Newsmaker: BYU Professor Receives Award

Paul Cox was willing to sell his house and car to protect a Western Samoan rain forest. Ultimately that was not necessary, but his successful efforts to save the forest have helped earn him the world’s most prestigious award for grassroots environmentalism.

The Goldman Environmental Prize, which has been referred to as the Nobel Prize of environmental activism, is given annually to seven environmental heroes from around the globe. Brother Cox, a professor of botany and dean of Honors and General Education at Brigham Young University, shares his award with Chief Fuiono Senio of Falealupo, the village that controls the rain forest Brother Cox helped protect.

Loggers were at work when Brother Cox learned of plans to sell logging rights in the forest for money to build a school. “When I stood in the forest and watched the bulldozers knock it down, it was a difficult moment for me,” he says. “I just decided that I had to do something; I had to make a difference there somehow.” With the aid of Chief Senio, he was able to convince other village chiefs that he would raise the required money if they would protect the forest. The Samoan government had mandated that the village build the school for their children. They saw no alternative way to pay for it.

Friends, family members, and interested BYU students helped Brother Cox raise the needed funds. “When we returned to the village with the money and paid the loggers, I heard the villagers cheer,” Brother Cox recalls. “It was one of the greatest days of my life.”

Brother Cox has decided to use his portion of the prize money to establish an endowment for the Falealupo forest. “From now until forever, every year there will be funds provided from the endowment to maintain and protect the forest,” he says.

Brother Cox first visited the Samoan rain forest in 1973 while serving as a missionary for the Church. In the ’80s, after his mother died of cancer at age 63, his professional interests turned from general plant ecology and pollination to traditional botanical medicine.

Brother Cox says it is vital that people understand and appreciate the sacred nature of the earth. “I believe that if we love the artist—the Lord—we should not slash his painting,” he says. “Indigenous people throughout the world believe that this planet is sacred ground, so they see the responsibility to care for it as a religious obligation. I think that’s quite a compelling worldview.”

[photo] Photo by Mark Philbrick.

She Loves to Serve

Wanda Jensen Garvin has spent much of her life reaching out to those in need. “It’s so important that we love and strengthen one another,” she says.

While serving as Relief Society president in the Pocatello Idaho Fifth Ward, she befriended an elderly woman living in a one-room house in an alley near an LDS chapel. She taught this widow, an alcoholic, how to clean her home, she took her to Relief Society and other Church meetings, and she went shopping with her. Through her example the rest of the ward came to accept and welcome this once-lonely woman.

Later, when one of Sister Jensen’s sons was left with three small children to care for alone, Sister Jensen and her husband, Lionel, warmly invited this son and his family into their home. She covered her immaculate white velvet chairs with sheets and put her breakable statues in storage. Toys were strewn about the family room, but Wanda knew her beautiful home could be restored again one day. At the time, it was the season to serve.

About seven years after Brother Jensen passed away, Sister Jensen was called to the California Santa Rosa Mission. Before she left, she made packets containing envelopes already stamped and addressed to the mission home. She gave a packet to each of her grandchildren, who were expected to help support Grandma on her mission, as she would later be willing to support them. They could make financial contributions in amounts ranging from 10 cents to three dollars a month, depending on their ages.

Sister Jensen hoped to increase the children’s testimonies of missionary work—and to help them remember that they had a grandma!

In May 1990 Sister Jensen suffered a heart attack and a massive stroke. The stroke left her paralyzed on the left side, but her memory and personality were unaffected. One month later, surrounded by friends and family, she married Lee Garvin in the Idaho Falls Temple. She continues to give unselfishly to others. To Wanda Jensen Garvin, that is what life is for.Karen Johnston, Pocatello, Idaho

Sharing with Flowers

Since 1940 Axel E. Ohrn has been brightening a Connecticut chapel with flower bouquets. The flowers are from his own garden, and he spends hours carefully arranging the sprays.

“I’ve just always loved to garden,” he says. “I do it for the members, not for praise.”

As a young adult, Brother Ohrn met and married Linnea Mattsson, a devout member of the Church. Both were emigrants from Sweden. Although not yet a member, Brother Ohrn willingly attended church with his wife and paid his tithing regularly.

In 1940 he and Linnea were meeting with a small branch of 25 to 30 members in Bridgeport, Connecticut. One Sunday morning while sitting in the branch’s bleak rented meeting room, Brother Ohrn felt a need to lift the spirits of the congregation. “I had so many beautiful flowers in my garden. I thought they would make the building more pleasant,” he says. The following Sunday he brought a large bouquet of flowers to church, the beginning of a tradition he has continued to this day.

In August 1940 Axel was baptized. Now, more than half a century later, Axel’s floral contributions brighten the hearts of three wards that share a building. He provides gorgeous sprays as often as his garden allows, and the hours of painstaking care show in the beauty and splendor of his arrangements. Axel and Linnea are members of the New Canaan Ward, Yorktown New York Stake.Desireé L. Barlow, Layton, Utah

Top Graduate

Lisa Grow not only graduated first in her class of 560 at Harvard Law School, but she also is the first woman to graduate summa cum laude from that institution. The Salt Lake City native says: “I was actually very intimidated when I got here. I did OK at the University of Utah. I wondered, ‘Does that mean I can do OK here too?’”

Sister Grow certainly did “do OK,” proving herself many times over while attending Harvard. Her accomplishments include serving as the lead editor of student contributions to the Harvard Law Review.

As one of a handful of Latter-day Saints in her class, Sister Grow has had many opportunities to tell others about the Church. “A lot of people here have never met any Latter-day Saints before,” she says. “It’s been exciting to be able to give them information and answer their questions.”

Following her graduation from law school in June, Sister Grow began working as a clerk for a federal appeals judge. After she serves in this position for one year, she will be a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. She is a member of the Cambridge Fifth Ward, Boston Massachusetts Stake.

In the Spotlight

  • Emily Andrus has been elected student-body president at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, for the 1997–98 academic year. Majoring in public policy with a focus on international business, Emily plans on pursuing an MBA after obtaining her bachelor’s degree. During the 1996–97 school year she was copresident of the Latter-day Saint Student Association at Stanford. Raised in the Salt Lake Stratford East Ward, Emily now is a member of the Stanford First Ward, Menlo Park California Stake.

  • Eliezer Poloyapoy of the Makati Third Ward, Makati Philippines Stake, was a semifinalist in the Dance Sports World Competition in Bangkok, Thailand. Brother Poloyapoy has been named Most Outstanding Dance Instructor this year by the Dance Sports Council of the Philippines.

  • Donald D. Deshler, director of the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning and a professor of special education, is the recipient of the 1997 J. E. Wallace Wallin Award. Each year the national award is presented to a professional who has made outstanding contributions to the education of children and youth with exceptionalities. Brother Deshler is president of the Olathe Kansas Stake.