REXBURG, Idaho — BYU-Idaho is getting a new president.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles made the announcement Tuesday during a campus devotional.
“I have known Elder Meredith since he was a teenager, and my admiration for him only grows as time passes,” Elder Christofferson said as he introduced the new president and his wife, Jennifer.
“You’re going to love them,” Elder Christofferson told thousands of students gathered in the BYU-Idaho Center.
What will Elder Henry J. Eyring do next?
Elder Eyring, who is an Area Seventy, will return to Provo, Utah, and BYU’s Marriott School of Business, where he previously served as director of the MBA program, Elder Christofferson said. He has been asked to develop a Christ-centered leadership curriculum and teach graduate and undergraduate students, Elder Christofferson said.
The apostle said Elder Eyring’s six-year tenure was “outstanding.”
“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I express deep gratitude and love to President Henry J. and Sister Kelly Eyring for their exceptional service.”
Students, faculty and staff gave Elder Eyring a minute-long standing ovation for his service.
Elder Eyring’s father, President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, and other church leaders had charged him with growing BYU-Idaho’s numbers. During his tenure, fall enrollment grew from 17,000 students to more than 24,000 students.
Elders Meredith and Eyring recently worked together in their ecclesiastical roles to reorganize a Latter-day Saint stake presidency in Rexburg.
“From experience, I can attest that Elder and Sister Meredith are prepared to lead this university,” President Eyring said. “They will be led on a steady upward course, and the employees and students will be lifted. As a result, this great institution will get better still.”
The incoming president likewise praised the outgoing president in his first comments to the campus community.
“Following the announcement of his presidency, President Eyring said that he would stand on the shoulders of giants who preceded him,” Elder Meredith said. “He is now one of those giants of this great university and it is a blessing and privilege to stand on his shoulders.”
“In just a few interactions I’ve had with him,” Elder Meredith added, “I’ve learned that President Henry J. Eyring is a builder of people. He is a lifter. He leaves a wonderful legacy of disciple leadership, innovation, inspired teaching and frugality. He has not only guarded the spirit of Ricks, he epitomizes it.”
Elder Eyring streamlined and simplified BYU-Idaho’s curriculum structures and strengthened partnerships with BYU-Pathway Worldwide and Ensign College, Elder Christofferson said. Those changes now provide online educations to tens of thousands of additional students across the world.
Elder Christofferson also praised Elder Eyring for steering BYU-Idaho through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is noteworthy that he did all of this by involving others, a hallmark of President Eyring’s inclusive pattern of leadership,” Elder Christofferson said.
In addition to his leadership of the university, Elder Eyring became known for his public contributions to the national conversation surrounding innovation in higher education. With the late Harvard Business professor Clayton M. Christensen, Elder Eyring wrote “The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out,” which drew on BYU-Idaho as an example of delivering quality education at a reduced price point.
Last year, alongside the presidents of Yeshiva University and Baylor University, and others, Elder Eyring contributed an essay on the topic of religious higher education and innovation for Deseret Magazine.
Elder Meredith will become the 18th president of Ricks College and BYU-Idaho.
He currently is serving in the Middle East/Africa North Area Presidency.
Elder Meredith was in Rexburg in February, when he was the BYU-Idaho devotional speaker. He shared a pattern for revelatory decision-making he observed in how church leaders call new stake presidents — pray and fast, study it out, counsel with trusted people, decide and pray and listen for confirmation.
Elder Meredith served as an Area Seventy for the church in his native Tennessee and in Hong Kong, where he was stationed with his wife, Jennifer Edgin Meredith, and six children for a work assignment.
What Elder Meredith said
“We stand in awe of the uniqueness of this university,” Elder Meredith said Tuesday. “As Sister Meredith has said, we could feel the distinct culture when we first came to campus in February. We are still learning about what contributes to the culture here, and there’s not enough time today to mention all the things that we have observed thus far, but I would call out two things that we find remarkable.
“First, the faculty’s focus on students and teaching them creates an unparalleled learning environment. We have been inspired by the administration and faculty’s commitment to remain student-focused and the singular, unique emphasis on teaching. I look forward to learning from these disciple-leaders. The second observation, the thing that makes this institution so special is that the litmus test for all that happens here is how it affects each student’s testimony of and conversion to Jesus Christ.
Who is Elder Alvin F. Meredith III?
- Elder Meredith was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on July 22, 1970, to Alvin Frazier Meredith Jr. and Mary Smartt Meredith. He married Jennifer Denise Edgin on June 6, 1998, in the Salt Lake Temple. They have six children.
