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BYU celebrates Homecoming Week, honors alumni

By Genelle Pugmire - | Oct 5, 2021

Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

Cosmo the Cougar passes out promotional cards during Brigham Young University's homecoming game against the University of Hawaii held Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo.

It’s that one week a year where Cougars are everywhere in Provo, from current students to old alumni, and Brigham Young University is all abuzz with excitement for Homecoming Week.

This year signals a return to some of the beloved traditions that were not a part of 2020 due to COVID-19. In fact, last year, even the football game was played without a crowd.

Beginning with the opening ceremonies at 11:05 a.m. Tuesday at the Marriott Center to the culminating grand football game Saturday vs. Boise State, this week’s festivities and celebrations include welcoming special alumni back to campus.

“We have ways to get a lot of people back to campus,” said Michael Johanson, executive director of the Alumni Association. “Homecoming is for both student and alumni. It is a campus-centered, student-focused event.”

Johanson noted that his archive files have just reached the 500,000 mark for alumni since the school opened. To be considered an alumni, you must have attended at least two semesters at BYU.

Isaac Hale Daily Herald

Brigham Young University students make their way up the trail during the annual Hike and Light the Y homecoming event Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, at Y Mountain in Provo.

Opening ceremonies will include performances by the Cougar Marching Band, Cheer Squad, Ballroom Dance Company and the Dunk Team — and perhaps a surprise performance or two.

Students may also pick up some Pizza at the Plaza after the ceremonies.

Tuesday night is the Hike and Light the Y annual event. The tradition has been a part of homecoming since the Y was painted on the mountain in 1906. Y Day festivities on the mountain started in 1907.

Free shuttle services from the roundabout east of the Wilkinson Student Center to the trailhead begin at 6 p.m., with the lighting of the Y at 7:30 p.m.

On Thursday and Friday, the popular “Spectacular” will showcase entertainment teams from BYU’s touring groups, vocal and instrumental groups, performances by a variety of dance companies and guest entertainers on the Marriott Center stage. Brian Stokes Mitchell will be this year’s headliner. This is his second spectacular. Mitchell performed here a decade ago.

Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

Brigham Young University freshman McKenna Dahl chants “B-Y-U” with fellow students just after they lit their lanterns during the annual Hike and Light the Y homecoming event Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, at Y Mountain in Provo.

On Friday, formal dances will be held in off-campus locations with the theme “A night in New Orleans.”

The Saturday festivities start with the Cougar Run from 8:45-9:45 a.m. followed by Cougar Canyon Pre-Game Tailgate parties west of LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Kickoff for the BYU vs. Boise State game is at 1:30 p.m. and will be shown on ABC TV.

Another part of the homecoming traditions is recognizing alumni who have achieved in their fields of expertise. This year, 11 alumni are being recognized:

