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Converse in the spring Website
5/30/2004

479 Westminster grads take next step

May 30, 2004 Sunday

The Deseret News Publishing Co.
Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

Utah's nursing shortage could use help from people like Westminster College graduate Angie Nelson.

"Yeah, we're proud to be nurses," Nelson yelled into the crowd as she filed into Saturday's graduation ceremony on the school's campus at Dane Hansen Stadium.

With a bachelor's degree in nursing, Nelson already has two jobs lined up. "Gotta go save people, you know," she said.

Behind the 81 business degrees awarded, nursing was the most popular major among graduates with 54 degrees at this private school. Still, Utah ranks among the top five states in the nation having the fewest nurses per capita -- it's estimated there are at least 1,000 unfilled nursing positions in this state.

Nelson was among 479 Westminster students who earned graduate and undergraduate degrees this past year -- the youngest was 18, the oldest 63.

In between that range was student commencement speaker Michael Bills, who didn't finish his bachelor's degree until he was 28. That's because he had already become executive vice president of a $60 million company by the age of 22 even without a college degree.

"I just felt this hole," Bills told graduates, along with jealousy and shame at having to admit he didn't have a degree. On Saturday, he received his master's of business administration degree.

"My whole world opened up here," he said, adding that getting a degree is more than just a means toward getting a job. It's as much a way to enrich your personal life, he said.

The same could be said of the professional path taken by Westminster's main commencement speaker, James LeVoy Sorenson, chairman of Sorenson Development Inc. His message was to spread love among everyone, even co-workers and bosses.

"I feel a tender, sweet spirit here and that's the beginning of great things," he told graduates. "There's a great world out there in the land of America with great possibilities for everyone."

In addition to working on his latest non-profit project, the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, the 82-year-old billionaire inventor runs a few miles and does push-ups each day.

"I'm so thankful to be alive," he said. "Keep moving those legs, keep going."

Honorary doctorates were awarded to Sorenson, Westminster sociology professor Michael Gaschler and Myriad Genetics president and CEO Peter Meldrum, whose publicly traded biopharmaceutical company employs over 500 people and now generates over $64 million in annual revenues.

Associate professor of marketing Nancy Panos Schmitt received the Excellence In Teaching award, which comes with a $5,000 bonus. E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com