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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News archives
Elder Paul K. and Sister Lynne Prior Sybrowsky

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."

"From an educational standpoint, this is an outstanding university at the present time," Elder Sybrowsky said. "People like (acting President and Vice President of Institutional Advancement) Richard Whitehead have done a magnificent job of creating that educational environment. People are drawn here and love the institution and are dedicated to it. You've got to love that!"

For that reason, he said, "the first thing I want to do is stand on the great shoulders of those who have led this university before me. These were men of honor, men with a passion for education as well as for the standards of the church. I want to learn from them, and learn from their history the things they have done to make Southern Virginia to be the great school that it is."

Standing on those shoulders, he said, "will give us a heightened perspective from which we can look to the future and see the school achieving its incredible potential."

Elder Sybrowsky said the next three months will be a transitional period during which he will be working closely with Whitehead and other Southern Virginia administrators and staff prior to assuming his new role as university president on June 1. Meanwhile, he extends an invitation to all LDS young people who are considering their future educational alternatives: "Why not come and see and experience the excellence of Southern Virginia?"