SALT LAKE CITY — While the University of Utah holds the upper hand in the all-time win-loss record of the football Holy War that pits the Utes against BYU’s Cougars, among Utah’s 104 lawmakers, Cougar blue runs deepest in this reddest of states.
Thirty-eight Utah lawmakers hold a bachelor’s or graduate degree from Brigham Young University, while 33 hold similar degrees from the University of Utah.
Utah State University degree holders trail at 18, while 10 legislators hold Weber State University degrees.
BYU alumnus Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, has fond memories of his days at BYU. Coach LaVell Edwards recruited Gibson to play for the BYU football team at his Texas home when he was 17.
He and other lawmakers noted the friendly rivalry that exists between BYU and Utah alumni, but, in true political fashion, were diplomatic with their comments about it.
“I think for the most part we all know where we are from, so during big sporting events we’ll support a tie or a color for our school, but, in the end, (Utah is) just a good place to live and a good place to serve,” Gibson said.
Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, who graduated magna cum laude in journalism from the U., laughed at the suggestion of any hidden school rivalries within the Legislature.
“I think rivalries are fun, if they are spirited but not mean,” Jones said. “I love everybody. I love BYU, Utah, Republicans and Democrats. I’m an all-inclusive senator.”
However, on the first day of the 45-day session when Jones wore a blue suit, Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, jokingly accused her of being a BYU fan.
Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy, a freshman lawmaker, was sworn into office on Jan. 16 and is a University of Utah graduate. During Spendlove’s second semester at the U., Matt Burbank, his American government teacher, told him “people using public policy and economic theory can actually impact the economy.”
Ever since then, when he was just 18, Spendlove knew he wanted to one day secure a seat in the state Capitol.
As one of Utah’s newest lawmakers, Spendlove also knows that he wants to avoid any embarrassing moments like the one he had years ago while in college.
“It was a snow day and I thought it would be good to have snow boots on a snow day so I had these gigantic Sorels, so I essentially showed up in class looking like Napoleon Dynamite," he said.
There aren't just Cougars, Utes, Aggies and Wildcats on Capitol Hill. A majority of lawmakers’ degrees come from 27 different West Coast schools, 13 of which are located in Utah.
When it comes to East Coast higher education, only eight degrees come from that part of the nation, with Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, sporting a law degree from noted Ivy League Cornell University Law School.
Other degrees that make up this year’s Legislature include: Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, University of Notre Dame; Rep. Stewart Barlow, R-Fruit Heights, Georgetown University; and Sen. Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City, Loyola University in Chicago.
For some lawmakers, one or two degrees is not enough.
Knudson went to school for a total of 11 years, with four different degrees and one certificate to become an orthodontist. The senator joined the Sigma Chi Fraternity his freshman year at the U., and then joined the same fraternity at Utah State University after serving an LDS mission.
“We had a great time. They were all great guys, but many of us were more devoted to the good time then to our education,” Knudson said. “We finally saw the light and started getting busy with studies.”
Another Aggie, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, received all four years of his schooling at USU. However, after getting a “D” in his freshman algebra class, he said he learned to take education more seriously.
“It was obvious that I didn’t have my mind on education. I loved to ski but some friends of mine during finals week decided they were going to go to Grand Targhee Resort to ski for a couple of days. I still had one final left and I had to decide, 'Should I take my final that evening or leave with my friends that morning to go skiing?' So I missed the final to go skiing and ended up with a ‘D’ in the class,” he recalled.
Niederhauser’s “D” is insignificant when compared to the 76 bachelor’s degrees, 33 master’s degrees and five doctorates held by legislators. Instead, lawmakers look forward to the future with excitement, not just in terms of lawmaking but, according to Niederhauser, also for the annual Aggie Ice Cream.
“We have Aggie Ice Cream a couple times a session, and that’s always something to look forward to. All legislators love the Aggie Ice Cream. There’s always a little bit of rivalry, but not too much,” he said.
Utah’s 104 legislators hold degrees from the following universities and college:
Utah: University of Utah, BYU, Utah State University, Weber State University, Utah Technical College, Stevens-Henager College, Westminster College, College of Eastern Utah, Salt Lake Community College, LDS Business College, Utah Valley University, Southern Utah University, Dixie State College.
West: University of the Pacific Dental School, Oregon Health Science Center, Radio Operational School of Engineering, University of Phoenix, Stanford University, University of Washington, California Western School of Law, Colorado State University, Williamette University. University of Idaho, University of California, University of South Dakota, University of Hawaii, Gonzaga University.
South: University of Houston, Miami Dade College, Baylor Law School, Columbia College of Missouri, University of Louisville.
Midwest: University of Notre Dame, La Salle Extension University, Loyola University in Chicago, Michigan State University, Indiana University Bloomington.
East: George Mason University, Williams College, Cornell University Law School, Georgetown University, The George Washington University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, U.S. Army War College, University of Virginia.
Miranda Collettte is a writer with Capital West News, a service of BYU and BYU-Idaho communications students covering the Utah Legislature.
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