James A. Holtkamp
Watergate Attorney
Environmental, Health & Safety Lawyer

James A. Holtkamp, Brigham Young High School 1967
James A. Holtkamp, '67

Doors Opened
To The Future

Brigham Young High School
Class of 1967

I attended Brigham Young High School for six years. No, I wasn't held back -- I started there in the seventh grade.

I remember the school with great affection. I cannot think of any of the teachers, for example, that were not genuinely interested in us.

I was a dense teenager, but I sensed that even those teachers that we made fun of, because of their perceived quirks, were dedicated to our education.

Some of my heroes to this day include: Mr. Rex Arnett, who launched me on a life-long love of languages; Mr. Gary Penrod, who got me to read the Koran in his humanities class and taught me about tolerance for other viewpoints; Mr. Lynn Benson and Mr. Kenneth Bowthorpe, who coached the debate team and introduced me to government which ultimately led me to my professional career; Mrs. Anna B. Hart, who loved English grammar and literature and was completely unfazed by our obliviousness; Mrs. Faye Buttle, who introduced me to the rich heritage of Utah; Mr. Owen Bennion; and Mr. Verl Allman, who nearly persuaded me to embark on a career studying invertebrates. Each one of them opened doors that helped me and my classmates to better our lives.
Brigham Young High School Faculty in 1960s
Holtkamp Era Faculty

I am lucky to have had the opportunity to attend BY High and to have made friends who, like me, were basically clueless when it came to getting in trouble. We just didn't know how, so when we were together we had a good time without booze, tobacco, other illegal substances, or dangerous types of fooling around.

Probably the closest I came to serious delinquency came when we made blow guns out of medical tubing, then shot dried beans at the screens in movie theaters or at innocent bystanders.

Some of my BY High experiences were exhilarating and others were not so exciting.

The high point of my otherwise mediocre athletic career came when I pinned a 310-pound wrestler from Payson. This capped a come-from-behind victory for our team -- we won the match by one point!

My excitement was tempered, however, when the Payson coach approached me afterwards to congratulate me, and mentioned that my opponent had never competed in a match in which he wasn't pinned.

One of my down moments came when I lost the election for student body president to Brent Ashworth. I had mistakenly assumed that I was pretty much a shoo-in. Brent outhustled me and he came out on top.

I learned that if you take something for granted, as often as not it won't happen. Brent's work ethic has served him well in his career as a corporate lawyer and in local government -- he served as mayor of Payson, as I recall. Although we were rivals in that student body election, we are good friends today.
The campus itself was so unique that you loved it or hated it. I couldn't get enough of it, including the door in an east classroom on the third floor which opened into thin air, or the old boiler tank in between buildings which was the place we waited for rides, or the goofy cage in the gym above the basket.

During the years after BY High closed, while the buildings slid into decay and abandon, it was like seeing a good friend wasting away from some terrible disease. The restoration of the historic Education Building is magnificent, although I will always miss the other buildings on the block.
Open Door, Historic Education Building
Of course, it is the lifelong friendships with other BY Highers that are the enduring legacy of my BY High experience. Many of us have kept in touch through good times and bad and over long distances.

My wife says she would rather go to our class reunions than to her own (she attended high school somewhere in the high-lands of Salt Lake City) because we all know each other so well and have such a good time when we get together.

I don't think it is accidental that the friends I hung out with in high school have become successful parents, educators and professionals.

Although the doors to BY High closed in 1968, the doors the school opened for us will affect our families, friends and future generations eternally.

Jim Holtkamp is a member of the BYH Class of 1967. He graduated from BYU with a BA in Political Science in 1972, Cum Laude. He graduated from the George Washington University School of Law with a JD in 1975, Cum Laude. He served as Articles Editor for The George Washington Law Review (1974-75). Jim served on the staff of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (Watergate Committee) in 1974 and as an attorney for the U.S. Department of the Interior before entering private practice in 1977. He is an adjunct professor of law at the University of Utah. He is licensed to practice in Utah, Colorado, the Federal District Court for the District of Utah, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. He works as an attorney in Salt Lake City with the law firm Holland and Hart LLP. His legal specialties are the Environment, Health & Safety. He married Marianne Coltrin, and they have three daughters and two sons. He wrote this in July 2005 while recovering from surgery. @2006


Around the Block and Through the Universe

Before he died at the ripe old age of eighteen, my dog led me on daily walks around the block and through the universe. Sometimes, I stopped to look at a teeming colony of tiny black ants filling a sidewalk crack or at Venus gleaming next to a new moon in the darkening sky.

I thought often of the men and women through the ages who labored incessantly to connect their observational dots to try to make sense of the world. Darwin, Newton, and Einstein are just three of the countless humans whose legacy still enriches our understanding of life and the cosmos in countless ways.

I reflected on life itself—an inexorable force that conquers the worst planet earth can throw at it through countless years of adaptation. I remembered the history of the Enlightenment, which brought mankind out of darkness and superstition and began to bring a measure of order to the chaos of life.

And I considered what I know of my own faith—of a God who presides over this glorious existence, whose adherence to law and utter absence of arbitrariness is elegant perfection itself.

I have a close friend who is not of my faith who turned to me one day and asked, “Do you really believe in that Book of Mormon stuff?” I told him that I did, and I acknowledged that there is no stone carving in Central America or elsewhere that says “Nephi was here.” I also told him that I do not think that God wants us to believe in the Book of Mormon because of some archeological evidence, but that he wants us to learn of its truth by asking God about it and having the faith that God will tell us.

I also acknowledged that the experience of having the spirit speak to us is both intensely personal and impossible to describe in words. I said that reason could not convince him of the truthfulness of that book; he had to find out by asking God himself.

How do I reconcile my faith with my European if-I-can’t-see-it-or-touch-it-it-doesn’t exist heritage? By understanding that spirit and empirical truths are not mutually exclusive. By having the humility to admit that there is more that we do not know than we can even imagine. By talking with God and listening and watching for his answers. By listening to my heart when I need to know things of the spirit and using my head when I need to pick my way through the environment I live in.

My faith as a Latter-day Saint has enriched my understanding of the world around me. Knowing that a human being is comprised of a physical body, a spirit, and intelligence does not diminish in the least my sense of awe at the intricacies of the physical world. My life is deeper and fuller for it.

By James Holtkamp, January 2011


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