A record-breaking athlete who became a biomedical engineer, a businessman who created a school according to his own vision and a hospital administrator who uses philosophies he learned from Church manuals as a teenager are among the Distinguished Service Award recipients that will be honored at Brigham Young University's Homecoming Oct. 8-12.
Awardees are Dylann Duncan Ceriani of San Diego; L. Dean Forman of Meadow Vista, Calif.; Rulon F. Stacey of Denver; Brian J. Higginbotham of Logan, Utah; Carl W. Bacon and Dr. Thales H. Smith of Provo; and Brent and Laurie Whiting of Mapleton, Utah.
Distinguished Service Awards
Fifty colleges and universities tried to recruit 6-foot-3 Dylann Duncan for basketball. But when the star athlete played in Utah’s high school play-offs her senior year, she received a black eye, a chipped tooth, an elbow to the stomach and a sprained ankle.
“I started thinking more seriously about volleyball,” she says. “I wanted something with a net to avoid the people who wanted to kill me. “The action under the hoops was getting increasingly ugly.”
Duncan attended BYU and became its most decorated female student athlete; in January the NCAA honored her with its Silver Anniversary Award. In addition to volleyball honors, Duncan, now Dylann Duncan Ceriani, received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from BYU and a master’s degree in biochemical engineering from UC Berkeley.
After working for several years for bracing companies, Ceriani researched motion analysis at a children’s hospital in San Diego. And eager for new challenges, Ceriani now works for a medical device company that works primarily in micro fluids.
L. Dean Forman’s concerns about adult-themed material, classroom swearing, inappropriate attire, and other issues motivated him to pull his own children from public schools and complete high school at home. But Forman began to think he could make a difference after a local Catholic priest invited him to teach teenagers at Sacramento’s Our Lady of the Guadalupe.
He decided to design a school using his own resources for startup costs and naming it the John Adams Academy after the second U.S. President.
He and his wife, Linda Cox Forman, also an alum, selected about three dozen teachers who shared their educational philosophy. Some were new teachers, and one came out of retirement because she was intrigued when the Formans said they were seeking academic entrepreneurs. This fall attendance topped 800, and there are waiting lists
for every grade.
Seventeen years ago Rulon F. Stacey became the CEO of the Poudre Valley Health System in Fort Collins, Colo., and credits his success to principles he learned in his youth priesthood quorums.
“I have complete passion for what I do,” he says. “My greatest joy comes from improving people’s lives.”
As a new CEO Stacey went to work improving the hospital’s mortality rate by, surprisingly, first addressing sagging employee morale. “If we don’t first satisfy our employees, it is unrealistic and disingenuous to expect them to meet the needs of the people they serve,” he says. “And if they are happy, we save lives.” Annual employee turnover has since dropped from 25 percent to 7 percent. More important, Stacey says, “Our mortality rate has gone from average to among the best in the country.”
His team’s efforts were rewarded in 2008 with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, given by the president of the United States to organizations exhibiting performance excellence.
In November he will become president and CEO of a large hospital system in the Upper Midwest.
Young Alumni Distinguished Service Award
Growing up in a wonderful home with encouraging parents and having a satisfying marriage influenced Brian J. Higginbotham’s decision to support and nurture families professionally.
Higginbotham, the associate vice president for Utah State University Extension, researches, evaluates, writes and directs programs that strengthen stepfamilies, couple relations, parent-child connections, and military families. His efforts have made him a much honored leader among family life professionals.
Emeriti Distinguished Service Award
For nearly 40 years Carl W. Bacon has waved the American flag as a member of the board of trustees of America’s Freedom Festival at Provo.
“As a boy I used to go to the Coliseum in Los Angeles and watch fabulous fireworks shows, and when I suggested one for Provo, I’m sure people wanted to throw me from the room,” he says. “Fortunately, Alan and Merrill Osmond picked up the idea, and we have a show that has put close to 50,000 people into LaVell Edwards Stadium every year for 34 years.”
Equally close to his heart is BYU, and he became involved in BYU Annual Giving in the 1960s.
Service to Family Award
Brent A. and Laurie Black Whiting have done much more than merely describe the challenges and blessings of living in developing countries to their seven children.
At different times they have lived in Panama, Chile and Guatemala where they have provided church leadership, taught English and given their children a window into the way other people live.
In Guatemala they even found a way to provide humanitarian service that gives children much needed schooling.
“We want to help Guatemalans break out of a deep cycle of poverty,” Laurie explains. “And we started a project called Yuda Bands.” Taken from the Spanish word ayuda, or “help,” this project raises funds for scholarships. Former students make bracelets from coconut and leather that are then shipped to the United States and sold through public schools. Students may select a specific student to help — exemplifying the mantra “Wear a band; change a life.”
Honorary Alumni Award
Soon after Thales H. Smith joined Utah Valley Pediatrics in the 1950s he fell in love with BYU. “Even though I graduated from the University of Utah, I am so attached to BYU,” Smith says. “I’m sure part of that comes from taking care of the children of many BYU coaches.”
Smith was an adjunct instructor in the College of Nursing and an avid member of the Cougar Club almost since its inception. He also supported BYU Aspen Grove Family Camp when it began half a century ago. When Aspen Grove needed 110 supporters each willing to guarantee $1,000 on a loan Dr. Smith stepped forward. Additionally, he was the camp’s physician on two occasions and prizes the time he spent as president of the BYU 14th Stake.
Writer: Charlene Winters