Thursday, BYU will host its graduation ceremony and a new crop of BYU graduates will leave the university and head out into the world. Since it's inception in 1875, Brigham Young University has had many students graduate — some more famous than others. Check out our list of 20 notable people who attended BYU, including some you may not have known about.
- Stacy Johnson, Daily Herald
Mitt Romney rose to worldwide fame as the Republican presidential nominee in 2012. Before his time on the campaign trail, he also served as the Governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. The successful businessman also served as president and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee fort he 2002 Winter Olympics.
He is now the U.S. Senator for Utah, filling the seat left vacant by retiring Orrin Hatch.
Before his time in the political and business spotlight, though, he earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 1971.
In 2004, Ken Jennings became the longest-winning contestant on “Jeopardy!” when he won 74 games in a row. His total earnings on the show equaled more than $3 million, but before he became a game show millionaire, he captained BYU's quiz bowl team and graduated with a double-major in English and computer science in 2000.
Actor Jon Heder is best known for his role in "Napoleon Dynamite" in 2004, which was his film debut. He also appeared in “The Benchwarmers," "School for Scoundrels," "Blades of Glory" and "When in Rome." He graduated from BYU in 2002.
Professional golfer Mike Weir won the Masters in 2003, but before his rise in the professional golfing world, he attended BYU. He graduated with a degree in Recreation Management in in 1992.
Stephen Covey was an author, business leader, educator and speaker, most well-known for his book "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." He also established FranklinCovey, a company that sells productivity tools to individuals and organizations. Before his success in leadership, he earned a doctorate in Religious Education from BYU -- after getting a bachelor's degree from the University of Utah and an MBA from Harvard University.
College basketball superstar Jimmer Fredette lit up the hoops while attending BYU and has since went on to play for the Sacramento Kings and the Chicago Bulls. While a Cougar, he was the leading scorer in NCAA Division I basketball and earned every major National Player of the Year award during his senior season.
He played for the Shanghai Sharks in China and was signed by the Phoenix Suns at the end of their season this year.
He graduated from the university in 2011.
Jane Clayson Johnson
During her journalism career, Jane Clayson Johnson worked as a correspondent for Good Morning America, World News Tonight, The Early Show on CBS, 48 Hours and The CBS Evening News. She left network television to raise her children and later wrote the book "I Am a Mother!" about that decision. She graduated from BYU in 1990 with a degree in journalism.
Musician Mack Wilberg became the director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in 2008. He graduated from BYU in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in music.
Actor Aaron Eckhart earned wide recognition after playing George in the 2000 film "Erin Brockovich" and is known for his roles in "The Dark Knight," "Battle Los Angeles" and "Thank You for Smoking."
Eckhart graduated from BYU with a bachelor's degree in film in 1994.
While at BYU, basketball player Danny Ainge was named the national collegiate player of the year and won the John R. Wooden Award. He was drafted into the NBA where he played for 14 years, mostly for the Boston Celtics. The 1981 BYU grad is currently serving as President of Basketball Operations for the Celtics.
One of the most well-known BYU graduates, Pro and College football hall-of-famer Steve Young had a phenomenal career as a quarterback. While at BYU, Young passed for more than 3,000 yards and 33 touchdowns during his senior season. He went on to play professionally for the Los Angeles Express, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the San Francisco 49ers. He was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1992 and 1994 before retiring in 1999. He graduated in 1984, then returned to get his Juris Doctor (J.D.) in 1996.
You may not have heard of Harvey Fletcher, but the 1907 BYU graduate made a big impact on the world with the invention of the electronic hearing aid. Known as the "father of stereophonic sound," Fletcher returned to BYU later in his life where he directed research and helped to set up a new Department of Engineering and the College of Physical and Engineering Sciences.
Orson Scott Card
In 1985, Orson Scott Card's hugely successful novel "Ender's Game" was published, making him one of the most celebrated authors of all time. Card wrote the short story "Ender's Game" while working as a copy editor at the BYU Press, which served as the inspiration for the novel. He graduated in 1975.
