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Graduating Students Share BYU-Hawaii Experiences

Benjamin Boud | University Advancement | 15 January 2007

With 330 students graduating from over 40 countries, the fall graduating classof 2006 will be BYU-Hawaii's largest. Nepal, Kiribati, Indonesia, Ghana, Finland,Bolivia, Thailand, Liberia, Romania, and Fiji are just a few countries that willbe represented among the 77 that make up BYU-Hawaii's student population. Withsuch diversity in a student body of only 2,400, BYU-Hawaii is one of the nation'smost flavor-rich melting pots. This is just one element of the campus environmentthat has provided the experiences shared by three members of the graduating class:Salutatorian, Bashan Abeyasekera, Mason Allred, and Daniel Leeworthy.

Bishan Abeyasekera, who will be graduating as the salutatorian in Hospitalityand Tourism Management from Sri Lanka, described his experience as a student: "BYU-Hawaiichanged my life dramatically. The most important event that happened to me herewas that I was introduced to the gospel and was baptized a year after comingto Hawaii. I've learned how important it is to follow the gospel, and then bringthat the influence to other people. I hope to do that through my family, my career,and by taking the initiative to build bridges of understanding and peace in whatever community I live in."

Abeyasekera also shared his future plans: "After graduation I will be headingto Utah where I will be getting married in April to the love of my life. As foremployment, my desire is to work in the economic development field, where I canwork to alleviate poverty among half the world's population who live on lessthan $2 a day."

"I also hope to go to graduate school, and work towards my doctoratein this field. I hope that this work will lead me to Sri Lanka in the futurewhere I can makea difference in the lives of the people there. I know that this is what willbring me the greatest happiness in my career as I strive to help the impoverishedfeel God's bounteous love for them."

"I firmly believe in God's mission for those who attend this school,the mission which was uttered by President McKay. I believe that in God's ownway, and inhis own time he will use those who have come here to be instruments in his handsto establishing peace around the world," said Abeyasekera.

Mason Allred, graduating in History, from Las Vegas, Nevada, speaks highly of his experienceas a student at BYU-Hawaii: "I treasure the diversity and contact with sucha variety of students and ideas. I will look back at the way professors tooktime to encourage, support, and teach me how to really learn and think. I cherishthe small intimate atmosphere of BYU-Hawaii. I am so grateful to have reallyknown most of my teachers and classmates. Additionally, I treasure the way familyis understood and spoken about in Hawaii and especially at BYU-Hawaii. I wasable to start a family here and so my wife, Erika, and two daughters, Miya andEmi, will always have a piece of BYU-Hawaii in them too."

Allred served a full-time mission from 2000–2002 in Frankfurt, Germanyfor The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His love forthe people of Germany and their culture seems to have influenced his career pathas he plans on going to graduate school in German Studies prior to becoming aprofessor. "We will probably have a couple more children and hope to simplyenjoy life together wherever it takes us," said Allred.

Daniel Leeworthy, graduating in TESOL with a minor in Exercise and Sport Sciencecoaching, from Melbourne, Australia, tells of a few opportunities and privilegesthat decorated his university experience. "Meeting my wife, Lindsey, beingmentored by Coach Ken Wagner, serving as President of Australian club, servingas Elder's Quorum President, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the PolynesianCultural Center, the 50th anniversary of BYU-Hawaii, and last, but not least,meeting President Hinckley and President Monson." Leeworthy served a full-timemission in the Philippines-Tacloban Mission for the Church. He plans to attend graduate school at either West VirginiaUniversity, Ohio University, or Ball State University to earn his Athletic CoachingEducation degree. He also plans on returning to Australia with his wife and familyfor a time. "We will be going back to Australia to fulfill the mission ofthe school," said Leeworthy.

As the plaque in front of the flag circle suggests, "Enter to learn, goforth to serve," these graduates will be just three of those "influencingnot thousands, not tens of thousands, but millions of people," as PresidentDavid O. McKay declared. "From this school, I'll tell you, will go men andwomen whose influence will be felt for good towards the establishment of peaceinternationally," said President McKay.

In his 2006 university address, President Shumway concurred with President Mckay,saying, "Returnability is among the top four priorities of the university.You and I belong to the greatest cause on this planet. You and I have a stewardshipthat is recognized by God and angels to bless, strengthen and lift the youngpeople that Heavenly Father has brought to this place."