Charging him to act as BYU’s “chief moral and spiritual officer” and elevate the school’s core mission as an undergraduate teaching institution, Latter-day Saint leaders formally installed Shane Reese on Tuesday as the university’s 14th president.

The robust ceremony in a packed Marriott Center was drenched in the orchestral pomp and academic-robed circumstance of any collegiate presidential inauguration, but unmistakably directed by the university’s sponsor, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose leaders comprise the school’s board of trustees, led by the church’s prophet-president, Russell M. Nelson.

BYU’s eighth president, Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the church’s First Presidency, and Elder D. Todd Christofferson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, installed Reese at the board’s direction. President Oaks is first vice chair of the board, and Elder Christofferson is chair of its executive committee.

“I charge you to center Brigham Young University on its prophetically inspired direction,” Elder Christofferson told Reese while delivering his charge.

“The board, with the prophet at its head, will safeguard you through an increasingly challenging landscape, and point the way to academic and spiritual success,” he added.

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Reese was visibly moved after they asked his wife, Wendy, to place the presidential medallion around his neck. She hugged him, and President Oaks embraced him. Reese then became emotional during the first of two standing ovations given him by the 16,327 who attended the inauguration.

Wendy Reese places the presidential medallion on BYU President C. Shane Reese during his installation as BYU’s 14th president at the Marriott Center in Provo on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023, as President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, looks on. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

In his response to the charge, Reese said BYU’s mission includes a commitment to Jesus Christ that “provides the anchor of our prophetic promise.”

Elder Ronald A. Rasband, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the executive committee of the board of trustees, said Shane and Wendy Reese both were approved by the First Presidency and full board. He said President Reese had prepared himself for the role academically, spiritually and personally.

“We love you; we admire you and we have confidence in you in leading this magnificent institution into the future,” Elder Rasband said.

He also clearly stated that BYU was founded and is supported, governed and guided uniquely by the church-led board. He said Elder Christofferson’s charge to Reese outlined “the guidance and prophetic direction the board has for President Reese as he takes the helm of this university.”

“This prophetic charge and BYU’s governance structure creates a tremendous advantage for BYU, its president, the work of its faculty and staff and the spiritual development of its students,” Elder Rasband said. “Indeed, it allows, in fact it compels you to do things at this university that could be done nowhere else in the world.”

Elder Christofferson conferred on Reese the responsibilities and authority to act as the university’s chief executive officer, institutional spokesman and overseer of its assets.

“I charge you to commit your time and talents in leading the university during this second half of its second century and to help it become what prophets past and present have foreseen it would become,” Elder Christofferson said to Reese. “In accomplishing this lofty expectation, I charge you with the responsibility to be the university’s chief moral and spiritual officer, this being the most important and most demanding of all your duties as president of the university.”

BYU President C. Shane Reese smiles as he speaks during inauguration as BYU’s 14th president on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023.
BYU President C. Shane Reese smiles as he speaks during his installation as BYU’s 14th president at the Marriott Center in Provo on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Reese responded by saying the university would anchor itself in those duties.

“Anchoring our work in prophetic priorities and making our scholarly resources available to the church will amplify our scholarship and anchor it in gospel methodology,” Reese said. “As we embrace our unique identity and strive to become the BYU of prophecy, we will invest in other areas where we have similar doctrinal roots and natural strengths.”

He said that at BYU, the spiritual and secular are not seen as opposing spheres locked in conflict but as paired aspirations.

“We must differentiate ourselves within the scope of our university work, not independent of that work,” Reese said. “... We must be excellent in both spheres.”

The inauguration was a gathering of BYU history attended by former four former BYU presidents — President Oaks, Elder Merrill J. Bateman, Elder Cecil O. Samuelson and Kevin J Worthen — and Sister Janet Lee Chamberlain, wife of the late BYU President Rex Lee.

As Elder Christofferson charged Reese to elevate BYU’s core mission as “first and foremost an undergraduate teaching institution,” he said, “You should likewise prioritize scholarship that is aligned with the purposes of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and the mission of the church.”

Reese titled his talk “Becoming BYU” and said the challenge of this generation of BYU leaders and his administration is to focus on becoming the BYU, as Elder Christofferson said, that prophets have foreseen.

“Our task, I submit, is to claim in our day the prophecies of the past,” Reese said. “Our task is to become the university that prophets foretold — to become the world’s ‘greatest institution of learning’; ‘the fully anointed university of the Lord about which so much has been spoken in the past’; to become the BYU of prophecy and promise.”

To do so, he said, would require mission-inspired scholarship, mission-aligned hiring, strengthening the student experience, focusing on undergraduate teaching and maintaining BYU’s double heritage or bilingual nature of preserving secular knowledge and revealed truths.

Reese also said BYU must continue to have the courage to be different.

Four former BYU presidents and a former president’s wife are seen attending new BYU President C. Shane Reese’s inauguration.
Four former BYU presidents and a former president’s wife attend BYU President C. Shane Reese’s installation as BYU’s 14th president at the Marriott Center in Provo on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“Like our colleagues at other religious institutions, we exert our strength only to the extent that we embrace and enhance our religious identity,” he said.

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Reese, a BYU graduate and statistician who worked at Los Alamos, had served as academic vice president since June 2019. His presidency, succeeding Worthen, was announced on March 21. While a vice president, he directed the BYU Committee on Race, Equity and Belonging, which led to the creation of an Office of Belonging and appointment of a vice president of belonging.

Elder Clark G. Gilbert, a General Authority Seventy who serves as commissioner of the Church Educational System, conducted the inauguration.

The event also was attended by additional members of the executive committee of the board. Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Presidency of the Seventy and President Camille N. Johnson, Relief Society general president, said the prayers. Another board member, President Emily Belle Freeman, Young Women general president, also attended.

Several universities honored Reese with their attendance, including University of Utah President Taylor Randall, Utah Valley University President Astrid Tuminez, BYU-Idaho President Alvin Meredith, BYU-Hawaii President John “Keoni” Kauwe, BYU-Pathway Worldwide President Brian Ashton and Ensign College President Bruce Kusch. Chad Webb, the administrator of the church’s Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, also attended.

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