“BYU Guy” Called to Lead the University as Its New President
Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer
A self-proclaimed “BYU guy” and current advancement vice president at Brigham Young University, Kevin J Worthen, will now have a chance to lead the school he loves after his appointment as president of the university.
President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, made a special visit to Brigham Young University's campus in Provo, Utah, on March 11 to thank President Cecil O. Samuelson for his 11 years of leading the university and to introduce Brother Worthen as the next president. The announcement to students and faculty came after a scheduled campus devotional.
“When he was called to the presidency of this great university by President Gordon B. Hinckley, President Samuelson brought with him a wealth of Church service and professional experiences that began with his missionary service in the North British Mission in 1961-1963,” President Eyring said. He added that President Samuelson “has served well” in many capacities in the Church as well as in his professional life.
“President Samuelson has served this institution with great distinction, and it is important for the faculty, staff, students, and supporters of this university to know that the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, and Board of Education unitedly speak and recognize the great work and devotion of President Cecil O. Samuelson to BYU,” President Eyring said. “Truly, his leadership and influence for good cannot be measured.”
President Eyring also spoke of Sister Sharon G. Samuelson, who served alongside her husband since his tenure began on May 1, 2003. “Sister Samuelson has been a friend and mentor to all associated with this great university,” he said. After the event, students and faculty stood and clapped as President and Sister Samuelson—while hugging each other—smiled and waved to the crowd.
Beginning May 1, 2014, a changing of the guard will occur as Brother Worthen takes his place as president of the university. “Brother Worthen is well qualified for this appointment,” President Eyring said.
Prior to this announcement, Brother Worthen worked closely with President Samuelson as the advancement vice president of BYU. His call to be the 13th president of the university comes after years of association with the college—before his time as advancement vice president he worked as the dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School and earned his bachelor’s and graduate degrees from BYU.
“I am a BYU guy through and through,” he told reporters during a press conference after the announcement. “I went here for my undergraduate and law school; I have spent more than half of my life here. … I love BYU and I am a BYU guy.”
Brother Worthen acknowledged his association with President Samuelson, thanking him for his work at the university and his important role as a mentor in his life.
Recognizing that “no one is given this assignment to maintain the status quo,” Brother Worthen said that although he doesn’t have any immediate plans for radical changes, he will take the school’s mission as his guide as he moves forward and looks for better ways to achieve the mission of the university.
During his time as advancement vice president, Brother Worthen worked with BYUtv, as well as athletics, both of which have seen many program changes over the past few years.
“What I have learned from that [assignment] is that opportunities will present themselves and the real key will be looking over the horizon looking for opportunities that are there. … If you keep focusing on the mission, opportunities will come up,” he said.
Brother Worthen and his wife, Peggy Sealey Worthen, are the parents of three children and have one grandchild. When asked her response to her husband's new assignment, Sister Worthen smiled and said, “I’m happy to be along with him.”
Brother Worthen quickly added to her comment, “I don’t think growing up as a non-LDS person here in Utah that she envisioned that she would be in the position she is in right now—I don’t think that this was her dream in high school.”
Whether they dreamed of being in this new position or not, Brother Worthen said he accepts his new position and looks to the future with humility.
“I am both honored and humbled, as you might imagine, at this opportunity at this university,” he said. “I don’t consider myself measuring up to those who precede me in this, but I take comfort in the fact that this decision was made by those who I have great confidence in.”
When asked about his concerns for the youth entering college, Brother Worthen said, ”They clearly are our best asset. We need to keep making sure we provide them with every opportunity. … They are extraordinary youth.”
Brother Worthen, who serves as an Area Seventy, was “born in a town that no longer exists”—called Dragerton—located in Carbon County, Utah, where his father taught junior high math. He earned an associate degree from the College of Eastern Utah, where he spent his summer months underground mining for coal and the school year as a co-captain of the varsity basketball team.
He later went on to earn his bachelor’s degree and juris doctorate from BYU, before starting a law career, becoming an expert in federal Indian law. He is a former Fulbright scholar and clerked for Justice Byron R. White of the U.S. Supreme Court and Judge Malcolm R. Wilkey of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court.