Tuesday, March 11, 2014

LDS Church Names Area Seventy Kevin J. Worthen 13th President Of Brigham Young University At Provo

Screenshot from KSL
During the weekly Tuesday devotional conducted at BYU-Provo on March 11th, 2014, President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency announced that 57-year-old Area Seventy Kevin J. Worthen has been selected to be the 13th President in the history of the school. He replaces Cecil O. Samuelson, who has led the university since 2003. The Provo Daily Herald included a list of all previous BYU Presidents in their story.

The official change of command does not take place until May 1st. Since Worthen is the current advancement vice president of BYU, the transition between Samuelson and him should be effortless. During his acceptance speech, Worthen said he was both honored and humbled, and noted that he doesn’t anticipate any radical changes under his leadership, since the mission of the university remains the same. At the same time, he finds that no one is really given this kind of assignment merely to maintain the status quo, so he will put his personal stamp on the job, so to speak. His working class background as a coal miner will keep him sensitive to the need to keep BYU education affordable; tuition has been increasing incrementally, jumping from $2,355 LDS/$4,710 non-LDS in 2012-13 to $2,500 LDS/$5,000 non-LDS students in 2014-15.

In his youth, Worthen served as a missionary in the Monterrey, Mexico mission. In their official press release, the LDS Church noted that the search committee, appointed by the university’s board of trustees, considered many outstanding, well-qualified men and women for the position, including internal and external candidates from academe and industry, before settling on Worthen. They did not name the others who were considered. Here's their summary of Worthen's impressive background:

Worthen also is the Hugh W. Colton Professor of Law at BYU and has particular expertise 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. He also has been an associate attorney for Jennings, Strouss & Salmon in Phoenix.

A native of Carbon County, Utah, Worthen earned an associate degree from the College of Eastern Utah, where he was co-captain of the varsity basketball team. While at CEU, he also worked during the summer months as an underground coal miner in the Plateau Mine in Wattis, Utah.

Worthen earned his bachelor's and juris doctor degrees from BYU. He is currently serving as an Area Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He and his wife, Peggy Sealey Worthen, have three children and one grandchild.

According to the Deseret News, rumors about the end of Samuelson's tenure surfaced three years ago when he was 69. He was serving as a general authority of the LDS Church in its Quorum of the Seventy. Quorum members regularly gain emeritus status when they turn 70, and some wondered if that change might also include a change of assignment in the BYU president's office. President Thomas S. Monson granted Samuelson emeritus status in October 2011, two months after Samuelson's 70th birthday. Although no specific reason has been given for the change of command, President Eyring paid tribute to Samuelson's leadership, saying "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 unanimously recognize the great work and devotion of President Cecil O. Samuelson to this university. Truly his leadership and influence for good cannot be measured." The majority of previous BYU presidents served less than 10 years, so Samuelson's tenure was at the median.

The BYU Presidency can be a stepping stone to service on the Quorum of the Twelve. Two current apostles, Dallin H. Oaks (1971-1980) and Jeffrey R. Holland (1980-1989), served as BYU Presidents.

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