The appointment of Rex E. Lee as the 10th president of Brigham Young University gives the school a leader who has fashioned an outstanding reputation in the field of law and one who is known and respected in the Eastern United States as well as the Mountain West.
As a former assistant U.S. attorney general and later as U.S. solicitor general, Lee has been a familiar figure in the nation's capital and is well known in Congress. He is one of only a handful of living lawyers who has argued as many as 50 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He once served a year as law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White.Yet Lee brings more to the BYU presidency than legal expertise. He is familiar with the campus, serving as the first dean of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School. Since 1985 he has been George Sutherland Professor of Law at BYU as well as pursuing a private law practice with a Washington, D.C., firm.
Before enrolling in the University of Chicago law school he graduated from BYU where he was valedictorian and student body president. Clearly, his ties to the school have been long and close.
Lee is a man of humility, faith and years of quiet church service, including being a bishop and stake president fulfilling a mission to Mexico as a young man.
The academic life appeals to him. He has described the relationship with students and faculty as deeply rewarding, saying: "There is simply nothing like it anywhere."
The 54-year-old Lee, who will take office July 1, succeeds Jeffrey R. Holland as president. The eloquent Holland, who led BYU for nine years, has been called to serve as a general authority of the LDS Church in the First Quorum of the Seventy.
Those will be big shoes to fill. But Lee has the intellectual capacity, the experience, the administrative skills and the personality to perform admirably in the challenging post.
As the largest church-sponsored university in the nation, BYU has more than 26,000 students, a sprawling but lovely campus, and a reputation for a circumspect and religious-oriented lifestyle. In addition, it has a steadily growing reputation for academic excellence.
In his acceptance speech, Lee noted that BYU occupies a unique place among the world's universities: "What puts us in a class by ourselves is that our reason for existence is not just to nurture the intellect, but the entire soul, of which the intellect is a constituent part."
The challenge that faces Lee is not only to maintain these qualities and conditions that make up BYU, but to improve and build upon them. He is superbly qualified to accomplish the job, and the university is fortunate to have him.