Bear attack survivor, mission president becomes BYU Broadcasting director

Michael Dunn and his daughter, Emily Rigby, bike the “Cradle of Humankind” loop in South Africa. Dunn became BYU Broadcasting’s managing director in April 2017. (Linda Dunn)

Michael Dunn felt uneasy as he prepared for his run in the early hours of August 14, 1994, at Grand Teton National Park. Still, Dunn’s uneasiness couldn’t keep him from this run, so he took off from his cabin.

He was an avid runner, but when Dunn saw a grizzly bear on his run that morning, he knew he couldn’t outrun the beast. The grizzly attacked, and Dunn found himself at death’s doorstep.

“If I wanted to see my wife and children again, or if I wanted to take another breath in life again, I needed help,” Dunn told Mormon Channel.

Dunn offered a prayer and played dead. He doesn’t know why or how, but the bear became distracted and left.

“Surviving the bear attack made Michael resilient and adaptable to the challenges he faces,” said Dunn’s wife, Linda Dunn.

Linda Dunn said the bear experience, along with converting to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at age 18, are crucial in the depiction of the man who recently assumed the position as managing director of BYU Broadcasting.

Dunn’s many work experiences prepared him to manage BYU Broadcasting.

Dunn has a master’s degree in mass communication with a journalism/advertising emphasis from the University of Utah. He was a senior writer and producer for Bonneville Communications, along with working on national image campaigns for Major League Baseball and the Salvation Army.

Dunn received an Emmy Award for Public Service in 1992 from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and earned many honors and awards in advertising over the years.

Michael Dunn playfully eats donuts with fellow missionaries. (Linda Dunn)

Dunn founded and operated Dunn Communications Inc., an advertising agency and film production company, for 16 years. Most recently, Dunn was the general manager of the broadcast station KUED.

Dunn left work behind when President Dieter F. Uchtdorf asked him to serve as a mission president in 2013. Dunn and his wife accepted the assignment and left in July 2014 to Johannesburg, South Africa with plans to return home in July 2017.

Returned missionary Sean Pickup said his first impression of Dunn when he arrived in South Africa was Dunn’s overwhelming excitement for the new missionary and the love Dunn immediately had for him.

“(President Dunn) is slow to judge and quick to love and see the best in someone,” Pickup said.

Dunn’s daughter, Emily Rigby, shares the same view and said she has always looked up to her father as her hero.

“Anyone that knows my dad has been impacted by him,” Rigby said. “He truly leads by example. He has so much love for those around him.”

BYU Advancement Vice President Matt Richardson reached out to Dunn in South Africa at the end of 2016 about the possibility of working for BYU when Dunn returned from South Africa in July.

Dunn video conferenced from Africa in January with BYU President Kevin J Worthen, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Elder Dallin H. Oaks from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

He assumed the conversation would be about the position at BYU Broadcasting — the one he thought he would take in July. The position was instead to begin immediately, approximately six months ahead of schedule.

“We’re so flattered by this opportunity, but we really want to stay,” Dunn told Elder Oaks, Elder Holland and President Worthen. “We love our missionaries and our mission.”

Michael Dunn’s daughter, Emily Rigby, surprises Dunn with his new granddaughter, Reagan. (Linda Dunn)

Elder Oaks said they knew Dunns loved their mission in Africa, but the mission president was needed a lot more at BYU Broadcasting at this time, Dunn said.

Elder Oaks told him the position was a job first and a church assignment second because the nature of the job is tied to the mission of the church.

“I don’t know how I can do this, though, because I am so invested in what I’m doing right now,” Dunn said he felt when asked to leave his mission.

Dunn said everyone was understanding of his feelings and the circumstances, even though the position desperately needed to be filled because Derek Marquis had already stepped down as managing director of BYU Broadcasting.

Michael and Linda Dunn visit the Johannesburg temple with missionaries. (Linda Dunn)

Dunn said Elder Oaks told him to instead report in April to BYU Broadcasting, giving Dunn and his wife 90 more days to finish conferences and meetings with their missionaries before they left.

“I think they anticipated that because they hired an interim director here, Steve Lund,” Dunn said.

Lund is the CEO of Nu Skin, and Dunn said he was working both positions from January to April until Dunn could take over at BYU Broadcasting.

“We came home on a Thursday, and by Monday, I was at work,” Dunn said.

Coming directly to BYU Broadcasting from his mission has its advantages. Dunn said losing a sense of purpose after returning from a mission is something many mission presidents and missionaries struggle with, but he was fortunate to have something new to put his efforts toward.

Linda Dunn said he never does anything partial, and Rigby agreed.

“He always expects the best from himself,” Rigby said.

Dunn said he was surprised and delighted with the skill and talent level at BYU Broadcasting, and is excited for what the future holds in store for the organization.

“What the church is doing with BYU Broadcasting is very ambitious, audacious even,” he said.

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