Philanthropists, church leaders to keynote Utah commencements
By Brian Maffly
Utah’s spring commencement speakers include a documentary filmmaker, noted for putting a humorous spin on serious subjects, businessmen turned philanthropists, a former governor, a sports writer and a church president.
WordPerfect founder Bruce Bastian, now a Utah-based social activist and humanitarian, addresses Westminster College’s May 28 commencement. The Brigham Young University graduate has gained a high profile for his patronage of arts education and equal rights, particularly for gay citizens, through his charitable foundation. He made headlines for his efforts to defeat California’s gay-marriage ban known as Proposition 8, which was backed by the Mormon Church.
“His success as an entrepreneur and business leader, generous philanthropy to the arts and courageous support for human rights is commendable. Our graduates will be entering a world of increasing diversity and rapid social change,” said Michael Bassis, president of the small private liberal arts school in Salt Lake City, in a statement. “I have no doubt they will benefit from the wisdom he has to share.”
Robert Gay, an investment manager in the private-equity industry, will address Utah Valley University’s April 29 commencement. Now a resident of Florida, Gay co-founded BYU’s Center for Economic Self Reliance and supports humanitarian aid efforts around the world through a micro-finance organization he launched. Gay also serves on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Seventy.
“Bob Gay is an extraordinary business leader who has also dedicated himself to many humanitarian pursuits,” said UVU President Matthew Holland, who will award Gay an honorary doctorate in humane letters. “Thus, he represents so well UVU’s commitment to engaging the world with projects both practical and ethical.”
Meanwhile, Salt Lake Community College has lined up documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock to address its commencement, and Dixie State College will host LDS Church President Thomas Monson, who is becoming a regular on the Utah commencement circuit.
Spurlock changed the way many people think about fast food with his 2004 film Super Size Me, which documented his 30-day all-McDonald’s diet, which not only made him fat and depressed, but also damaged his liver. He later produced and starred in the reality television show “30 days.” His latest film, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Subject to faculty approval, Utah State University’s speaker is likely to be alumnus John Wilkerson, a New York City venture capitalist and arts patron. Former Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt will deliver the keynote at Weber State University’s commencement. Slated for Southern Utah University is Harvard business scholar Clayton Christensen, a best-selling author best known for his theory of disruptive innovation.
Sports writer Mitch Albom, the best-selling author of Tuesdays with Morrie, will address University of Utah graduates. And Brigham Young University students will hear from Richard Scott of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.