New grads urged to treat homeless, poor with kindness
June 04, 2006
Deseret Morning News
By Stephen Speckman
644 graduate from Westminster
WEST VALLEY CITY - Count 5-pound bags of dog food among the many donated items community advocate Pamela Atkinson has in the trunk of her car.
The reason is because often the poor and homeless only have a dog in their lives to show them unconditional love, but they can't afford to feed their pet, Atkinson said Saturday during her commencement speech at Westminster College's graduation ceremony at the E Center.
Atkinson noted how dogs don't judge their owners before giving them affection - people, she added, should treat the poor and homeless with at least the same consideration.
For more than 20 minutes Atkinson spoke to Westminster's 644 graduates, recalling several stories about how her efforts to help Utahns have made positive and lasting impacts in the lives of many.
"Every one of you can make a difference in people's lives," she said. "The smallest good deed is better than the grandest good intention."
Westminster President Michael Bassis honored Atkinson with an honorary doctorate degree to recognize a person he described as a an idealist who improves the condition of society and inspires others to help those less fortunate.
Fred Lampropoulos and Dick Fontaine were also awarded honorary degrees for their contributions to Westminster and the community. Westminster education professor Carolyn Jenkins was given the college's excellence in teaching award.
Before Atkinson spoke, student speaker Cody Coonradt asked his classmates to consider the worth of a diploma and concluded that the sum of his college experiences was worth more than a piece of paper or cost of tuition.
"Today is the first day of the rest of our lives," Coonradt ended his speech.
Coonradt's colleagues this year include a graduating class made up of 309 males and 335 females. Of them, 237 received their master's degree. The class includes a 20-year-old graduate and a graduate who is 58, students from 15 countries and 19 U.S. states, and an ethnic breakdown that shows a class that is 81 percent white, with 34 Hispanic students and one African-American.
Westminster is a private liberal arts college in Salt Lake City that was founded in 1875 and is consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report in that magazine's top tier of regional colleges and universities in the West. The cost to attend Westminster for one year is around $20,000, and many students there receive some form of financial aid.