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Arts and education

President Monson breaks ground on campus, gives tribute to donor

President Thomas S. Monson joined government and education leaders at the University of Utah June 14 to break ground on an arts and education complex to be named for the future building's key benefactor, Church member Beverley Taylor Sorenson.

President Thomas S. Monson sings the lyrics to "Utah Man," the University of Utah's fight song, during remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony.
President Thomas S. Monson sings the lyrics to "Utah Man," the University of Utah's fight song, during remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News

In connection with the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, Sister Sorenson gifted some $12 million to construct the facility expected to enrich the training of educators while offering art opportunities for tens of thousands of Utah children.

President Monson and several others paid tribute to the 87-year-old former schoolteacher who has long championed education and the arts.

"She's truly an angel upon the earth who shares with others gladly and generously," said President Monson, a longtime friend of Sister Sorenson and her late husband, industrialist James LeVoy Sorenson. "May the building which will become the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts and Education Complex, which will be a blessing to countless individuals, generation after generation, ever represent the sweet and loving spirit of this noble woman."

President Thomas S. Monson, far right, joins Beverley Taylor Sorenson, center in red, James Lee Sorenson and other dignitaries in the groundbreaking ceremony on the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts
President Thomas S. Monson, far right, joins Beverley Taylor Sorenson, center in red, James Lee Sorenson and other dignitaries in the groundbreaking ceremony on the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News

The Church leader said he and Sister Sorenson are both Salt Lake City products of the Great Depression where they learned the importance of kindness and compassion. "Beverley has demonstrated these attributes throughout her life."

James and Beverley Sorenson were "partners in every sense of the word" in their efforts to help the lives of others, he added.

The Church's 16th president also noted that Sister Sorenson's great-grandfather, President John Taylor, is one of his prophetic predecessors.

A graduate of the "U.", President Monson felt right at home on the grounds of the wooded campus. He drew cheers after singing a line from the Ute fight song — "Who am I sir? A Utah man am I!" — and spoke of his fond memories of the school. It was at the university where he met Frances Johnson; they were married in 1948.

"This is a special building and it is going to change the university," said the University of Utah's acting president, David W. Pershing, at the morning groundbreaking ceremony. Utah State Senate President Michael Waddoups and Utah House of Representatives Speaker Rebecca Lockhart joined President Pershing on the program, along with several members of the school's administration.

The Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts and Education Complex "will be one of the nation's most dynamic facilities" of its kind, said Sen. Waddoups. He lauded Sister Sorenson as a champion and pioneer of education in Utah.

LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson and Beverley Taylor Sorenson laugh during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts
LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson and Beverley Taylor Sorenson laugh during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News

The excitement of the future building isn't limited to the university community, said Rep. Lockhart, "but [also for] art supporters all over the state of Utah."

Michael L. Hardman, dean of the College of Education, and Mary Ann Lee, who directs the Tanner Dance Program that will be housed in the future building, also spoke of the educational and artistic impact the future complex will have in the lives of Utah children and their teachers.

Commencing construction on the arts and education complex "is like a dream come true," said Sister Sorenson. She spoke of the contributing role of many teachers, parents, school administrators and lawmakers. "Nobody does this alone — everyone here is a part of what happens," she said.

Many at the ceremony noted her role in working with the state legislature in 2008 to develop the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program, which allocates $16 million toward improving art education opportunities for young Utah school children.

The 84,000-square-foot complex will be located adjacent to the Milton Bennion Hall and is expected to be completed in a couple of years. The building will support five main activities: academic research; interdisciplinary pre-service teacher and arts specialist training; professional development for teachers and education leaders; programming for schools, youth and families; and community involvement and leadership.

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