BUENA VISTA, VA. — Elder Paul K. Sybrowsky, released last October from the Second Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a former commissioner of the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities and chairman of the board of directors at Utah Valley University, was introduced Friday morning as the new president of Southern Virginia University.
Located in Virginia's picturesque Shenandoah Valley, Southern Virginia is a private, independent liberal arts college that fully embraces the values and standards of the LDS Church, although it is not endorsed, managed or owned by the church.
Elder Sybrowsky will officially take over as Southern Virginia president on June 1.
"Elder Sybrowsky brings a wealth of experience and success building organizations, raising money and helping universities reach their ambitions," said Glade M. Knight, chair of Southern Virginia's board of trustees. "His leadership in the academic arena, business world and in the church will bless the university, and especially the students. He will build upon the legacy created by all of our presidents, including Rod Smith and Richard Whitehead."
In a telephone interview Thursday night, Elder Sybrowsky said that he and his wife Lynne are excited to become part of the Southern Virginia family.
"We fell in love with the students, the campus, the faculty and the administration" when they visited Southern Virginia for the first time last November to participate in one of the university's weekly religious devotionals.
"As you look into the eyes and the faces of those who are attending Southern Virginia, you realize that you are seeing the cream of the crop of the LDS Church," said Elder Sybrowsky, a BYU graduate and former member of the President's Leadership Council at both BYU and BYU-Hawaii. "This is the rising generation, and they are young men and young women who understand the importance of the gospel in their lives, and who love learning. They are serious students, because this is a serious liberal arts university. But you also see a spirit of happiness. Everyone seems happy.
"Who wouldn't want to be associated with that?"
Elder Sybrowsky acknowledges the unique role that Southern Virginia plays in offering an LDS-oriented collegiate experience to students without being part of the LDS Church's educational system, which includes BYU, BYU-Idaho and BYU-Hawaii. It's a role that he embraces fully.
"We don't pretend to be anything other than what we are," he said. "We are independent, but we are faith-based. Our faith is based on the doctrines of the LDS Church. We know who we are."
As the LDS Church continues to grow all around the world, he said, the percentage of LDS young people who are able to go to a church-owned and operated school like BYU continues to diminish.
"Even at our present size," he said, "we can offer that kind of faith-based educational experience to another 800 young men and young women of the church. And as we grow to our appropriate size, we can offer even more."
Growing to that "appropriate size" — "I am told by our current administrators that the optimum size for an institution like ours is right around 1,200 students," he said — will be one of his primary objectives as he takes office at Southern Virginia.
"We need to build the physical infrastructure to accommodate 300 or 400 more students," he said. Drawing from his professional background as an executive for several multinational companies including the library services coporation Dynix, he said with a chuckle that he knows "there will be some fund-raising involved."
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