New BYU president: Kevin Worthen to replace Cecil Samuelson

Published: Tuesday, March 11 2014 11:50 a.m. MDT

Those in attendance stand to honor President Cecil O. Samuelson of BYU and his wife, Sharon G. Samuelson ,at the end of a devotional in Provo, Tuesday, March 11, 2014, where it was announced that Kevin J Worthen is to become Brigham Young University's 13th president. At right is President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

PROVO — Whoosh, Kevin?

Kevin J Worthen, 57, BYU's advancement vice president and former dean of the BYU law school, will become BYU's 13th president on May 1, replacing Cecil O. Samuelson, 72, whose tenure included a new school basketball tradition: Every time a BYU player makes a free throw, students point to him and say, "Whoosh, Cecil."

The announcement came at the end of Tuesday's regularly scheduled campus devotional and was made by President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and first vice chairman of the BYU Board of Trustees.

A press release issued by the church at LDS.org said a search committee appointed by the board of trustees considered "many outstanding, well-qualified men and women for the position, including internal and external candidates from academe and industry."

"Brother Worthen is well-qualified for this appointment," President Eyring said.

Elder Worthen, an area seventy who has been at BYU for more than a quarter century, said at a press conference that the appointment was humbling.

"To be honest with you, the thing I worry most about, to use a term (late LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley) used during one of his speeches, is that I might 'muff' it, because I really don't consider myself in the same category as those who have come before me."

Elder Worthen said the campus community should not expect any "radical changes," since the overall direction of BYU is set by the board of trustees, but he added that he has found that "nobody is given this kind of assignment to maintain the status quo."

He said he would work within the board's framework to help students be spiritually strengthened and intellectually enlarged.

After the devotional ended, the estimated 4,265 gathered in the Marriott Center gave Elder Samuelson a 50-second standing ovation.

"President Samuelson has served this institution with great distinction," President Eyring said, "and it is important for the faculty, staff, students and supporters of this university to know that the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve and Board of Education unanimously recognize the great work and devotion of President Cecil O. Samuelson to BYU.

"Truly his leadership and influence for good cannot be measured."

Elder Worthen and Elder Samuelson, who the newly announced president thanked Tuesday as a mentor, appeared together two weeks ago in a video released during a BYU basketball game. In the humorous promotional video, Elder Samuelson, Elder Worthen and athletic director Tom Holmoe — all with deadpan expressions — lip sync the song "It's Not Unusual" in the president's office.

Elder Worthen's appointment continues an 18-year trend that a BYU president simultaneously serves in the LDS Church as a seventy. Elder Merrill J. Bateman was a general authority of the church and member of its First Quorum of the Seventy when he became the university's president in 1996. Elder Samuelson also served in that capacity at the time of his appointment in 2003.

Elder Worthen is not a general authority, but he is an area seventy of the church in Utah County.

The appointment also continues a recent tradition of BYU presidents who served as deans at the university before being named president, including Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (1980-89), Rex E. Lee ('89-95) and Elder Bateman ('96-03).

Elder Worthen also earned two degrees at BYU and returned to campus in 1987 to serve as a professor and administrator.

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