PROVO, Utah — President Gordon B. Hinckley introduced Elder Cecil O. Samuelson, Jr., a medical doctor now serving in the Presidency of the Seventy, as BYU's new president March 18 — calling him a man "charming in his personality, meticulous in his science, a man of great acumen in administrative affairs."
A capacity crowd of more than 22,000 BYU students, faculty and staff filled the Marriott Center for the announcement, each raising his or her right hand to welcome BYU's 12th president and express appreciation for the outgoing president, Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy.
"We did not select a medical doctor because BYU is sick," said President Hinckley. "It will be his responsibility to keep it in robust health, growing and maturing as one of the great teaching universities of this nation and the world."
As a General Authority, Elder Samuelson served as president of two Church areas, the Utah North Area and the Europe North Area. The Salt Lake City native also served as dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Utah and as vice president of the university's Health Sciences and was the senior vice president of Intermountain Health Care.
"He is a medical doctor with extensive experience in academic and business administration," said President Hinckley. "His curriculum vitae is a long and varied chronicle of broad undertakings."
President Hinckley also lauded the work President Bateman did at the university during his nearly eight-year tenure. "This is a very heavy and demanding responsibility," President Hinckley said. "We feel that the time has come to permit him to resume his full-time responsibility as a General Authority of the Church."
President Hinckley said Church leaders are deeply indebted to President Bateman "for the tremendous service he has given and will yet give."
"There has been constant improvement in the university programs and facilities through various administrations," he said. "These have reached a new high under the administration of Dr. Bateman. I think it fair to say that he has won the respect and admiration of the entire faculty and staff and of this great student body."
President Bateman's performance at the university has been summa cum laude, added President Hinckley. "We honor you, we respect you, we thank you, we love you and wish for you the very best in all the years that lie ahead," he told the outgoing leader.
President Hinckley told the capacity audience that President Samuelson is, in large measure, a product of the University of Utah. "He will take off his crimson-red jacket and put on one of royal blue. . . ," he said. "His personality is delightful. He always has a twinkle in his eye. He is a most friendly and gracious man. And yet he is meticulous in his discipline as a health practitioner and as an administrator.
"He takes a back seat to no one, and yet there is nothing of pride or arrogance in his manner."
President Samuelson told BYU students he is shocked by his new assignment, but noted he sustains the Church leaders who extended the position to him and is excited to face the opportunities ahead.
"To say I am overwhelmed is to call King Kong a monkey," he said.
President Bateman reminisced about the appointment during which the First Presidency asked him to take over BYU's helm 7 1/2 years ago. "Little did I know the change and direction about to take place," he said. "Little did I understand the opportunity ahead."
The years since then, he said, have been some of the richest of his life, during which he learned to love both BYU and its student body.
Sister Marilyn Scholes Bateman, Sister Sharon Giauque Samuelson and Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Twelve and commissioner of Church Education, also addressed the congregation, expressing appreciation for BYU.
Elder Eyring declared that "inspiration runs through this university." A practical example of that, he said, is a program that allows undergraduate students to be involved in university research. He commented that it is "remarkable that the faculty would see in young undergraduates colleagues whom they would welcome into their professional realms in a way that at most universities only graduate students and post-docs are allowed to participate."