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Graduates Receive Counsel: Remember, Turn Outward, Stand Firm

Photo by Cassie Prettyman

The BYU College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences held its  commencement exercises on April 28, 2017, in the Wilkinson Student Center Ballroom. Three hundred and twenty-five graduates participated in the ceremony.

Attendees were privileged to hear from Dean Scott D. Sommerfeldt, who is stepping down as dean this summer. Also speaking were two students: Garett LaVon Brown (graduating magna cum laude in physics) and Kristīne Senkāne (graduating magna cum laude in biochemistry). The closing speaker was Academic Vice President Brent W. Webb.


The theme of Sommerfeldt’s message was remember.

“I would hope that in the future as each of you remember being here at BYU and receiving your degree from BYU, that you would also remember what BYU stands for and how it has impacted your life while you were here,” Sommerfeldt said.

Sommerfeldt admonished the graduates to live lives that are consistent with their BYU education and the impact they felt while here. He expressed confidence that doing so would lead to happy, successful lives and progression toward eternal life.

“Every one of you can be successful in the things that really matter,” Sommerfeldt said. “And you will make a difference—in your families, in your companies, and in your communities.”

Sommerfeldt assured students that as they remember the things they have learned in all aspects of their lives while at BYU, they would find “happiness and fulfillment” and would “increase in favor with God and with man.”

Garett Brown spoke next, encouraging his fellow graduates to “turn outwards” and to connect to others “in person, in friendship, [and] through true mutual understanding.” How we interact with others is fundamental to our character, according to Brown.

“I believed the character defining myself existed exclusively inside me,” Brown said. “I now understand that much of our character is found in how much we turn outwards and away from ourselves and help develop the community of people around us.”

Cassie Ann Gigena followed Brown with a beautiful bassoon solo of the hymn “If You Could Hie to Kolob.” She was accompanied by her father, Bryan Fernelius. Gigena graduated cum laude in mathematics.


Kristīne Senkāne reminded the graduates that they are all royalty and encouraged them to be unafraid to stand up for the principles they know are right.

“God needs you on his side, and we need you, and the world needs you to live by the things you have learned,” she said.

Academic Vice President Brent W. Webb closed the convocation with a tribute to the outgoing dean. He spoke about Dean Sommerfeldt’s leadership during the past ten years and the great influence Sommerfeldt has had not only on the students but also on the faculty, the programs, and the direction of the college.

“Through all of this heavy administrative work, Dean Sommerfeldt has annually taught a class, has maintained his own research effort, . . . has served in leadership positions in his professional organization external to the university,” Webb said. “And, I might add, [he] has been a committed husband, father, and servant in the church.”