When Richard Whitehead first met former BYU professor Monte Nyman, he was immediately lifted by his sheepish grin and quirky stories.

"I love his fun-loving little quips he told," said Acting President of Southern Virginia University Richard Whitehead. "He was always polite and kind to everyone he met."

The Gospel scholar, professor and family man passed away Friday from a long battle with cancer, leaving those who knew him to cherish their time spent with him.

He taught for 30 years as a professor at BYU before going to SVU to teach institute and coach baseball and wrote "Great Are the Words of Isaiah," "An Ensign to All the People The Most Correct Book," along with many other books.

Whitehead first met Nyman when Nyman was SVU's acting president in 2003. He said those around campus enjoyed seeing Nyman walk his beloved dog Rocky, and would always need to be prepared for a quirky story or silly joke.

"If you asked him how many children do you have, he would say 'two and a half-dozen. I got two boys and a half-dozen girls.'" Whitehead said. "That's just how Monte (Nyman) was."

Whitehead said he had a knack for convincing others to become interested in the scriptures, particularly the Book of Isaiah, which many find difficult and a confusing read.

"He understood the deep values, and it made him want to read it and learn more," Whitehead said. "He taught that you have to understand the people who wrote the book and Monte [Nyman] has made that exciting for me.

During his time as a professor of religion at BYU, he also served as associate dean of Book of Mormon studies for the Religious Studies Center during his time there.

While at BYU, David Ridge met Nyman and said he learned much from the religion professor about how to upgrade his own skills teaching religion to young students and said he enjoyed being around Nyman.

"He was very much respected and appreciated," Ridge said. "He had a great sense of humor.

Ridge is now serving a full-time mission with his wife, and the couple is assigned to the Institute of Religion at Southern Virginia University. He said everyone on campus appreciated Nyman and his contributions during his time at SVU.

"Everybody loved him," Ridge said. "They had a house on campus, and it was named the Nyman House."

Along with SVU members, colleague of Nyman and professor of church history at BYU Richard Cowan sincerely appreciated Nyman and the work he accomplished during his time as director of Book of Mormon studies.

"He had the reputation of being able to take care of delicate matters and do them well," Cowan said.

Cowan also said the way he taught about the scriptures was impressive to all those around him.

"When he led discussions for teachers of the Book of Mormon, the fact that he was so definitely well-prepared and was able to expound the teachings of the doctrines so clearly is something I am happy to remember about him," Cowan said.

Nyman had a love for baseball and started out at SVU coaching the sport. Whitehead said he had a hard time deciding between sticking with the sport but decided to spend his time teaching thousands of students about the Gospel.

Whitehead said those who knew Nyman will remember a spiritual person who also loved to tell stories and laugh.

"He loved to have fun," Whitehead said. "He always had a joke, and he always had a story to tell. It was a privilege to know Monte."

Email: sgambles@desnews.com