Change people's lives at home and around the world

Make a Gift

BYU Experiences Led Couple to Make a Planned Donation

January 2024

A couple in front of some trees
Margaret and Walter Barrus

When Walter Barrus experienced devastating hardships, Brigham Young University helped transform his life for the better. Margaret Barrus’s BYU degree, earned later in life, opened doors for her as a computer programmer. Today, they are using a planned gift to improve the lives of others at BYU and beyond.

Walter was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while serving in the military. He married June Johnson in 1958. Walter worked for the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and at this job, he was involved in two accidents that altered the course of his life.

One fateful day while he was investigating a fatal accident, Walter was struck by a car that drove through safety roadside traffic flares. The blow sent him over a guardrail and onto a cliff, and the injuries he sustained kept him out of work for a year. Five months after he returned to work, he was badly injured again. His partner had fallen asleep at the wheel, causing their patrol car to hit a snowbank and roll. It took another year for Walter to recover, but the second accident ended his career with the CHP.

Walter, then in his mid-30s and a father of six, felt he needed a new beginning and a better way to provide for his family. He decided to apply to BYU, and— to his surprise—he was accepted. In 1972 he and his family moved to Springville, Utah, for what was supposed to be a short time.

A Fresh Start

Starting at BYU with about 18 months’ worth of college credits, Walter finished a double major—justice administration and sociology—in just a year and a half. His professors at BYU asked Walter to help other justice administration students obtain real-world experience. Thanks to his CHP background, he placed students in internships with local police officers, sheriffs, and court administrators. After graduating with his bachelor’s degrees, Walter began attending the BYU Marriott School of Business, completing a master’s degree in organizational behavior in just 18 months. He went on to serve in government and educational institutions.

Walter and June lived with their children in Springville, Utah, for more than 30 years. Then, in early 2008, June passed away. But sometimes sorrow is followed by joy—and that’s when Margaret entered Walter’s life.

June had been Margaret’s visiting teacher. When one of Walter’s daughters told him that if he were to marry anyone it should be Margaret, he took it to heart. “Suddenly, I was asked on a date,” Margaret recalls. Walter and Margaret were married later that year.

Walter and Margaret Barrus were both nontraditional students at BYU before they married. They love the university and have made a planned gift to help future students.

Margaret’s life had also been forever changed by BYU. Back when her children were old enough to go to school, Margaret decided to go back herself. She began with community college and then transferred to BYU to get a degree in computer science. “There were not many women in the field back then,” Margaret says. After graduation, Margaret started an internship at Geneva Steel.

“I really loved the technical work,” she says. She rose quickly through the ranks, first at Geneva Steel and finally at Dynix, where she retired as a vice president after spending 20 years in the industry.

Planning to Give

Because BYU was a turning point for both Walter and Margaret, they wanted to give back. The couple set up a trust that directs support to BYU and other Church-related causes. This planned gift qualified them for Jesse and Amanda Knight Society membership.

Walter and Margaret have attended Knight Society luncheons for six years now, and they love the event. “It’s amazing to sit among generous people who love BYU,” says Walter. Margaret agrees, adding, “It is good to support a university where young people can get a good education in a faith-filled environment.”

If you have made a deferred gift to BYU in your will, trust, gift annuity, life insurance policy, retirement account, or payable-on-death account, you are eligible to join the Jesse and Amanda Knight Society. To learn more about membership, visit

BYU President's Report Stories