Co-workers, students remember slain BYU professor as good man

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PROVO -- Kay Sherman Mortensen was a long-time professor in mechanical engineering at BYU. People who worked with him and students who learned from him said they couldn't believe it when they found out he was killed during a home invasion Monday night.


The students and faculty at BYU described Mortensen as more than just an excellent teacher; he was an excellent man, they said.

Mortensen received a Ph.D. from the University of Utah in 1967 and taught at BYU for 33 years in manufacturing design, engineering technology and mechanical engineering. He retired from the department in 2005.

"He was my professor for machine design. Oddly enough, he taught my father-in-law when he first started his career at BYU. So, we had a little family thing with Dr. Mortensen," said former BYU student Garth Mason.

Mason studied under Mortensen in 2003 and 2004. He said he learned the most from Mortensen because of his way of storytelling through practical knowledge and real-world experience.

Mortensen taught courses in metallurgy, materials and corrosion and was popular with students and faculty alike.

"He was an outgoing guy. He was extremely enthusiastic about the profession. He was fun loving, enjoyed the camaraderie of the faculty and staff in the department. He always had a joke, always had a story to tell," said Tim McLain, chair of BYU's Department of Mechanical Engineering.

McLain and with many former students of Mortensen were shocked to hear the news that Mortensen had been murdered. They didn't expect this sort of thing to happen to him.

"Complete surprise; I think the reaction is disbelief," McLain said. "It is kind of a somber feeling around here. You wouldn't expect that sort of thing to happen, certainly not to one of your peers and friends."

"If anything, I would've thought he'd be in the best position to defend himself from something like this. But when you're ransacked, what can you do?" Mason said.

Mason said his former mentor was a true patriot and extremely self-reliant -- storing guns, ammunition and food at his house.

"He had knowledge and skills to survive almost any situation. That's the sense you'd get, anyway," Mason said.

Unfortunately, Mortensen's preparedness couldn't save him from this.

Mortensen retired from teaching in 2005. Mason said he'll definitely be at his funeral, along with many other students.


Story compiled with contributions from Nicole Gonzales and John Daley

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