President Nelson received an honorary doctoral degree from University of Utah. Here’s what he shared with graduates


The University of Utah awarded an honorary doctoral degree to President Russell M. Nelson on Thursday, May 6.

In a video shown during the university’s commencement ceremony for 8,442 graduates, President Nelson spoke about the trials he has faced in life.

“There is opposition in everything you do,” he said. “One of the great tests in life is how do you deal with adversity. I’ve had the great sorrow of burying my wife and two of my precious daughters. Those have been challenges that have tested my ability to deal with hard things. You learn to deal with your challenges, make quick decisions, make good decisions, hopefully. I chose just to be in charge and try to do what’s right.”

Alongside President Nelson’s name are honorary doctorate recipients C. Hope Eccles, a longtime education advocate, and William J. Rutter, who is often referred to as the “father of biotechnology.” Also speaking at the commencement on handling adversity was Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell.

According to the University of Utah’s website, “honorary degrees are awarded to individuals who have achieved distinction in academic pursuits, the arts, professions, business, government, civic affairs or in service to the university.”

President Nelson was honored for his contributions to medical science and his distinguished career as a cardiac surgeon. Some of the highlights of his career include:

  • Serving as a member of the team that developed the heart-lung machine.
  • Performing the first open-heart surgery in Utah, making it the third state in the country to do so successfully.
  • Traveling to Shandong, China, to train surgeons to perform open-heart surgery. Today, it is estimated that more than 2,000 heart operations are done annually at Shandong University’s affiliated hospitals by surgeons, some of whom were trained by Nelson.
  • Teaching as a visiting professor of surgery in Mexico, Uruguay, and Russia.
  • Serving as president of the Society of Vascular Surgery, a director of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, chairman of the Council on Cardiovascular Surgery for the American Heart Association, and president of the Utah State Medical Association.

According to Deseret News, President Nelson earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah 76 years ago, earning his medical degree two years afterward. He was also a faculty member at the university and director of the thoracic surgery training program.

In the past, the University of Utah has honored President Nelson with their Distinguished Alumni Award, and in 2018 it established the Dr. Russell M. Nelson and Dantzel W. Nelson Presidential Endowed Chair in Cardiothoracic Surgery.

Read more about President Nelson’s honorary doctoral degree at Deseret News.

Image credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc, and Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Stay in the loop!
Enter your email to receive updates on our LDS Living content