Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News
LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley greets Steven C. Wheelwright in June at the Conference Center. Wheelwright will be formally inaugurated as the new president of BYU-Hawaii on Tuesday.

LAIE, Hawaii — This country town on Hawaii's north shore is about as far as you can get from Harvard University's premier business school in the notable but cold Atlantic Seaboard city of Boston.

And dealing with the nation's top focused and fired-up graduate students is in contrast to working with undergraduates from across Oceania.

Yet Steven C. Wheelwright, the energetic new president of BYU-Hawaii, a former senior associate dean at Harvard School of Business, finds his work here "very consistent" with his previous efforts.

"I don't view it as unusual. I have spent my life in academics, all my life working with young people. I obviously believe in the mission."

Wheelwright will be formally inaugurated Tuesday.

Interviewed in his office — large windows looking out through palm fronds upon tropical scenery — he said, "It is certainly the prettiest campus — it all looks fabulous. We have students from all over the Pacific Basin; mostly Polynesians, very diverse, very active, very engaged. It is a warmer, more hospitable climate. The students are a little younger, but other than that it is the same. Students are students, although we have a slightly different set of challenges."

The school is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for which Wheelwright has been a mission president and bishop of a singles ward in Boston.

"I am familiar with what life is like and what the world looks like to these young people," he said.

He's a man obviously in love with his work. Already he's had groups of students at his home and recently returned from a trip to visit church leaders across the South Pacific with an eye to recruit the most motivated, prepared students.

Given his expertise in business strategy, he's also looking for ways to improve efficiency and lower costs for the students.

"It is too expensive," he said. "Clearly I am worried about that. We want to continue to improve the quality of educational experience so students are better prepared than they might have been in the past."

A third semester is under study and if implemented it would let students progress faster. And the school is accepting college-level work done in local schools so students can finish in three years instead of the usual four.

"I think we could serve many more students than we now serve," he said. "We want to provide an education for students here, as opposed to providing a Hawaiian experience for students from the mainland."

The former Harvard professor remains committed to developing graduates with skill and integrity. Now, his emphasis is in training those from the Pacific Rim who will return to their homelands as leaders with moral integrity, who can make a difference.

"I didn't establish this mission, but I hope to sharpen the focus on this mission," he said.

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