Rex Edwin Lee, who had accepted the appointment and had already functioned in it for weeks, was officially inaugurated as president of Brigham Young University on October 27.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, conducted the convocation at which President Lee was inaugurated, and President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, officially installed him. United States Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White, for whom President Lee once served as law clerk, gave the inaugural address.
Elder Boyd K. Packer, Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Elder Russell M. Nelson, and Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve all attended the convocation. Elder Oaks was president of BYU when Rex Lee served as founding dean of its J. Reuben Clark Law School.
Also in attendance were Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the First Quorum of the Seventy, Brother Lee’s immediate predecessor as university president; Bishop Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric; President Barbara W. Winder, Relief Society general president; and President Ardeth G. Kapp, Young Women general president.
As he installed the new university leader, President Monson charged him with a threefold responsibility.
First, he said—including President Lee’s wife, Janet, in this charge—reach for heavenly help. “Since you are now on the Lord’s errand, you are entitled to his help,” President Monson explained. “Do not forget that a man never stands taller than when he is on his knees.”
Second, he called on President Lee to strive for excellence. “You can lift your faculty and the student body to higher attainments and loftier levels of competence.”
Third, President Monson urged President Lee to teach and to promote teaching by the Spirit. Students taught by the Spirit and motivated by testimony should and will excel in their fields, expanding the borders of knowledge, and perfecting their ability to love and to serve.
President Lee responded: “There is nothing I would rather do over the next few years than to devote myself to filling the charge you have just given. I recognize that it is given not just to me personally, and I accept not only for myself, but also on behalf of the faculty, the staff, and the students.”
President Lee noted that progress has been BYU’s historical hallmark “and will continue. It would be inconsistent not only with our history, but also with our religious beliefs to level out now.”
“More changes and more progress lie ahead of us,” he said. “But while change is inevitable, so also is constant adherence to the foundation on which we built in the beginning and on which our house still stands—and will stand as long as there is a Brigham Young University. For this is a house of study and also a house of faith, a house in which we teach by the Spirit.
“Working together, we cannot fail, and we will not fail.”
In his address, Justice White pointed out that a modern coalescence of philosophy, religion, and politics in the United States placed the individual “at the center of our cultural universe. Man’s moral and religious salvation and the nurturing and development of his powers have become our major preoccupation. Hence, the central role of education.”
He said education to develop human resources is a lifelong process. But in order to meet the challenges of today’s society, “I suspect that a whole new order of insight and intellect will be necessary,” he added. President Lee is “up to the job” of helping provide that intellect and insight, Justice White commented.