LAIE, Hawaii Inaugurated as the ninth president of BYU-Hawaii, Steven C. Wheelwright pledged to "strive to build the character and integrity of these outstanding young students so they can apply these talents in their homes, in their communities, ultimately building the kingdom of God."
Draped in the rich colors and symbols of the Hawaiian culture, the ceremonial investiture, held in a filled Cannon Activities Center on Nov. 6, seemed to meld comments from all speakers into a common theme: that of love and concern in developing the university's students into a people who will make a difference in the world.
A charge to "lead the university to new heights of service, achievement, and recognition as a unique institution," was issued by President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency and second vice chairman of the Church Educational System's Board of Trustees.
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve offered welcoming comments, mentioning that he had just completed assignments in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and New Zealand, where many parents had asked him to say hello to their student sons and daughters.
Elder W. Rolfe Kerr, emeritus General Authority and Commissioner of Church Education, also addressed the gathering. A reception, news conference, luncheon, and evening luau were included in the day's festivities. Held during the afternoon was a ground-breaking for a new building to house a Maori canoe at the neighboring Polynesian Cultural Center.
President Eyring, who was once President Wheelwright's professor at Stanford University, affectionately presented a bowl of Hawaiian koa wood, symbolizing the new president's responsibilities of nurturing, caring and trusting. An embrace followed.
In attendance were leaders of BYU, BYU-Idaho, faculty and staff of BYU-Hawaii, students, alumni, friends and many dignitaries from the mainland, and elected officials of Hawaii. Two of these, Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hanneman, spoke at the luncheon and hoped that President Wheelwright would lend his expertise, and perhaps his Asian connections, to help develop Hawaiian efforts.
In later remarks, President Eyring observed, "President Wheelwright will not and cannot be another President (Eric B.) Shumway. He will do what only he can do to help the university to heights the Lord has in store for it.
"He is prepared to make the contribution I know he will make, and the faculty is prepared to join him in taking the next step in the progress of this university.
"Now I can only see slim outlines of what that life will be, and yet the metaphor of the ideal family points the way. Success will ... be an increase in the power of students to improve family, communities and the world."
Entrusted as the new president of a Church-owned university with its dual mission of academics and spirituality, President Wheelwright pledged to "strive to build the character and integrity of these outstanding young students so they can apply these in their homes, in their communities, ultimately building the kingdom of God."
He said the challenge at BYU-Hawaii "is to build something unique and excellent. We will equip our students with a high quality of education that is both practical and spiritual that will bless their lives and those of their families."
He called for more mentoring and better internships and keeping a closer tie with priesthood leaders.
"We have a foundation built on faith and diligence and the gospel of Jesus Christ," he said. "And we must enlighten all who come here to learn by providing them with eternal qualifications. The Lord promises great blessings to those who work to build His kingdom, and His blessings are sure.
"I believe the best does lie ahead," he emphasized. "President Eyring, I am pleased to state to you today, in the presence of so many who love this great university, that I will do all that I can to strengthen and enhance the university so it can indeed accomplish all that a loving Father has in store for His sons and daughters as they come here for both their spiritual and academic development.
"And I pledge to do so in a manner consistent with both His teachings and His Spirit."
In his remarks, Elder Kerr said that this transition was timely and that such an event provides "an opportunity to review, to revise, if necessary, and confirm the mission of BYU-Hawaii."
"The president is the focal point in the creation of a shared vision for the future. He has a marvelous vision for the future of this university, and it will flourish under the leadership of President Wheelwright, and his able wife, Margaret."
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