn V. Bayles first began performing musical theatre in a small Green River, Utah school, his goal was to simply be part of the production. But when his drama teacher, Jessica Jenkins, took him to a Capitol Theatre production of “Les Miserables” in Salt Lake City, he was so “blown away,” he began to envision a career.
“I wanted to know how they could sing and dance like that,” he says. “It moved me so emotionally that I decided I would channel my talents and do everything I could to develop myself in that area. It led to attending BYU and performing with the Young Ambassadors and majoring in music dance theater.”
Bayles, who now lives in Springville, Utah, eventually landed several Broadway national tours, including two tours of “Les Miserables,” one a national tour and one a China premiere. He performed in “Children of Eden” at New York’s Beckett Theater and has done regional theatre in several states. He especially appreciates his work with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
When J. Glade Soelberg attended Ricks College, he heard an attractive young woman bear her testimony nearly every fast day that she wanted a dozen children.
“That scared me to death, so I never dared ask her on a date,” says Soelberg. Instead, he married Carol Ray, whom he met at BYU. The Mesa, Ariz., couple eventually had 13 children. Eleven have attended BYU and their youngest is still at home. The couple, which received the Arizona Parents of the Year honor in 2005 and the National Parents of the Year award in 2006, says their responsibility was to create an atmosphere in the home where their children could realize their worth as children of God.
Carol also was Arizona Mother of the Year 2010 and serves as president of United Families International, an organization dedicated to preserving and protecting families across the world.
As full-time volunteer service representatives for BYU, Iowa natives Robert H. and Cynthia Montandon Wakefield of Orem, Utah, have spent nearly a decade providing BYU student athletes with opportunities to serve.
They received the calling immediately after Robert retired from a business career that spanned 35 years and military service spanning more than 34 years.
“Our service has been and continues to be a labor of love,” Robert says. His wife concurs, adding, “It is keeping us young. We like to say that besides our 13 biological grandchildren, we have an additional 600-plus grandchildren we call our own.”
Their primary responsibility is to establish service opportunities for BYU student athletes, and they arrange more than 250 of them each year.
Among the service athletes give are pre-game firesides during football season with the players providing talks, prayers and musical numbers.
For more information, visit homecoming.byu.edu or call Charlene Winters, (801) 422-7579.
Writer: Charlene Winters