Skip to main content

A Special Graduation Story

It is now my privilege to address you briefly. As I watched the procession, I saw many students who have been my neighbors and friends these last few years. We have been through so much together. I will miss you; we will miss you. Congratulations! 

As we celebrate today, I also want to express my appreciation to a group that played a particularly important role in your success, the faculty and staff here at BYU–Hawaii. They love you, and they rejoice with you on this special day. We are grateful to them; their effort reflects their commitment to the mission of Brigham Young University–Hawaii, which is to prepare students of Oceania and the Asian Rim to be lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ and leaders in their families, communities, chosen fields, and in building the Kingdom of God.   

You commit to this mission as a student. And, as you leave here as graduates today, you will continue to fulfill the mission as you “go forth to serve.”  [1]

Each of you has a special story associated with your graduation, and there is no way to tell every story publicly- but today, I want to take a moment and share with you a letter from a daughter of a student who will be receiving a diploma today. The letter reads:  

In 1982, an incredible milestone was reached in our family's history. Dad was graduating with his Bachelor of Science in Social Work from this marvelous institution, just one year after he and Mum were married. Mum was set to graduate as well, receiving her associate degree in arts and sciences. However, what should have been a joyous occasion turned into a heartbreaking one when Mum’s name was never called during the ceremony. Despite being dressed in her graduation gown, she was too embarrassed and humiliated to walk with Dad even after he invited her to join him.  

Years passed without any confirmation of her degree, until I took it upon myself to uncover the truth. After reaching out to the registrar's office at BYU–Hawaii, it was confirmed that Mum did indeed graduate and had been awarded her associate degree. As a Christmas gift, I presented Mum with a printed copy of her diploma, which brought her to tears and inspired her to give a moving speech in front of our family.  

Fast forward 40 years later, and we are ready to right the wrong that occurred on Mum’s graduation day. After receiving confirmation from Daryl Whitford, the BYU–Hawaii Registrar, that Mum could walk in your April 2023 graduation ceremony, we made the arrangements to be here. In recognition of her parents’ tireless labor and sacrifices, Mum inquired whether it would be feasible to walk under her maiden name. Unfortunately, I conveyed my doubts about this possibility. Nevertheless, three out of five of Mum’s children from New Zealand are here, and her sister and her family from Tonga are enroute to surprise her and to commemorate her outstanding accomplishment.    

Mum and Dad have accomplished so much in their lives, including 38 years of working for the Church Educational System and Seminaries & Institutes, serving as mission president and companion in the [New Zealand] Wellington Mission from 2017-2020, and as the current stake president for the Mt. Roskill Stake in New Zealand. With 11 children in their family, Mum is the only one to have completed a college degree, making this moment all the more special.  

Congratulations, Luisa Kava Kavea Soloai!   

I hope you will all join me in offering her our heartfelt congratulations when her name is read today.   

Sister Soloai exemplifies what it means to be a graduate of Brigham Young University–Hawaii. Rather than take offense at an unintentional oversight, she has embodied the mission and motto by living a life of purpose, honoring her covenants while striving to live Christ’s teachings.  

In our recent general conference Elder Dale G. Renlund said, “As you walk the covenant path, from baptism to the temple and throughout life, I promise you power to go against the natural worldly flow—power to learn, power to repent and be sanctified, and power to find hope, comfort, and even joy as you face life’s challenges.” [2]   

My dear students, I know that promise is true. I love you. I pray for your continued success and joy. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

[1] “Mission and Vision.” BYUH About
[2] Dale G. Renlund, "Accessing God’s Power through Covenants," General Conference Address, April 2023