Weekly five: Things you might not know about President Samuelson


President Cecil O. Samuelson has served as president of BYU for nearly 11 years, but some students may not know a lot about him. Here are five things you might not have heard about President Samuelson.

1. After President and Sister Samuelson’s got sealed in the Salt Lake Temple, had taken their wedding pictures and attended their wedding breakfast, President Samuelson spent his afternoon in his embryology class and lab before going to his wedding reception that evening.

During a BYU Annual University Conference on Aug. 26, 2003, President Samuelson talked about the experience.

“Sharon and I were engaged and had planned our marriage over the Thanksgiving holiday so that we could have a little honeymoon without the necessity of missing school. I was the student; she was teaching school. … I was enrolled in the embryology course that really was key to medical school admission. … Therefore I absolutely needed to do well!

“Sharon and I were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple on Wednesday morning. After the temple ceremony, the pictures and the wedding breakfast, my brother drove me to the university campus, where I spent the afternoon in my embryology class and lab. I was on time for the wedding reception that evening!

“On the very next Monday a major exam for the class was scheduled. I had been doing well to that point, and the professor was compassionate. He told my friend that we could probably disregard the upcoming test if I did well on all the others. I, of course, knew nothing at that time of this agreement.

“Monday came, we were home from the honeymoon, and I took the test. I didn’t fail. In fact, I got 100 percent correct! I had prepared well — but I emphasize before the wedding — and was finally convinced that advanced, persistent preparation really does pay! … (Dr. Newby) did say that clearly, in my case, marrying the right girl was the most important decision I had ever made. I have recalled often the truth of that statement. She did, and does, make me a much better student, even in the face of my obvious limitations.”

2. President and Sister Samuelson have five children, three boys and two girls. Their first child was born more than three years after they were married. Two of their children, twins, were adopted from Guatemala.

3. President and Sister Samuelson were attending a mission presidents’ seminar in Australia on Sept. 11, 2001. At the time he was serving as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy. Six years later, on Sept. 11, 2007, the Samuelsons gave a university devotional address titled, “Year of the Constitution,” in which they talked about the blessing the United States Constitution is.

“The events of Sept. 11, 2001, have caused most of us to reflect on things of great importance that perhaps we too often take for granted. In some important ways our lives on that day changed forever,” President Samuelson said.

“(The Constitution) provide(s) the basis for living together harmoniously in a safe environment that is highly respectful of both the individual and society,” he added. “Among its protections are freedoms we deem to be essential for our personal progress and for the work of the Lord.”

4. President Samuelson served on the Public Affairs Committee of the Church during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. During that time he and Sister Samuelson had the opportunity to accompany Mike Wallace, the host of “60 Minutes,” to a cultural event that was being held in the Conference Center.

During a commencement address given on Aug. 12, 2010, President Samuelson recalled interacting with Wallace and President James E. Faust during the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City:

“You may recall that Mike Wallace twice interviewed President Gordon B. Hinckley on his television program. While Mr. Wallace could never trip up or confuse President Hinckley with his penetrating questions, they became good friends as a result of these interviews, and Mike Wallace came to Salt Lake City for the Olympics as a guest of the Church.

“At the conclusion of the performance, we accompanied these VIPs to their limousine. On the way we met President and Sister James E. Faust of the First Presidency, who had also attended the performance.

“As I introduced President Faust to Mike Wallace and explained the close relationship President Faust and President Hinckley enjoyed in the First Presidency, Mr. Wallace said to President Faust, ‘You are just the man to answer a question I have had for some time. Gordon Hinckley is the most optimistic man I have ever met. Can you tell me why?’

“President Faust didn’t hesitate for even a moment and replied with a twinkle in his eye, ‘President Hinckley knows how all this is going to turn out.’”

5. President Samuelson joined the military in 1960. At the time, military service was a necessary prelude to missionary service. During a university devotional on Sept. 9, 2008, President Samuelson recalled his first weeks in the Army.

“I learned to march, fire and clean a weapon and pass inspection from a sharp-eyed sergeant,” he said. “After basic training I went to cook and baker school and graduated with an impressive certificate in which the U.S. Army described my experience as ‘eight weeks of the finest food service training in the world.’ I also really learned a lot about the world outside of Utah, in addition to a little about cooking and thought I was quite knowledgeable and no longer sheltered.”

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