Max J. Berryessa
Educator, Administrator, Author

Max J. Berryessa, Eighteenth Principal of BYH
Dr. Max J. Berryessa

Eighteenth Principal
Brigham Young High School


Max J. Berryessa served as Eighteenth Principal of Brigham Young High School for three academic years, from 1958 to 1961.

He married Janet Marian Greaves. He attended Weber State University where he received an AA in Education in 1947. He continued on at BYU, where he earned a BS in Elementary Education in 1948. He received an MS in Teaching & Learning at BYU in 1949. He received an EDD in Elementary Education from Stanford University in 1959.

"I served as Principal at BYH from the fall of 1958 until the end of the school year in 1961, when I accepted an invitation to go on leave from BYU to accept a two-year assignment to work with the Ministry of Education in Thailand."

In 2001, Max J. Berryessa was one of several BYU graduates who were honored at the annual BYU Emeritus Awards meeting and luncheon in the Wilkinson Student Center ballroom. "Every year we select several long-time graduates of BYU whose service either to their professions, communities or church is exemplary," said Todd Hendricks, Alumni Activities Program Administrator.

"While some have received wide notice for their achievements, others' service has been less noticeable but no less significant." Dr. Berryessa of Provo, has spent his career improving education, both at home and throughout the world. He served as the 18th Principal of Brigham Young High School from 1958 to 1962.

His professional abilities in education caused him to be in great demand, and he spent several years as an educational consultant in Iran and several more as an educational adviser to the Ministry of Education in Thailand.

Dr. Berryessa also served a tour of duty in Asia as a teacher education specialist for UNESCO.

While teaching at BYU, he received the Karl G. Maeser Award for Teaching Excellence.

At times he has provided Curriculum Correlation for the Friend, the children's magazine of the LDS Church.

He was one of the speakers at the rededication of the Swiss Temple in Zollikofen, Switzerland in October 1992.

He is the author of Strategies for Teaching Science and Social Studies in the Elementary School (1981). He has also written an autobiographical book, “Our Life Together: A Personal History of the Max and Janet Berryessa Family, 1998.”

Max J. Berryessa retired from BYU after 40 years, 10 of which were as Chair of the Elementary Education Department.



Dr. Max J. Berryessa

We Have Grown So Much

Let me share my feelings with you. When our son came out to his mother and me some eight years ago, I’m sure we had the same reaction that most parents have when a gay son or lesbian daughter reveals his or her sexual orientation to them.

We had feelings of disbelief, frustration, guilt, fear and overwhelming loneliness. We thought we must be the only LDS parents in the world to face such a situation. We asked ourselves, “How could such a fine young man, who had been reared in a family where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had been so much a part of its members’ lives, who had never missed a church meeting or activity as a youth, who had been an exemplary missionary, who had taught in the MTC for two years following his mission, who had earned an academic scholarship at BYU, who had always been respected by his older brothers for his loving spirit and his devotion to the Savior and to His church, how could this wonderful young man, our son, choose such a lifestyle?”

We had heard that a domineering mother and a weak father image contributed to this condition in boys during their formative years. This myth, which we didn’t recognize as such at that time, contributed to our frustration and feelings of guilt.

Shortly after our son’s “coming out,” we attended a conference on sexuality with him. We attended a session in which Dr. Jan Stout, an LDS psychiatrist, helped us understand that neither homosexuals nor heterosexuals choose their basic sexual orientation.

We met Gerry Johnston there, the founder of People Who Care, which is a support group for parents of gay and lesbian children. She invited us to meet with other parents whose concerns were the same as ours to support one another in our concerns for our children.

That was the turning point in our negative attitude toward homosexuality and the understanding and acceptance of our son’s sexual orientation. As we attended these meetings we discovered that we were not alone, that there were other parents who faced the same challenge as we did and that they, also, have wonderful, loving, talented and God fearing children who happen to be gay.

Through the sharing of our mutual concerns for our children and our study of all the material we could find on the subject, we began to grow in our understanding of same-sex orientation, and gradually we began to cast off the shackles of homophobia.

Last spring we became acquainted with Family Fellowship and its mission of strengthening LDS families in which there are homosexual members. What a great opportunity to be associated with wonderful caring parents who share the same concerns as we do for their children.

Over these past eight years, in the various meetings and conferences we’ve attended, as well as elsewhere, I’ve seen literally hundreds of fine young men and women, mostly LDS, of same-sex orientation, and I have been deeply impressed with some characteristics which I have observed in so many of them.

They generally are not at all like the stereotypes of the militant gays which the media parades before us. But rather, as individuals, they appear to be most loving, caring and considerate of others, and unusually talented in many fields of endeavor, very often in the various aspects of the arts.

