C. Shane Reese, 52, officially became president of Brigham Young University earlier this month after taking over for former president Kevin J Worthen.
In a podcast interview conducted by Church News Executive Director Sarah Jane Weaver, Reese talked about the future of the Church of Jesus Christ-sponsored school and his goal of helping it fulfill its prophetic direction.
1. He came from humble beginnings
Reese was born in Logan, Utah, and only lived there a brief time before moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Even though he said he was “not an easy child to raise” his mother did so alone and with grace.
“My mom worked her tail off and was able to support us,” he told the Church News. “I’m certain that times were tight, financially and otherwise. But my mom did amazing work to help me feel like things were wonderful.”
He served a mission in Taiwan and attended Brigham Young University as a first-generation college student. There he got his bachelor's and master's degrees in statistics.
Later he received his doctoral degree from Texas A&M University in the same field, per BYU.
2. His love of sports runs deep
His love of statistics is rooted in his love for sports.
“I’m kind of an avid sports fan and have been since I was a little kid,” he told the Church News.
“It’s not like I woke up, you know, one day and decided statistics was the thing to do,” but it called to him because it was similar to looking up his favorite players’ game stats. He made the choice to pursue statistics after attending an intro class.
He eventually wrote and published an academic paper on the best athletes of all time, called “Bridging Different Eras in Sports,” which was based entirely on players’ individual statistics. It scored him a research position for the NFL.
3. He’s worked for the NFL and on nuclear weapons but chose academics
Reese’s accomplishment of his three academic degrees wasn’t anything he planned on but was “life-changing” for him. He said that education helps “improve our ability to communicate with other people” on broad and deeper topics, as well as improves one’s earning potential.
“Each time I finished a degree, I thought, ‘I’m probably done there. That’s enough education,’” he said. “And luckily, I had mentors along the way ... who I think saw more in me than I saw in myself, and they encouraged me to get more education.”
Other than the NFL, Reese worked in a wide range of fields with statistics, including research on environmental sciences and climate change and even was on the U.S. Olympic Committee — all before working in academics.
“My friends sometimes tell me I have intellectual ADHD, because I can’t decide an area where to apply my statistical tools, everything from climate to sports to nuclear weapons,” he said.
Since joining academics, he’s been the chairman of BYU’s Race, Equity and Belonging Committee, dean of the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences at BYU, among other accomplishments before becoming president of the university.
4. His family is his ‘biggest support’
He and his wife, Wendy Reese, have three kids.
Bryan, who is the youngest, recently returned from his mission and is attending BYU along with his older sister Brittany, who recently got married. Maddie is the oldest.
“My family is my biggest support for sure,” Reese said.
5. What is his vision for Brigham Young University?
The innate faith and spiritual aspect of BYU is the university’s superpower and its recent admission into the Big 12 Conference, will provide the university with a unique opportunity to “let our light shine” on a “whole different stage,” Reese said.
He also spoke of a prophetic vision of the university, which he says he plans to follow.
“We don’t have to invent a new direction,” he told the Church News. “It is becoming what prophets, seers and revelators have foretold BYU could become. And so much of that is going to be us leaning into not only our academic mission, which is critical and important and something we have to pursue with vigor.”
“But,” he finished, “our spiritual mission has to be our anchor.”
“I think we will not succeed in the educational hierarchy in spite of our spiritual mission, but because of our spiritual mission,” Reese said.
Reese has a hope for every BYU student to:
- “See their divine potential,” including finding an area of study they find exciting.
- “Finish their degrees.”
- “Walk out of the university” with a “firmer commitment to making and keeping sacred covenants, embracing their divine identity as children of heavenly parents who love them,” and “become the light that I know that they can all be.”