After leading BYU for more than seven years, President Merrill J. Bateman passes the mantle to Elder Cecil O. Samuelson.
Officially–and ostensibly–the gathering in the Marriott Center on March 18 was a regular university devotional, with President Gordon B. Hinckley of the Church of Jesus Christ as the featured speaker. But more was in the works.
One of those in the know was a dark-haired man who quietly took a seat on the stand next to Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Elder Cecil O. Samuelson Jr., of the Presidency of the Seventy, commanded little more than curious attention at first. But when President Hinckley announced that Elder Samuelson would be the new president of Brigham Young University, the 23,000 students and employees in the arena suddenly became interested.
“I am in a serious state of clinical shock,” said Elder Samuelson, a former professor of medicine, when his turn came to speak. “Looking at your faces when President Hinckley made the announcement gave me some comfort in knowing that many of you share my feelings.”
Elder Samuelson received his new assignment as BYU’s 12th president from President Hinckley about two weeks before the announcement. On May 1 he will take over for President Merrill J. Bateman, who has led the university since Jan. 1, 1996.
“[Elder Samuelson] is charming in his personality, meticulous in his science, a man of great acumen in administrative affairs,” said President Hinckley. “His wife, Sharon, is a beautiful lady of charm and grace and capacity who will add much to the spirit of this great university.”
With three degrees from the University of Utah and post-graduate work at Duke University Medical Center, Elder Samuelson rose through the academic ranks to full professor during his 17 years at the University of Utah School of Medicine. He also served as a dean for the school and as the university’s vice president for health sciences. He left the university in 1990 to become a senior vice president of Intermountain Health Care (IHC) and was later named president of IHC Hospitals. On Oct. 1, 1994, he was called to the First Quorum of the Seventy.
“Even though I have never been a student at Brigham Young University, or on the faculty,” said Elder Samuelson, “I have been a student of Brigham Young University and watched with great admiration and interest for many, many years. I appreciate the privilege now, in an older part of my life, to come back to school. I expect to learn a great deal.”
Elder Samuelson reaffirmed BYU’s mission to “achieve excellence in academics while also strengthening faith.” He said, “These two enterprises are consistent with each other– in fact, complementary, I believe, synergistic.”
“We did not select a medical doctor because BYU is sick,” said President Hinckley. “It will be his responsibility to keep it in robust health, growing and maturing as one of the great teaching universities of this nation and the world.”
President Hinckley honored President Bateman, who will return to full-time service as a General Authority: “I cannot say enough of good about his service here. His great managerial skills, his buoyant spirit, his wonderful personality–all deserve the highest praise. He has dedicated himself without reservation.”
The commissioner of Church education, Elder Eyring spoke of the inspiration President Bateman has received and asserted that Elder Samuelson will have a similar endowment and that divine guidance runs through the entire university. “We can, with the Lord’s help, do things that would be remarkable and even miraculous for young students,” he said.
His voice breaking with emotion, President Bateman expressed his love for BYU students and employees. “Over many years I have learned that the Lord blesses those who serve him with a special gift, the gift of love for those whom they serve,” he said. “This is true for a missionary, a bishop, a Relief Society president, a stake president. And I know now it is true for the president of BYU.”
–Jeff McClellan (’94)
web: Read President Bateman’s farewell remarks at magazine.byu.edu/extras
note: The summer 2003 issue of BYU Magazine will include in-depth profiles of both President Bateman and President Samuelson.