It is almost as if the Lord has given each of these, His children, some special talents and gifts to help compensate in some way for the ridicule, the abuse and the various forms of deprivation they are often made to suffer in this life.

While I wouldn’t choose this form of sexuality for any of my children, because of society’s prejudice, my son’s being gay has been a blessing in disguise to us, his parents.

Living in a homophobic society, we acquired the same prejudices toward gays and lesbians that are common to our culture. We have grown so much in overcoming our prejudices that we have become more loving and accepting of others of God’s children who differ from the norm.

Thank you, Guy, for who you are, for what you are and for what you have taught us.

By Guy Berryessa

Few fathers prove to be as loving and supportive as Dad has been. Finding out that I am gay was, I imagine, about as great a challenge as any father might face. Yet, despite the inevitable conflicts and struggles, he has risen to the challenge, continued to love me as always, and learned and grown from the experience.

I’m proud of my parents for being open, concerned and brave enough to support me on my path. I first came out to Dad on Father’s Day. I chose to share with him at that time because I realized that we could never have a truly close nor real relationship if I continued to hide and deeply bury this vital part of me.

I saw my coming out to him as a gift. I was beginning to untie the knots which held me bound, unwrapping the layers which were suffocating me and preventing me from sharing my true self with Dad, or with anyone else.

I had, for as long as I could remember, felt great respect and love for my father, and seen him as a man who, more than anyone I know, truly seeks to emulate Christ through exercising unconditional love. Yet I was not very close to him.

I remember so many times rejecting his affection and attempts at closeness because I had learned, not from him but from “society,” to feel uncomfortable with anything that could remotely resemble or reveal my same-sex orientation.

I had internalized so deeply the idea that the feelings I had were unworthy, shameful and unspeakable, even if never acted upon. I had built walls around myself in order to cope, and to avoid facing the challenges I now know are so essential to my growth.

It was those walls I started to tear down, finally, as Dad and I talked and walked around and around their block that June afternoon.

I should tell you a little about our talk that day, I guess. It was amazing. Dad didn’t quite “get” all of it, I suppose, because he seemed to take it all in stride, calmly, never imagining that I would ever consider consummating a relationship.

He had always had total trust in me, and seemed sure that I would never break a commandment or rule of the church, no matter what the price. He saw my situation, it seemed, as no different than that of a spinster or, perhaps, someone with a handicap. It was merely another challenge I would meet or a small cross that I would bear as I continued along the perfectly prescribed path.

I left for a year-long service project in Africa shortly after our talk, and when I returned and finally came out to my mother (whose reaction was more typical and far less calm), she asked if Dad knew. He had never mentioned it and seemed to have given it little thought.

But I was becoming deeply involved in a long-term, loving relationship, so my parents and I embarked on a long, hard journey toward greater understanding, love and acceptance.

For awhile, my relationship with my parents was rather painful. They were real troopers, though, and devoted themselves to much study, prayer and learning about homosexuality. They could also see that I was still the same person they had always loved, and that I was continuing on a path of personal, spiritual growth.

My basic character was intact and blossoming because of being more open, honest and congruent, and from the experience of sharing my life with a companion.

In addition, they met wonderful gay people who contribute much to the world and whose lives are rich and full. Dad and Mom were helped most, I believe, through their association with other parents in the People Who Care group.

Today, I am much closer to my father, and my mother, than I’ve ever been. We’ve learned and experienced so much together these last several years, and I look forward to much more!

Thanks, Dad and Mom, and all who are involved in this effort to open hearts, promote understanding, and teach by example what I believe is the essence of the gospel and purpose of life: learning to love one another.

Source: Reunion, December 1994


Dandelion Salesman

When There's Love at Home

By Max J. Berryessa

My wife, Janet and I have 4 sons -- the youngest, Guy, is our gay son.

Guy was born in Provo while I was teaching at BYU. He had a normal childhood but did display an enterprising talent by the age of 5. One Spring day he had been gone quite awhile and we assumed he was playing in the neighborhood. When he came home he burst into the house and exclaimed "I've been out picking dandelions and I've gone to all our neighbors telling them I have freshly picked flowers to sell and can you believe it, I sold all of them!"

Guy has had many interesting experiences in his lifetime. During his early childhood we spent two years living in Thailand and returned 10 years later for another year in high school.

At 19 he was called to serve a mission in Sweden. Upon his return he taught at the Missionary Training Center, completed his BA degree at the "Y" in English and Linguistics, and started his graduate degree in Teaching English as a Second Language.

He then accepted an opportunity to serve in rural Nigeria as a primary health care worker for a year.

Just prior to leaving for that year in Nigeria, on Father's Day, he asked me to go for a walk to talk-- and confided in me that he was gay.

I was stunned and confused as to what I could do to help this wonderful son of ours. I have to admit I really didn't know much about homosexuality at that period of my life.