Stephenie Meyer became a household name with the release of her megahit books in the Twilight Series. The books -- which, in case you don't already know, feature a love story between a girl, a vampire and a werewolf -- sold more than 100 million copies. She was the bestselling author of 2008 and 2009. Her books were also adapted for film and released between 2008 and 2012. Meyer graduated from BYU in 1997 with a bachelor's degree in English.
Philo T. Farnsworth
Although he never graduated, Philo T. Farnswoth attended BYU in 1924. Credited with the invention of the electronic television, Farnsworth's impact is felt every day by people around the world.
Lindsey Stirling is well-known violinist who got her start as a YouTube star before finishing in the quarterfinals of the fifth season of "America’s Got Talent." Since then, she was nominated for a 2014 Billboard Music Award. Stirling graduated from BYU in August 2015 with a Bachelor of Science degree in recreation management.
Brandon Sanderson is an writer, best known for his “Mistborn” series. Sanderson attended BYU as an English major.
The drummer for Neon Trees, Elaine Bradley graduated from BYU with a B.S. in Public Health.
Jim McMahon was an All-American college football player while at BYU from 1977-1981. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the first round and during his time in the NFL, he played for the Chicago Bears, San Diego Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers.
McMahon later received his Bachelor of Arts degree from BYU in 2014.
Elizabeth Smart gained national attention when she was abducted from her home in Salt Lake City at the age of 14. She was rescued nine months later and she now works as an activist and advocate for missing persons.
Smart graduated from BYU in 2010 with a bachelor's degree in music.
More BYU grads:
Matthew Holland - Former president of Utah Valley University
Astrid S. Tuminez - Current president of Utah Valley University
David A Bednar - Former president of BYU-Idaho, current member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
J. Elliot Cameron - Former president of Snow College and BYU-Hawaii
Henry J. Eyring - Current president of BYU-Idaho
Bruce C. Hafen - Former president of BYU-Idaho
Franklin S. Harris - Former president of BYU
Jeffrey R. Holland - Former president of BYU and current member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Rex E. Lee - Former president of BYU
F. Ann Millner - Former president of Weber State University
Stephen D. Nadauld - Former president of Dixie State College and Weber State University
Dallin H. Oaks - Former president of BYU and current member of The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
William Sorenson - Former president of Utah Technical College (now UVU)
Scott Strobel - Vice president of Yale University
O. Meredith Wilson - Former president of the University of Oregon and the University of Minnesota
Kevin J Worthen - Current president of BYU
Michael K. Young - Current president of Texas A&M University, former president of the University of Utah
Ezra Taft Benson - United States Secretary of Agriculture to Dwight D. Eisenhower, LDS Church President
Larry EchoHawk - Former attorney general for Idaho, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs under Barack Obama
Kelsey Nixon - Television chef
James Dashner - Author of “The Maze Runner” series
Brian McClellen - Author of “The Powder Mage” trilogy
Brian Evenson - Author of “Father of Lies”
Becca Fitzpatrick - Author of “Hush, Hush” series
Sheri L. Dew - Deseret Book CEO
Jonathan C. Coon - CEO and co-founder of 1-800-contacts
Gary Crittenden - Citigroup CFO
Wally Joyner - Baseball athlete
Rick Aguilera - Baseball athlete
Ty Detmer - Heisman trophy winning quarterback
Steve Sarkisian - Former head football coach at USC
Chad Lewis - 3-time NFL Pro Bowler
Mike Leach - Head football coach for Washington State University
Kyle Whittingham - Head football coach at the University of Utah
Andy Reid - Head coach for the Kansas City Chiefs
Jared Ward- Long distance runner
Frankie Fredericks - Four time Olympic silver medalist
Olene Walker - Former Utah governor
Mike Crapo - U.S Senator from Idaho
Jeff Flake - Former U.S. Senator from Arizona
Orrin Hatch - Former U.S Senator from Utah
Mike Lee - Current U.S. Senator from Utah
Kyrsten Simena - Current U.S. Senator from Arizona
Earl W. Bascom - Artist and sculptor
James C. Christensen - Painter
Don Bluth - Animator
Blair Buswell - Sculptor
Dan Lemmon - Academy Award winning visual effects artist
Reed P. Smoot- Cinematographer
Grant Speed - Sculptor