  • Rick Nielsen, David O. McKay School of Education. Nielsen (BS ’90, MED ’95) has been involved in public education for over 30 years. After graduating from BYU with a BS in education and a master’s in educational leadership, Nielsen served as a sixth grade teacher, elementary school principal and district-level administrator. He is currently the superintendent of Nebo School District, which has an enrollment of nearly 35,000 students. In 2020, Nielsen was recognized as the Utah Superintendent of the Year. He and his wife, Karen, have five children and reside in Spanish Fork.
  • Craig Paullin, Ira A Fulton College of Engineering. Following his graduation from BYU in mechanical engineering, Paullin (BS ’83) received an MBA from Yale University and then began working for Pacific Sintered Metals. In 1998, he purchased the company and became president. The company has grown to become a leader in design and engineering solutions for the automotive, medical, power tool and sporting goods industries, primarily using the powdered metal and metal injection molding processes. When not working, he loves surfing, skiing and backpacking. He and his wife, Susan Wynn, have four children.
  • Leslie Hinchcliff Edwards, College of Family, Home and Social Sciences. A California native, Edwards (BS ’71) began her life as a singer, performing and touring with many shows throughout her high school and college years. However, her history degree and liberal arts education at BYU helped her pivot into a role as a television journalist in Saudi Arabia, where she lived with her husband and children. Faced with imminent war, her family chose to stay. Edwards worked for NBC Network News, covering the Gulf War, Khobar Towers bombing and other events in the Middle East. She also made their home a haven for U.S. soldiers. After 22 years, the family returned to the United States and Leslie continued as NBC’s Net Desk producer, organizing the news bureaus for the 2002 Winter Olympics and remaining through the kidnapping and recovery of Elizabeth Smart before retiring to teach third grade. She is an award-winning educator who current teaches in a gifted/talented program in the Salt Lake School District.
  • Nathan Pacheco, College of Fine Arts and Communications. While attending a BYU devotional, Pacheco (BM ’05) was inspired by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s words and decided to take a leap of faith to pursue a career in music. He has since become internationally renowned as a classically trained tenor. Though a Washington, D.C., native, Pacheco is of Brazilian descent and uses the country’s culture and spirit to inspire his voice and compositions. He has performed for live audiences throughout the world. Pacheco and his wife, Katie McKinney, have three children.
  • Bonnie L. Oscarson, College of Humanitites. A Salt Lake City native, Oscarson (BA ’09), studied American and British literature at BYU but graduated 41 years later when she returned as a nontraditional student. Bonnie and her husband, Paul, have seven children and 29 grandchildren. When just 29 and 25, they served as mission presidents in the Sweden Göteborg Mission. They loved their time in Sweden and in 2009 returned to serve as president and matron of the Stockholm Sweden Temple. Just four years later, Bonnie served as the Young Women General president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • Roy Montclair, J. Reuben Clark Law School. Upon graduation with a BS in psychology and a JD from the J. Reuben Clark Law School, Montclair (BS ’90, JD ’94) began his legal career as a law clerk for Justice Guy Burningham at the Fourth Judicial District Court of Utah. Montclair is currently senior vice president, general counsel and secretary at 1-800 Contacts, serving over 20 million customers. Montclair and his wife, Charla Roberts, reside in Riverton.
  • Dr. Candace D. McNaughton, MPH MD Ph.D., College of Life Sciences. Amid a global pandemic, McNaughton (BS ’01) has focused her research on long COVID, as well as acute heart failure and hypertension in the emergency department. Following a BS in microbiology at BYU, McNaughton attended medical school at Washington University in St. Louis, followed by a residency in emergency medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. There, she also completed a two-year fellowship in patient safety and quality improvement, a Master of Public Health and a Ph.D. in epidemiology. She and her husband, Justin, and her two children live in Toronto.
  • Brandon M. Robinson, Marriott School of Business. With more than 16 years of financial services experience, Robinson (BA ’05, MBA ’09) currently acts as deputy chief administrative officer of J.P. Morgan Asset Management and CFO of Global Alternatives. He is involved in the Investment Committee for Project Spark, a J.P. Morgan proprietary capital fund investing in women and diverse venture capital funds. Robinson is also a member of the Black Leadership Forum for J.P. Morgan and is a special advisor to the asset management CEO on black employee advancements. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four daughters and have returned to BYU as members of the BYU Marriott School National Advisory Council, where Robinson serves as chair of the Advisory Board on Race.
  • Dr. Mary Williams, College of Nursing. Williams (BS ’71) believes hers is a profession that enables one to walk in the steps of the Master Healer. After receiving her BS, MS and Ph.D., Williams began her nursing career at LDS Hospital, where she received the Outstanding Nurse Award. In 1978, she returned to BYU and taught medical-surgical nursing, intensive care nursing, leadership and nursing research. For 27 years, she served as the associate dean in the College of Nursing as well as serving on the University Graduate Academic Council and the Faculty Development and Research Council. With a nursing career of 48 years, Williams has served as chair of the State Board of Nursing and State Board Education Committee, a member of the Intermountain Health Care Research Council and the Utah Medical Education Council.
  • Scott Strobel, College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. Professor, scientist and woodworker Strobel (BS ’87) has a wide variety of interests. Upon completion of a BS, Ph.D. and postdoctoral research, Strobel joined the Yale faculty in 1995 and has served as department chair, vice president for west campus planning and program development, deputy provost for teaching and learning, and provost of Yale University. At home, he has an extensive woodshop where he builds furniture and makes bowls from wood reclaimed from BYU campus trees. Some of his craftsmanship is in the Yale University Art Gallery. He and his wife, Lynnette, have three children and four grandchildren.
  • Dr. Nikki Eberhardt, David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies. Eberhardt (MA ’01) works to give under-resourced communities the capacity to empower themselves. She focuses primarily on edtech, executive leadership and scalable social impact. Eberhardt is a professor of business at Minerva University, an innovative institution focused on utilizing technology to drive change. She teaches startup finance, marketing and social entrepreneurship. She was the co-founder and president of the United Nations Women Chapter in Utah. She received an MBA from Oxford University and a Ph.D. from the University of Utah. She and her husband, Andrew, have three children.

Brigham Young University students make their way down the trail with lanterns after the annual Hike and Light the Y homecoming event Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, at Y Mountain in Provo.

The BYU Marching Band performs as they walk through the Cougar Walk during pregame festivities before the BYU-Boise State game Friday, Oct. 6, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo.


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