When Guy returned from Nigeria he finished up his graduate work at BYU and was employed for many years by Provo School District -- teaching English to foreign students, supervising volunteers and other programs for refugees and immigrants. He also directed the Utah County Multicultural Center, a result of his love for people of various cultures.

It was during this time, especially after his return from Nigeria and coming out, that we tried to learn all we could about homosexuality so as to understand it and what we could to to help Guy.

We heard about the newly formed group in Salt Lake for parents of gays called People Who Care and began to participate in those meetings with other parents of gay children (prior to the formation of Family Fellowship several years later).

Years later, we attended Sunstone together, in 1996. At one session one of the speakers was a young man named Trey Lathe. When he was introduced Guy whispered to us that he knew him at BYU and that "he's straight".

They had worked together on some Human Rights and Peace Symposia at BYU while in a student group together for a couple years as undergraduates. Just then Trey said from the podium that he was "a gay Mormon man". So much for Guy's "gaydar"!

After the meetings, Guy and Trey spent much time together with mutual friends over the weekend. They found they had a great deal in common and so, during a wonderful long distance relationship, were able to build on the mutual respect they'd had for one another at BYU, fall in love and commit to building their lives together.

Oddly, neither of them had any idea the other was gay while at BYU, in those closeted, celibate years. Trey was getting his PhD in Molecular Biology and was living in Rochester, New York then.

Guy had just bought a home in San Francisco where he was investing in property. Trey was planning to move there, too, so they moved the following summer into the Victorian home they still share on Haight Street.

Trey had joined the LDS Church at 17 (the only member of his family to join) and had served a mission in Korea, taught at the Missionary Training Center and had been active in the Church until he and Guy committed to one another, when he was promptly excommunicated.

Soon after moving to San Francisco in 1997, they planned a formal commitment ceremony and invited their friends and family members to join in the celebration. We have attended many weddings but never have we witnessed so many tears of joy as we witnessed during this ceremony.

Afterward, they honeymooned for a month in Thailand and Korea, sharing with each other where they'd earlier lived. A year later, Trey accepted a post-doctoral position at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, where they lived 4 years before returning to San Francisco.

Guy, Trey & Emma

It was while they were living in Germany they were able to adopt a newborn from the state of Washington -- an African-American preemie girl. They'd just returned from the US from an earlier, failed adoption when they got word that another baby was just born and they'd been chosen as adoptive parents.

Guy flew back to be with her at Tacoma hospital and Trey followed soon after. They named her (after their grandmothers) Emma Marie Berryessa-Lathe. She has since been the delight of their lives and ours.

They stayed in the hospital and in the US for a month until she was able to travel to Germany, with her new parents -- exhausted -- and their lives forever changed.

Once back in Heidelberg, they settled back into a wonderful life there, where little Emma became quite well-known and loved before they returned to San Francisco in 2003. And also well-traveled (she's probably been to more foreign countries than most adults in their lifetime).

After several months they met an au pair for a family there in Germany, a young man from Poland named Radek. He later came to live with them to help with Emma and allow them more work time. He was wonderful with Emma and still lives with them as part of the family, having completed his University education while in San Francisco and working full-time downtown. Emma has grown like a weed and is now 7 years old. She is a beautiful, bright, fun child.

She most of all loves just being at home with her dads or her friends or pets, though she LOVES school, especially Music and Art, and also enjoys swimming, soccer, gardening and watching the TV show Full House!

Emma also really wants a younger sister or brother, so they've been working on a second adoption for some time now (and just had a failed match for a sister).

Like her Dads, she, too, is a little activist, with strong political feelings. She loves to march or ride in parades, make her own signs or even lead her school in the Pride Parade.

Although she may share the same basic agenda as her Dads and has visited the Capitol and White House with them, she has a strong mind and will of her own, including about who should be living there.

In fact, the whole time her Papa was a precinct captain for Obama, she was a staunch Hillary supporter, even standing on their corner on Primary Day with one of her homemade Hillary signs and yelling to passersby! She eventually became a strong Obama supporter, too, and even helped Papa vote for him on that historic day.

They were first married in San Francisco when briefly allowed in 2004 (though the marriages were later voided)-- but it was still an amazing time they will always cherish-- and then again last fall, this time for good (barely making it before the passing of Proposition 8).

We have spent some of our most memorable vacations with Guy, Trey and Emma in San Francisco -- Christmases, Grandparents Days at Emma's school, a cruise with them to Alaska with hundreds of LGBT families -- as well as time in Germany where we attended the Passion Play at Oberammergau.

We have a wonderful friendship with Trey's parents and family who are as happy with Guy and Trey's marriage as we are. They love Emma as much as our family does.

Source: When There's Love at Home, Committee for Reconcilliation, September 2009


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