C. Shane Reese formally installed as president of BYU, charged to fulfill the university’s divine mission

President Reese gives his inaugural address. He spoke about BYU’s unique identity as a religious university. (Ethan Porter)

C. Shane Reese was installed as the 14th president of BYU during an inaugural ceremony on Sept. 19 in the Marriott Center. Reese responded with plans to help BYU “become the university that prophets foretold.”

President Reese officially began his service as the university’s president on May 1. The inauguration gave the BYU community an opportunity to celebrate Reese and this university milestone, according to a University Communications press release. 

Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and First Vice Chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees presided over the ceremony. 

President Oaks, acting as Vice Chairman of the university’s board and representing the First Presidency, along with D. Todd Christofferson, Chairman of the Executive Committee of BYU’s Board of Trustees, formally installed C. Shane Reese as the university’s president.

Elder Ronald A. Rasband offered introductory remarks, and said Reese has been “raised up” to be the university’s president during this time. 

Elder Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve gives introductory remarks at the inauguration of President Reese. (Ethan Porter)

Elder Rasband recognized the unique guidance that BYU has under The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, with President Russell M. Nelson as Chairman of the university’s board. 

“We love you, we admire you, and we have confidence in you in leading this magnificent institution into the future,” Rasband said. 

Elder Christofferson gave the inaugural charge, which outlined “guidance and prophetic direction the Board has for President Reese as he takes the helm of this university,” according to Rasband.

Elder Christofferson charged President Reese to commit his time and talents to BYU. He also gave him the responsibility to be the university’s “chief moral and spiritual officer.” He said this is the most important of all his duties as president. 

He also charged President Reese to amplify the university mission, along with each member of the campus community. 

“Ensure that each understands and fully embraces this mission and can inspire others to be a light to the world even as they withstand the challenges of our day,” he said. 

He completed the installation by conferring upon President Reese the blessings and spiritual gifts needed to fulfill his office. 

Following the charge, President Oaks stood with Reese as his wife, Wendy Reese, placed the medallion of office on her husband. The Marriott Center erupted into applause. 

In his inaugural response, President Reese spoke of becoming a Christ-centered, prophetically-directed university.

“Our task, I submit, is to claim in our day the prophecies of the past. Our task is to become the university that prophets foretold … to become the BYU of prophecy and promise,” he said.

President Reese said his administration would continue to focus on strengthening the student experience at the Lord’s university.  

“Each student’s eternal progression must remain our foremost concern. To this end, we strive for every student to have an inspiring learning experience … we frame these experiences by our conviction that each student is a child of God,” he said.

President Reese spoke of the importance of BYU’s faculty and staff being “bilingual” in the language of both scholarship and faith. 

“As we strive to become the BYU of prophecy, we must develop ourselves in things both secular and sacred. When secular and sacred truths reinforce one another, we must embrace both,” he said.

According to President Reese, fulfilling the university’s divine mission will require courage to stand apart from the world. He said that BYU exerts its strength as it embraces and enhances its religious identity. 

“The spiritual and the secular are not opposing spheres locked in inevitable conflict. We see them instead as paired aspirations,” he said. 

President Reese emphasized the importance of building a covenant community at BYU. He said that by helping students “fix their gaze on the holy temple,” BYU will become the temple of learning which prophets foretold. 

President Reese said his administration will focus on anchoring the scholarship of BYU to the school’s Christ-centered mission. This will be done by supporting research that advances the Church’s purposes and blesses the children of God. 

He invited faculty and staff to reflect on the following questions: (1) Is the mission of BYU changing me or am I trying to change the mission of BYU? (2) What might be preventing me from cultivating meekness in a way that enhances my academic contributions through greater access to inspiration and engagement with gospel methodology, concepts, and insights?

“The gospel has been restored on the earth today, and BYU is part of that ongoing and miraculous restoration,” Reese said. 

Following the new university president’s response, Elder Christofferson gave closing remarks. 

He described the affirmative feeling he, along with other general authorities, felt when they chose President Reese to succeed former President Worthen. The feeling that Reese was the right candidate increased when they got to know his wife, Wendy, he said.

He emphasized the importance of compassion and personal relationships going forward.

“One of the easiest ways to identify a true follower of Christ is how compassionately that person chooses to treat others … even more than career success, what truly matters in life is close personal relationships,” Elder Christofferson said.

Leaders of the Church and BYU will have to make difficult decisions in the coming days, he said. He promised that as those leaders focus on what is certain amidst uncertainty, they will find success.

Students hold up a handmade sign to support President Reese at his inauguration. Thousands of students and faculty gathered to celebrate the school’s fourteenth president. (Ethan Porter)
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