SIX O’CLOCK TUESDAY MORNINGS
By Alan Manwaring
One of my fondest memories of my college years was serving on a committee for two years called the “Restructuring Committee.”
It was in the winter semester of 1986 that I had helped one of my friends, Jon Coleman, run and successfully win the election for Student Body President at BYU, an organization called ASBYU at the time. His Vice-Presidential running mate was Reed DeMordaunt, a guy that I vaguely knew before the election but with whom I became good friends through the course of the campaign and into the next several years. The way the ASBYU system worked at the time, Jon could appoint an Attorney General for the organization. John chose to appoint Susan White, a good friend of mine from my debate team years, who I had introduced into the campaign that semester and who was now in her ﬁrst year at BYU’s law school.
I had never had any involvement with the ASBYU organization before helping Jon run for student body president that winter. Instead, my extra curricular activities had been focused on the debate team—even serving as captain one year—and then by involving myself in activates at the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies.
International Studies was my major, and even as I was helping with Jon’s campaign, I was committed to spend the summer of 1987 in Bolivia helping to create a study abroad program. Without being able to be in Provo during the summer following the election, I was not eligible to serve as a full-fledged Student Body Officer (SBO), so Jon and Reed created one for me—Chief of Staff—a position that would be there for me when I came back after my summer away.
The “official” SBOs had spent their summer in training on campus, there were four offices in the “presidential suite” on the fourth floor of the Wilkinson Center, so after I returned from Bolivia, I took the fourth office, and Jon, Reed, Susan, and I began a year heading the ASBYU organization as a real foursome. We were magnificent friends and felt we were really there to make a difference—something I would guess each incoming group of SBOs really feels. Only this time, and really quite unbeknownst to us, the opportunity was actually there.
No sooner had that fall semester started when Marin Mortensen and Tammie Quick (the Dean of Students and Director of Student Programs) summoned a select group to spend a weekend at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City for what they were calling a “restructuring retreat.” This select group included students not only from ASBYU, but also students from other parts of the university who were serving in leadership positions, such as student president of the Honors Program, student president of the Alumni Association, and so on.
It was more than just a group of students that Marin and Tammie had invited to that “restructuring retreat.” They had invited several faculty members to join in the process, including June Erickson, the Dean of the Nursing School; Ida Smith of the Alumni Association; and one quite well-known professor from the English Department, Eugene England.
As we gathered for the early sessions, we were informed that, at the direction of then BYU President Jeffery R. Holland, we had been selected to spend the semester in an effort to restructure the ASBYU student government organization—to start from scratch and create whatever kind of student organization we felt would best serve the students and university community. We spent the weekend in activities getting know each other and brainstorming ideas about how to re-create a student organization and really define what we wanted student organizations to really do. In order to continue down this path of creating a new ASBYU it was determined that we would need to schedule weekly committee meetings for the rest of the semester. Because of the difficulties of coordinating about fifteen student, faculty, and administrator schedules we ended up committing to weekly, two-hour Tuesday morning meetings that would begin at the ungodly hour of 6:00 a.m.
This weekend at the Hilton Hotel retreat was my first introduction to Gene England, and little did any of us know that this would began a process that would go on not for just one semester but for two years—two years of Tuesday morning “Restructuring Committee” meetings at, yes, 6:00 a.m.
These Tuesday morning meetings began were filled with all kinds of discussion ranging from what kind of student organization ASBYU presently was, to other models from around the nation at similarly sized leading universities, to defining the role of a student “government” or “organization”—and I use both those words very deliberately. In looking back, after the many years that have past since that “exercise,” I can see that what Marin and Tammie were carefully crafting was a process in which we students would have to examine first what the purpose of such a student government or organization should be and then carefully determine how to structure it in a way that would enable it to accomplish its defined purpose. This was no easy task, but it is a task that from the advantage of hindsight has proved quite valuable to me, and I’m sure to many of the other students involved, as we launched our own professional careers. What went on during our two years of early Tuesday morning conversation was as much about self-discovery as it was creating the structures that would transform ASBYU into BYUSA—the still-present BYU student organization.
I remember with genuine affection the kindness and goodness of those like Ida Smith and June Erickson, as well as certain others from the faculty and administration that participated in that restructuring committee, but for me personally I have a special remembrance of Gene England. A remembrance not of the details of what must have been his tremendous insight, but a remembrance of his goodness and kindness. A goodness and kindness that came in the form of many simple things such as his bringing, on occasion, “Charlotte’s mush”—an oatmeal-like substance—for us all to share as a breakfast on cold, dark, winter mornings. A remembrance that is really a “sure knowledge” of his real love for me and each of the members of that committee, students as well as faculty.
My present calling in my ward on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. is teaching priesthood. It wasn’t long ago when, as part of the lesson, I asked everyone present to share which of their priesthood teachers from their youth had had the greatest influence on them—and why. A common theme that ran through each response, each story, when along these lines: I can’t remember exactly what I learned from that particular teacher or scoutmaster, but I do know this—he loved me.
I am now nearly fifty years old, and while those two years of 6:00 am Tuesday morning meetings are more than twenty years in the past and several of the students from those meetings now have children attending BYU, I can’t tell you the details of even one “restructuring issue” that I for certain attribute directly to Gene England, I can tell you that I know he loved me, that he had that unique ability found in true Christ-like teachers to be able to convey an unspoken love to those around him. My life experiences so far causes me to judge this ability as, by far, the greatest form of true leadership.
While I never took a class from Gene England as a student at BYU, if someone asks me today which teachers had the greatest influence on me during my years in college, in my first breaths you will hear the name of Gene England. I, no doubt, owe a great deal of gratitude to Gene England and other teachers like him that I was afforded the opportunity to have interacted with and learn from while a student. I am aware of that. However, the many students who have passed through the halls of BYU since the restructuring committee ended its two-years of restructuring talks aren’t as lucky. Little will they recognize that the present student body organization was created in part by a great teacher who demonstrated true Christ-like leadership in ways as simple as bringing Charlotte’s mush for all to share on those early, early mornings.