Learn, lead, build — BYU-Hawaii's influence felt across the globe
It's easy. Send a link to the story you were just reading to a friend. Just fill out the form on this page and we'll send it along.
Standing in a Sugarcane field in Laie, Hawaii, on Feb. 12, 1955, President David O. McKay founded the Church College of Hawaii.
On that day he spoke of a vision he saw 34 years earlier when he witnessed a group of international school children participating in a flag ceremony at the Church school in Laie. President McKay recounted that he had seen in those children the ability of the gospel of Jesus Christ to unite all people.
Then he spoke of the influence of the new school — which would later become Brigham Young University-Hawaii. "From this school, I'll tell you, will go men and women whose influence will be felt for good toward the establishment of peace internationally," he said.
Later, during the dedicatory prayer, he gave further insight into the great potential of the place where he stood: "We dedicate our actions in this service unto Thee and unto Thy glory and to the salvation of the children of men, that this college and the temple and the town of Laie may become a missionary factor, influencing not thousands, not tens of thousands, but millions of people who will come seeking to know what this town and its significance are."
Today that prophetic vision is a reality: Millions have visited the Polynesian Cultural Center, the Laie Hawaii Temple grounds, and, of course, the campus of BYU-Hawaii.
Further, more than 2,500 students — representing more than 70 countries — attend BYU-Hawaii each year. When they leave, said BYU-Hawaii President Steven C. Wheelwright, they are prepared to be leaders in their homelands.
Many of those international students, who could not otherwise afford an education, came to the university on a unique financial aid program — I-WORK, which offers a 50 percent grant and 50 percent forgivable loan.
"The school is all about the students and the students are terrific," said President Wheelwright.
He said he hopes every student leaves the university having internalized its three-part mission: To teach young people to learn, lead and build.
First, every student who attends BYU-Hawaii should receive a foundation for a lifetime of learning of things both secular and spiritual, he said. "We want to help [students] develop a foundation for a lifetime of learning by integrating spiritual learning and development with professional learning and development."
Second, they should develop the character and integrity required to provide leadership in a world of eroding moral values. "We want to help them develop the character and integrity that will allow them to become leaders — leaders in their homes, in their families, in building the kingdom, in their communities and in their professions," he said.
Finally, they should have the willingness and desire to serve in building the kingdom of God. "We want to help [students] go back and accelerate the growth of the Church in their home regions. These are the people that will be Relief Society leaders and priesthood leaders."
President Wheelwright said the university has been making that mission a reality in the lives of students since 1955.
He explained that nearly half of the university's students are non-native English speakers and come from, for the most part, one of four Church administrative areas of the world: the Pacific, Philippines, Asia and Asia North areas. Most of these students are returned missionaries and have shown a great commitment to the gospel.
President Wheelwright said he has seen, through the university experience, students become individuals who can literally change their communities. For example, recently the president of the first stake in Mongolia, President Odgerel Ochirjav, visited the BYU-H campus. "He and his wife are both products of the institution," said President Wheelwright.
President Ochirjav spoke to students about building something of value and the opportunities for them to be leaders in the Church.
President Wheelwright said President Ochirjav and other BYU-Hawaii alumni are a fulfillment of President McKay's prophetic vision. "They'll be leaders, leaders not only on this island but everywhere," said President McKay in 1955. "All the world is hungering for them."