Presiding Bishop Merrill J. Bateman has been called to the First Quorum of the Seventy and also named as the eleventh president of Brigham Young University, the first General Authority to lead the Church-sponsored university.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, accompanied by his two counselors, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust, announced the appointment during a 2 November 1995 press conference.
During the conference, Elder Bateman fielded questions from media representatives. He noted that one of the major functions of BYU is to be a teaching institution. “Our effort will be to increase the prominence of the university as a teaching institution,” he said. “Research is important because we need the opportunity for faculty members to express their creativity and it makes them better teachers. But it will be primarily a teaching institution.”
Regarding a question on academic freedom, Elder Bateman said that faculty members should be able to express their honest feelings with regard to various issues. “But it’s very important that members of the BYU community support and stand behind the principles that are espoused by the Church, because it is a Church institution and it is expected to represent the values that the Church represents and teaches,” he said. “If there is a conflict between those two things, the truth espoused by the Church is the important aspect that will dominate.”
Elder Bateman noted that, in regard to hiring women or minority faculty members, BYU has no quotas or targets. “I see us trying to find the very best faculty members we can to serve the students,” he observed. “The best being defined in terms of education and ability to teach and reach the young people and stimulate them in regard to learning, both in a spiritual as well as a secular vein.”
When asked about the enrollment ceiling at the nation’s largest private university, Elder Bateman replied, “I don’t see more students on campus necessarily. But … with the technology changes that are occurring, there are many ways in which we can reach out to a broader community than just those who are in Provo and Hawaii. …
“Also there are other efforts in the Church, particularly in the institute programs, to reach many of these young people, both students and nonstudents.” The number of nonstudents enrolled in these classes has grown dramatically, Elder Bateman noted. “That’s one way in which the Church Educational System is reaching our young people.”
As the first General Authority called as president of BYU, Elder Bateman said that it “clearly indicates the importance of the university to the leaders of the Church and indicates the importance of the university in terms of its role with regard to the young people in the Church.”
Elder Bateman was sustained as Presiding Bishop of the Church on 2 April 1994 after serving as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy since June 1992. Prior to his call as a General Authority, Elder Bateman headed his own consulting and capital management company. He has also served as dean of BYU’s College of Business and the School of Management. A native of Lehi, Utah, Elder Bateman earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah and received a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Elder Bateman’s new appointment is effective 1 January 1996. Elder Bateman will succeed BYU President Rex E. Lee, who requested a release from his position because of continuing health problems.