- He served in the Utah Salt Lake City Mission as a young man. He was president of the Utah Salt Lake City South Mission when he was called as a General Authority Seventy on April 3, 2021.
- During his business career, he worked for GE Capital, Boston Consulting Group and Asurion.
- He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Brigham Young University in 1994 and an MBA from the University of Chicago in 2001.
On Tuesday between their remarks, Elder Meredith and Sister Meredith kissed at the podium.
“You will see much more of that,” a beaming Elder Meredith said to laughter from the audience. “I have to tell you that you will love Sister Meredith. You may only tolerate me, but you will love her,” he said later, sparking more laughter. “and we love you already.”
The time Elder Meredith lost a sports award because of his faith
A group of Christian student-athletes at his Tennessee high school elected him to be their president when he was a junior. The group’s state leaders rejected him because they didn’t recognize Latter-day Saints as Christian. The school later relented.
However, as a senior, he won the group’s male athlete of the year award, only to have the state organization reject it again. A representative came to the school to inform him and explained 10 points of doctrine he felt justified the decision to disqualify Elder Meredith.
“I had a really good seminary teacher,” Meredith told the Church News, “so we turned to the scriptures and looked at each of those 10 points. We went to Chronicles and James and the Book of Revelation and Corinthians.
“That man was not persuaded, but I was. My faith was challenged, and through the fire of that challenge, it was strengthened and has never wavered since.”
Recent presidential changes at Latter-day Saint schools
Elder Clark G. Gilbert, commissioner of Church Education, also attended the devotional, as did R. Kelly Haws, secretary to the BYU-Idaho board of trustees.
Leadership at four of the church’s five colleges and universities has turned over in the last two years.
- John “Keoni” Kauwe replaced John Tanner at BYU-Hawaii in July 2020.
- Brian K. Ashton took over for Elder Gilbert as president of BYU-Pathway Worldwide in August 2021. Elder Gilbert became a General Authority Seventy and the church commissioner of education.
- Shane Reese replaced Kevin J Worthen at BYU earlier this month.
- Elder Christofferson said BYU-Idaho would recognize more of Elder Eyring’s accomplishments at BYU-Idaho during July commencement exercises, before Elder Meredith takes the reins of the university on Aug. 1.
Elder Christofferson said Elder Eyring and his wife, Sister Kelly Eyring, “have inspired, taught and provided an exemplary model for each of you and this entire community.
“President Eyring has lifted those around him with his leadership, deep commitment to you students and ongoing efforts to preserve and strengthen the culture and spirit of this great university,” Elder Christofferson said.
What Sister Kelly Eyring said
Sister Kelly Eyring thanked the BYU-Idaho community.
“To the faculty, we express our admiration for the talents you share,” she said. “To the staff and administrators, we are grateful for every hour of time that is consecrated to making BYU-Idaho run so smoothly. And, to the students, we are in awe of your goodness and the opportunity we have enjoyed of being in disciple training with you.
“We feel confident that BYU-Idaho is in preparation mode for the second coming of our Savior Jesus Christ, and we know that Elder and Sister Meredith will be inspired leaders to continue this preparation.”
What Sister Jennifer Meredith said
Sister Jennifer Meredith recalled that the couple’s daughter received the email with her mission call while they were in Rexburg in February for Elder Meredith’s BYU-Idaho devotional address.
“Three months ago, we joined you for a weekly devotional,” she said Tuesday. “From the moment we stepped foot on this campus, we could feel the Spirit as a special place. We were humbled to be with you then and we are humbled now.”
She said several of the missionaries who served in Salt Lake City while the Merediths were leading that mission of the church are now BYU-Idaho students.
“Over the past 25 years, I have seen my husband lead our family and our missionaries with high love, high expectations, good humor and a big smile,” she said. “I know you will come to love and appreciate his warmth and servant-leadership. Our greatest desire for our children, our missionaries, and now for you as our students at this sacred institution is to become lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ.
“I testify that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that we must build our foundation. Jesus Christ is the strength of young adults.”
What Elder Christofferson said
Elder Christofferson spoke about succession in the scriptures. He told BYU-Idaho students and staff they were in good hands.
“I rejoice this day in the fact that for some period of time, you have enjoyed, directly and indirectly, the influence of President Henry J. Eyring and Sister Kelly Eyring. I rejoice that in the months and years ahead, you will be blessed by the leadership and influence of President Alvin F. Meredith and Sister Jennifer Meredith. Above all, I rejoice in your growing covenant relationship with God the Father and his son Jesus Christ.”