“Rex E. Lee New BYU President,” Ensign, July 1989, 79
Rex E. Lee has been named the tenth president of Brigham Young University, effective July 1.
He succeeds Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, called in April to serve in the First Quorum of the Seventy.
Brother Lee accepted his appointment with “eagerness and anticipation.” He said his love for BYU goes back to 1953, when he entered as a freshman. Today, he commented, “a very large share of what I am”—hopes, aspirations, and accomplishments—“is tied to this university.”
BYU has an important educational mission, the new president said. “If we ever compromise our standards as a university, then nothing else will matter very much.” But he remarked that BYU’s mission is broader than being just a university. It is a place where not only the intellect is nourished, but the whole soul—“a community of scholars, yes, but also a community of Saints.”
Brother Lee, fifty-four, was the founding dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU, serving from 1972 to 1981. He then served the United States as solicitor general from 1981 to 1985. Earlier, during his tenure as dean of the law school, Brother Lee took a leave of absence to serve as assistant U. S. attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. Since 1985, he has been in private practice in Washington, D.C., and has taught law courses at BYU.
A native of Arizona, Brother Lee graduated as valedictorian of his BYU class in 1960, having served as student-body president during the 1959–60 school year. He earned a juris doctorate degree from the University of Chicago law school in 1963, graduating first in his class. He served as law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White and then practiced with a Phoenix law firm from 1964 to 1972.
Brother Lee served a mission in Mexico, where he was second counselor to the mission president. He served as a member of the Church’s Young Men General Board from 1958 to 1960. He has served as a bishop, a high councilor, and a stake president.
The son of Rex E. and Mabel Whiting Lee, Brother Lee married Janet Griffin on 7 July 1958 in the Arizona Temple. They have seven children and two grandchildren.
In July 1987, Brother Lee was treated for lymphatic cancer at the Clinical Center for the National Cancer Institute in Washington, D. C. His cancer was declared in remission in September 1987.