BYU’s presidential love stories

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BYU is written into many students’ love stories, and it’s no different for those that lead the campus.

Current President C. Shane Reese met his wife at BYU. Previous president Kevin J. Worthen started at BYU as a young husband, with the support of his wife. Before President Worthen, Cecil O. Samuelson and his wife came to BYU later in their adult years.

President and Sister Reese

BYU President C. Shane Reese’s most cherished memory of BYU is the moment he saw his wife Wendy for the first time.

Sister Wendy Reese and President C. Shane Reese celebrate their wedding day. The Reese’s were married in December 1993. (Y Magazine)

President Reese said that his decision to marry his wife Sister Wendy Wood Reese was the best decision of his life. They first met when they were both BYU students during the summer of 1992.

“I was … at my sink and looked across the courtyard and saw (and I didn’t know who it was) my wife walking across the courtyard. That day is etched in my mind,” President Reese said.

Later that same day, Wendy Wood agreed to go with President Reese and his roommate to the Manti, Utah Pageant. They sat next to each other at the performance, and by the end of the night their excursion had turned into a date. The two saw each other every day after that.

“That first night as we drove down to the Manti Pageant, I could feel her goodness,” President Reese said at a recent campus event. “I loved that about her from the moment that I met her.”

The Reese’s were married in December 1993. President Reese graduated BYU with his undergraduate degree in statistics in 1994. Sister Reese graduated BYU with her undergraduate degree in elementary education in 1995. They have three children, and have been at BYU for most of their married life. President Reese completed his masters at BYU and has been part of BYU’s faculty for more than 20 years.

In her September 2023 devotional, Sister Reese said she loved BYU since she was “a little girl,” and that growing up she would pray for two things, to become a student at BYU and to find a good man to share her life with.

“President Reese wanted me to say that I got more than I bargained for. I also got a man who is smart, funny, athletic, and incredibly good-looking!” Sister Reese said.

President and Sister Worthen

President Kevin J Worthen served as the 13th president of BYU from 2014 to 2023.

Ryan Turner
President and Sister Worthen sit in the Marriot Center in September 2016. The two met before President Worthen became a BYU student. (Ryan Turner)

President Worthen and his wife Peggy Sealy Worthen grew up a few blocks away from each other but didn’t connect until after President Worthen returned home from his mission to Mexico, according to Y Magazine.

They spoke at a church dance, and a few days later President Worthen nervously picked up the phone to call her.

“This is Kevin Worthen. You may not know me,” President Worthen said over the phone.

He didn’t know that Sister Worthen already knew exactly who he was. She had a crush on him for several years. Sister Worthen agreed to go to Lagoon with him and some friends, and soon after they began dating.

President Worthen stood by Sister Worthen while she took missionary discussions and eventually joined the Church. By the fall of 1978 they were engaged and President Worthen started his undergrad at BYU. They were married in the Provo Utah Temple later that year in 1978.

The Worthen’s pose for a photo in the early 2000s. Children Aaron, Kaylee, and C.J. were all students at BYU when President Worthen was appointed as president. (Y Magazine)

They had three children together, and Sister Worthen supported President Worthen through his schooling at BYU and law career, which took them to Washington, D.C. Years later they returned to BYU where President Worthen began teaching. This gave Sister Worthen the opportunity to go back to school.

“I’d always get a little heartbroken when I’d see people getting their [graduation] picture taken by the cougar … I’d think, ‘That’s what I want to do,’” Sister Worthen said.

President Worthen supported his wife, and eight years later she graduated with a BYU bachelor’s degree in English in 2003.

They have several grandchildren and love family. After the end of his tenure as President of BYU, President Worthen started teaching as a visiting professor at Yale Law School.

President and Sister Samuelson

President Cecil O. Samuelson served as the 12th president of BYU from 2003 to 2014.

Sister Sharon Giauque Samuelson and President Cecil O. Samuelson cut cake on their wedding day. They were married in November 1964. (Brigham Young University)

President Samuelson jokingly described his relationship as an “arranged marriage” to his wife Sister Sharon Giauque Samuelson in a 2013 devotional address.

The two met while students at the University of Utah. Sister Samuelson worked in the same office as President Samuelson’s father. President Samuelson returned home from his mission and Sister Samuelson hoped that they would meet.

“I hoped his dad was giving him encouragement to ask me out on a date,” Sister Samuelson said in a devotional address.

It didn’t happen as fast as she said she hoped, but Sister Samuelson made sure she was single when President Samuelson finally asked her on a date.

“It is obvious from the fact that we are standing here together that with a little time and encouragement from his dad, we dated and eventually married — one parent-arranged marriage that was successful,” Sister Samuelson said.

They married in Nov. 25, 1964 in the Salt Lake City Utah Temple. They have five children and several grandchildren.

The Samuelson family stands together for a photo. President and Sister Samuelson stand in the center of the photo surrounded by their children and grandchildren. (Brigham Young University)

At BYU, they became known for their joint service to all those around them.

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