BYU Pres. Merrill J. Bateman was identified as a man of "large capacity and solid faith" by President Gordon B. Hinckley during tributes paid to the university's 11th president at his formal inauguration April 25. The inaugural ceremony took place in conjunction with the BYU's spring commencement.
More than 17,000 people were in the Marriott Center for the combined ceremonies conducted by President Hinckley, who is chairman of the BYU board of trustees.Pres. Bateman, also a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, shared the spotlight with 5,518 graduates. He was installed by and received his charge from President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency. (See related report on page 9.)
Others who congratulated Pres. Bateman during short greetings were Eric B. Shumway, president of BYU-Hawaii; Earlene Durrant, co-chair of the BYU faculty advisory council; Raylene Hadley, chair of the administrative advisory council; Wesley J. McDougal, president of the BYU student service association; and Thomas W. Hart, president of the alumni association.
Continuing his comments about Pres. Bateman, President Hinckley said: "His academic credentials are spotless. His experience in the real world of business and management has been remarkable. His service in the ministry of the Lord has been constant and wonderful.
"I seriously wonder if there is another institution in the nation, or even in the world, of this size, where the choice of a president becomes a matter of prayer on the part of the institution's trustees. I can assure you that when the trustees were faced with the responsibility of finding a successor to our beloved friend, Pres. Rex E. Lee, there was prayer, and there was direction.
"I feel also that under the trust imposed in Pres. Bateman he will be accountable not only to the trustees, but also to the Lord, for this university is a part of His work."
President Hinckley then turned his attention to the graduates and congratulated them on behalf of the trustees.
"This is your day," he said. "To each of you, I wish good fortune."
While acknowledging to the graduates the importance of a secular education in the job marketplace, President Hinckley reminded them there is another side to education.
To make his point, he quoted from a talk given by President David O. McKay in the April 1928 general conference: " `True education does not consist merely in the acquiring of a few facts of science, history, literature or art, but in the development of character.' "
President Hinckley spoke of death and suffering caused by wars today because civility and mutual respect seem to have disappeared.
"But civility also appears to be fading much closer to home," he continued. "Civility covers a host of matters in the relationships among human beings. Its presence is described in such terms as `good manners' and `good breeding.' But everywhere about us we see the opposite."
He said that crime is essentially an absence of civility and that a report based on a study by the U.S. Justice Department placed the cost of crime to Americans at almost $500 billion.
"It is appalling," he said. "It is alarming. And when all is said and done, the cost can be attributed almost entirely to human greed, to uncontrolled passion, to a total disregard for the rights of others. In other words, to a lack of civility."
He noted that vulgar language shows a lack of civility and said: "I hope that every one of you in this graduating class will rise above it. You are now graduates of this great institution. You cannot afford the image of those whose vocabularies are so impoverished that they must reach into the gutter for words with which to express themselves."
He also warned against profane language and asked graduates to carry with them a polish that marks them as people who love the better qualities of life.
He asked the graduates to take with them from BYU a mark of refinement.
"I am not suggesting that you be soft and docile," he said. "I hope you will be enthusiastic and aggressive as you pursue your objectives. But I also hope that you will be enthusiastic and aggressive as you reach out to lift, to help, to encourage those whose lives you can touch for good."
In the combined ceremony, Pres. Bateman served as the graduation speaker after he was installed as the university's leader. He told the graduates he has taken a solemn oath to preserve, protect and defend BYU.
He briefly recounted the history of BYU, its growth and rise in academic accomplishments.
Then he said: "The one constant throughout BYU's history is its spiritual commitment. From President Brigham Young's initial charge to Karl G. Maeser to President Thomas S. Monson's charge today, every subject is to be taught with testimony under the direction of the Spirit. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the common denominator at this university and embraces all subjects."
He then spoke of the future of BYU, and said that in spite of trends and expected accomplishments, there are two concerns.
He said: "The first is that proportionately fewer and fewer Church members will be benefited by the university." That means, he continued, that the university must be as efficient as possible.
"The second concern is the moral relativism spreading throughout higher education both in America and abroad," he said.
Pres. Bateman noted: "The driving theory is a radical relativism and skepticism that rejects any idea of truth or knowledge. There are no absolute truths - only that which is politically useful. . . . The premise is no truth, no facts, no objectivity - only will and power."
Then he asked: "Where is Brigham Young amidst these transformations in higher education? Fortunately, the board of trustees are totally committed to the pursuit of academic truth within the framework of revealed truth. Annually, Church leaders reaffirm verbally and with financial support their commitment to higher education and the dual function of the university - secular learning the lesser value, and spiritual development, the greater. At BYU, the purpose of education is to make men and women whole, both in competence and in conscience."
The graduates gave Pres. Bateman a rousing ovation after his talk, and moments later he conferred upon them their various degrees. There were graduates from 49 states and 53 other countries.
Inauguration day events for Pres. Bateman included a noon luncheon in the Ernest L. Wilkinson Center Ballroom. Among the guests were General Authorities; members of the BYU board of trustees; BYU administrators, staff and faculty; friends of BYU; and delegates representing colleges, universities and learning societies from throughout the country.
The program included entertainment provided by the BYU International Folk Dancers and Folk Music Ensemble.