Colleagues, students help introduce Kevin J Worthen to the rest of BYU

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New BYU President Kevin J. Worthen speaks at press conference following President Eyring's announcement. Photo by Sarah Hill.
New BYU President Kevin J. Worthen speaks at press conference following President Eyring’s announcement. Photo by Sarah Hill.

Kevin J Worthen’s colleagues and former students, and those who interacted with him during his time at BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School aren’t hesitant to introduce him to the rest of the BYU community as he transitions from advancement vice president to university president.

“He has a wonderful personality and is the type of person that you like to have around,” said John Welch, a professor in BYU’s law school. “He is friendly, cooperative, smart and open to opportunities.”

Worthen spent a lot of time as dean of the law school overseeing the information technology department. In that position he established lasting relationships with IT manager Gary Buckway and systems manager Vance Everett.

“He was very receptive and concerned about each individual,” Buckway said. “And when things would go wrong he would remain calm and understanding.”

Buckway was recovering from surgery and dealing with a major technology issue at the law school. He took the issue to Worthen, who said, “No, no, no, first things first. How are you doing?”

“That was very admirable and impressive,” Buckway said. “He was more interested in me and how I was doing than the other important issues going on.”

Everett shared similar sentiments.

“You can’t help but notice that he’s one of the best listeners you’ll ever find,” Everett said. “Every time I went in with a problem or concern he would just listen. He wouldn’t try and interrupt. He was good at understanding what the problems were and then making suggestions.”

Worthen’s ability to give complete attention and to listen was repeatedly expressed by those who have been in contact with him.

“I always admired how closely he listened to those with whom he worked,” Welch said.

Ed Carter, an associate dean in the College of Fine Arts and Communications, had Worthen as a law professor and enumerated the qualities he displayed.

“He was patient with us and allowed us to express our views, but then he guided the class very well,” Carter said. “He was respectful, considerate, kind and gentle while at the same time maintaining high expectations and demanding a lot of us.”

Carter also pointed to Worthen’s ability to grasp complex concerns and boil them down to easily understandable terms.

“He’s very bright and understands difficult issues,” Carter said. “He’s able to look at all the information and reduce it down to simpler questions about what needs to be done.”

Current law school Dean James Rasband said Worthen is “off the charts with respect to his analytical ability,” Rasband said. “His ability to think through hard problems carefully is extraordinary.”

Rasband also pointed to Worthen’s time as clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron White as further evidence of his capabilities.

“The lawyers who clerk for justices of the United States Supreme Court are the best of the best,” Rasband said. “It’s a very small and select group, one that includes former university presidents Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Rex E. Lee.”

Law professor James Backman has been at the BYU law school since 1974. He served with Lee, who was both law school dean and BYU president, and pointed to the similarities between Lee and Worthen.

“I don’t think people have made a point of how closely Kevin Worthen’s path mirrors that of former BYU president Rex E. Lee,” Backman said.

Backman went on to point out that not only did Worthen and Lee clerk for the same U.S. Supreme Court justice but that Worthen also worked at the same Arizona law firmwhere Lee had been a partner. Worthen later became dean of BYU’s law school, just as Lee had done, and will now follow in his footsteps in becoming president of the university.

Backman also related an experience with Worthen early on in the new president’s career that showcased his character.

At the time, BYU law school dean Reese Hansen was shouldering numerous responsibilities when it became apparent that the school would need someone to teach a contracts course. In a typical show of character, the already overloaded dean volunteered to take on the assignment. Backman and his colleagues, however, felt like Hansen would be attempting to do too much; so they approached Worthen and asked him to take on the contracts class instead.

“Without any hesitation he agreed to take on that class,” Backman said. “To me that speaks volumes about his character — the generosity and goodness of Kevin Worthen. He didn’t have to, but he took on the course and never complained.”

Worthen has also served as a mentor to both fellow faculty and former students.

“Early on for me he was a mentor,” Rasband said. “He was someone with whom I could talk and who always gave great counsel and friendly advice. You can rely on him. He’s a person of great integrity and is who he claims to be.”

Carter, who, along with being Worthen’s student, has also served with him in church and academic settings, shared similar sentiments.

“He’s been the master mentor for me in church, work and school,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of occasions to ask him about things related to what’s going on in church or educationally, and he’s able to say, ‘Here’s what you need to do,’ and it’s always straightforward.”

Worthen’s love for BYU is also evident to his colleagues. “He’s a BYU guy through and through — BYU undergrad, BYU Law School, BYU law professor, BYU law school dean, BYU vice president and now BYU president,” Rasband said.

“Everyone who has had contact with Kevin Worthen loves him and is going to be so supportive of this action,” Backman said. “There’s just an overall feeling of being thrilled that Kevin Worthen has been named as our next president.”

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