Stephen K. Woodhouse was 7 years old when his father unexpectedly died on New Year's Eve in 1946 in Salt Lake City. After his father's death, young Stephen watched his mother, Marie C. Woodhouse, struggle to raise him and his brother on a meager income.
"At a very young age, I learned that if I were going to accomplish anything in this life, I would have to rely on the Lord, my own determination, and the principles my mother was teaching me, which included honesty, hard work, perseverance, and to never give up," he related.So in his youth, he chose a course in life that eventually led to the ownership of successful businesses, an executive position with a large corporation, and numerous secular awards. These achievements culminated last Dec. 12, when he was named president of LDS Business College in Salt Lake City. He was an instructor at the college prior to his appointment as president.
Pres. Woodhouse, 51, bishop of the Dimple Dell Heights Ward, Sandy Utah Granite View Stake, took over the reins of the two-year, Church-owned college, with an enrollment of more than 800 students, on Jan. 1. He succeeded Kenneth H. Beesley, who retired Dec. 31.
"I'm going to be a very student-oriented president," he emphasized, and added that he hopes to help students at the college learn to make good choices and to rely on Heavenly Father to get to where they should be - and that doesn't mean just in a career sense.
"I think our physical facilities and our curriculum help a student learn in a homey atmosphere where he or she is loved, spiritually fed, and taught by a faculty and staff who live the LDS lifestyle. And this gives us a great advantage over other secular institutions in teaching our students both the things they need for a career as well as the things they need for a happy life and family," he said.
Pres. Woodhouse seems to embody these principles. The 6-foot-6-inch college president commands attention, but visitors are quickly put at ease by his warm personality and welcoming smile.
He said he plans "on continuing in the same direction set by Pres. Beesley, except I do want incoming freshman to realize what a fantastic opportunity he or she has in coming here."
He hopes to attract high school graduates through expanded public relations efforts and through new recruiting programs.
In describing his reaction when President Gordon B. Hinckley of the First Presidency appointed him to the position, Pres. Woodhouse related: "It was probably the greatest moment of my life, because I finally realized that all the things I worked for and all the choices I had made in my life had brought me to this one point."
Perhaps the most crucial choice came at age 18, when he decided to serve a mission. At the time, he was almost inactive in the Church, although he was an Eagle Scout and his mother always encouraged him to attend Church.
"I was prompted that I really needed to serve a mission. I went to my bishop. He said, `That's great, but I think you need to come to Church,' " Pres. Woodhouse recalled with a chuckle.
The young man became more involved with the Church and pursued his desire to fulfill a mission. He served in the West German Mission from 1960-1963, which he said set the spiritual course of his life.
The course of his life also included academic achievement. A valedictorian at South High School in Salt Lake City, he earned a full-tuition, four-year scholarship to the University of Utah. He graduated from the university in 1965 with a bachelor's degree in mathematics, and a minor in both physics and German. He went on to receive a master's degree in business administration in 1966, also from the University of Utah.
It was during his undergraduate studies that he met Sytske (pronounced Seet-ska) S. VanZyverden, who was born in Haarlem, Netherlands. Her parents brought her to America with them when she was 6 months old.
"She comes from strong Dutch values," recounted Pres. Woodhouse. The two dated and were married in the Salt Lake Temple June 17, 1966. They are the parents of six children: Troy, 24; Cory, 21; Tyler, 19; Jayme, 16; Sytske, 14; and Kisa, who was stillborn in 1982.
Pres. Woodhouse credits his wife as "the inspiration of my life," and added that one of her many strong points is "she relies on the Lord in all things."
Together, they strive to rely on the Lord through all the transitions of their lives.
Pres. Woodhouse was employed by an international computer company when he resigned in 1972 to form a data processing services company. That company grew until it was sold in 1979 to a large U.S. corporation. The young businessman was named an executive vice president in that company and was transferred to Denver, Colo., where he served in a bishopric and as a high councilor. While there, he bought the data processing services division of the company and, again, formed his own business.
In 1982, Pres. Woodhouse felt prompted to move his family back to Salt Lake City. They returned, and soon after their youngest baby was stillborn and Sister Woodhouse's sister unexpectedly died. "Our extended family went through the grief and sorrow together," Pres. Woodhouse related. "From the start to the finish, I can just see the path of my life being laid out."
This path eventually led to LDS Business College. In 1989, Pres. Woodhouse interviewed for positions with two large corporations in California, but he felt unsure as to what he wanted to do. While he and Sister Woodhouse were on a return flight from California, he pulled out a letter his bishop had passed on to him, which announced an opening for an instructor at the college. His bishop had received the letter from then-Pres. Beesley.
"When we were landing at the Salt Lake airport, I looked at the beautiful mountains and realized that I had an opportunity to fulfill my life's desire of teaching college in a spiritual atmosphere. I told my wife I was going to talk to Pres. Beesley. As soon as I walked in the doors at the college, I knew this was the place I wanted to be."
He worked as a computer information systems instructor until his appointment as president. He is also president of an information systems company in Midvale, Utah, which is a branch of the company he owned in Denver. Upon returning to Salt Lake City, he sold the company, but retained ownership of the branch here.
Sister Woodhouse expressed confidence in her husband's ability to influence others - especially the students at the college - in a positive manner. "It wasn't easy for him when he was young," she noted. "Because he became close to his Heavenly Father, he had confidence to make good choices. I can see the growth he made. This confidence has made him want to give back what he was given."
She said that throughout his life, her husband gained from the example and strength of those he knew. Now he, in return, has opportunities to help and strengthen others.
Many people had a good influence on Pres. Woodhouse throughout his life, and there are those whose names stand out to him. "They had a very positive influence in my life, both spiritually and temporally," he noted.
He hopes to pass on this influence to the students at LDS Business College, and he feels strongly about their needs. "We have an obligation to teach young people strong, sound, moral fundamentals. They are the future of our country and our world."