OREM — The president of Utah's largest university is leaving to accept a Mormon mission call.
President Matthew Holland announced Monday he will complete his ninth year at Utah Valley University in June 2018 and then step down to become president of an LDS Church mission in July.
Holland, 50, and his wife, Paige, do not know which mission they will preside over, only that it will be an English-speaking mission.
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is everything in my life," Holland said. "Along with my family, the most important thing in my life is my faith. We look forward to doing this as a family. I consider it an absolute privilege to be able to have this opportunity."
Church leaders will announce new mission president assignments later this year. Holland is the son of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a past president of Brigham Young University and a member of the one of the faith's leading councils, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
UVU faculty and students and state education leaders expressed said Holland will be missed.
"Matt has been a transformative president at Utah Valley University," said David Buhler, Utah's Commissioner of Higher Education.
Holland aimed to improve UVU's academic quality without sacrificing the school's original vocational mission. He created a unique dual model system, building a university with improved faculty quality and programming around a community college.
Holland took over at UVU a year after the school became a university and has presided over immense growth. Enrollment expanded to over 37,000 this fall from more than 26,000 in June 2009.
"UVU has meant the world to me," he said. "I love this institution. I love the people here. I love the mission that we have. I just can't imagine a more rewarding mission and atmosphere in higher education today, truly. We're doing some unique things at scale, and students are voting with their feet. They're coming, and they're staying."
In fact, they are staying in much larger numbers.
UVU began awarding four-year degrees in 1993 as Utah Valley State College. In fact, while UVU is growing across all classes, most of the enrollment growth has come in the upper divisions. UVU's senior class this semester is 51 percent larger than the senior class in the fall of 2008. The junior class is up 36 percent over that time. The sophomore class (21 percent) and freshman class (13 percent) also have seen growth.
UVU surpassed the University of Utah as the state’s largest school in 2015. The school is projected to reach 45,000 students by 2025.
Then it will keep growing. Utah Valley's population is nearing 600,000, and it is expected to grow to 1.6 million over the next 50 years.
"It has been a remarkable period of growth and development," said Daniel W. Campbell, chair of the Utah Board of Regents and former chair of UVU's board of trustees. Matt and Paige’s service has been exceptional. We will miss them greatly but wish them well in their future endeavors."
The Board of Regents soon will name a search committee and commence a national search for a new president to oversee that growth, Buhler said. The plan is to hire Holland's replacement in time to begin in June. (See accompanying story.)
Holland also grew UVU's assets. The university has seen its endowment balloon from $33 million to $93 million over the past eight years.
The Holland administration has raised a total of $101.6 million in eight years, nearly 25 percent more than was raised in the previous 20 years.
He used some of that money to reduce the number of courses taught by adjunct, or part-time professors. Today, nearly 56 percent of classes are taught by salaried faculty, up from 48.7 percent in 2010.
"We view the increased support for tenure-track faculty very positively," said Craig Thulin, UVU faculty senate president and a biochemistry professor. "This announcement was a great disappointment because President Holland is a fantastic leader for UVU, and he will be sorely missed by the faculty."
Thulin said some faculty questioned the Board of Regents' decision to hire Holland, who was a BYU political science professor, because he didn't have obvious administrative experience. "Within a couple of years," Thulin said, "those with an initial negative reaction became vociferous fans as he demonstrated his enthusiasm for the mission of the university and an understanding that faculty is key to student success."
Thulin said he hoped Holland's successor will maintain his direction.
To that end, Holland has overseen the creation of new master plans for academics, facilities and strategic growth management. Among his goals for the next seven months will be to integrate those plans, complete fundraising efforts and steer a major legislative agenda.
"That will really map out the institution for frankly the next 10 years or so in terms of being able to handle all of this growth and move forward with a mission that works for the state and the community," he said. "These are initiatives designed to help us build an undergraduate experience that befits our aim to be nothing less than the nation's best open-admissions platform for student success."
Monday's news caught the campus by surprise, the same as it did the Hollands a few weeks ago.
"I'm definitely said to see President Holland go," said student body president Rob Smith, 24, a senior from Orem majoring in political science. "He came in just as we became a university and he's helped it flourish and grow."
Holland has completed UVU's transition to a full-fledged university with 44 certificate programs, 62 associate degrees, 84 bachelor degrees, three graduate certificates and eight master degrees.
"Everyone knew he'd eventually go on to do more great things," added Smith, who coached the Hollands' oldest child, Jake, in basketball at nearby Mountain View High School. Jake Holland is serving an LDS mission in Uruguay.
Holland said UVU benefited from founding president Wilson Sorenson's vision to buy 200 acres in the 1970s. He has pursued land acquisition to provide space for UVU's growth.
The expansion included a new satellite campus 16 miles north in Lehi, with Utah's Frontrunner commuter rail service as its spine. Holland oversaw a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 10-acre Lehi campus in March.
Earlier this year, the Utah Legislature approved state funding for a $14 million pedestrian and bicycle bridge over I-15 that will connect UVU to the Orem Frontrunner station just across the freeway.
In April, Holland announced the university was buying 30 acres of land in Payson from Property Reserve Inc. for what could become another satellite campus to the south, where Frontrunner is expected to go in the future.
He also oversaw the purchase of 225 acres across I-15 to the west of the main campus, in Vineyard. The school also has a 40-acre campus in Heber in Wasatch County. The main campus will grow denser and taller, he said.18 comments on this story
Holland also focused on student success. He developed core themes for student sucess, engagement, inclusion and serious scholarship and standards.
"Matt Holland's vision for engaged learning and student success has propelled UVU into the national and international spotlight," said Elaine Dalton, chair of the UVU Board of Trustees and former Young Women general president of the LDS Church. "We will remain committed to the upward trajectory President Holland has envisioned and established."