Samuelson Settling In as BYU President

Samuelson Settling In as BYU President

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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- Brigham Young University's new president was given a simple directive from LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley before starting his job: "Do what is right."

With those words, Dr. Cecil O. Samuelson Jr. took over as president of BYU on May 1, succeeding Merrill J. Bateman who spent more than seven years in the job. Since then, Samuelson, 61, has found his schedule hectic but exhilarating.

"There really isn't a way to do this other than just jump in and do it," he said.

The appointment came while Samuelson was working full time in Salt Lake City as a general authority for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and 13 years after leaving higher education administration.

After being invited to President Hinckley's office and told of his appointment, his thought was, "That's very interesting."

"One of the wonderful things about this job is that there are lots and lots of people who have served the university for years," Samuelson said. "I don't think it's necessary for the president to have a preparatory course."

Samuelson's younger brother, Wayne M. Samuelson, said he wasn't really surprised about the appointment because he knew his brother was well-qualified for the job.

"But given our life of loyalty to the University of Utah, I just think it was kind of amusing," he said.

All five of the Samuelson siblings graduated from the University of Utah, where their father was a professor.

Wayne Samuelson described Cecil Samuelson as a "tremendous" big brother. Money was tight when he was fresh out of medical school and beginning his internship at Duke University. His brother came to visit and filled the refrigerator with food and the car with gas and left $50 in cash.

"That's the kind of guy he is," he said.

The new BYU president anticipates his favorite part of the job will be the people he works with. "They're bright, they're creative, they've had new and significant experiences that I've not had," Cecil Samuelson said.

"My preference is to surround myself with people who are more able and capable than I am" and then provide them with the resources they need to be successful, he said.

This fall, the university will begin a self-study process, assessing the school's goals and objectives and how well they are being met. Results will be submitted to an accrediting agency. Although this process is periodically done, the timing couldn't be better for Samuelson.

"It is fundamentally the same sort of process I would go through anyway to learn a university I'm not familiar with," he said.

Greg Poulsen, senior vice president at Intermountain Health Care, worked with BYU's new president while Samuelson was a senior vice president in charge of clinical operations for IHC.

"He was able to grasp complicated situations very quickly. His background allowed him to have tremendous clinical capacity as well as a really capable academic approach to complicated problems," Poulsen said.

Samuelson is the first physician to serve as BYU president. Specializing in internal medicine and rheumatology, he served as vice president for health sciences at the University of Utah and dean of the University of Utah School of Medicine. He also received his medical degree at the University of Utah.

"Good physicians tend to be good listeners, not only to what is said, but what is not said," Samuelson said.

While grateful for the education and employment experience received at the University of Utah, Samuelson said he will have no problem donning BYU blue.

"It appears to me that that's a lot bigger issue for everybody else than it is for me," he said. "I'm thrilled to be at BYU and I'm absolutely loyal to BYU."

Sports rivalry aside, Samuelson's appointment will allow BYU and the University of Utah to continue working closely together in academic matters and state development, said Chase N. Peterson, former president of and current professor of medicine at the University of Utah. Major companies have come to Utah because of the joint existence of BYU and the University of Utah.

"I think we've always worked very well together but this is even going to be better," Peterson said. Samuelson served as vice president of health sciences at the University of Utah while Peterson was University of Utah president.

Currently commuting from Holladay, Samuelson said he and his wife, Sharon Giauque, plan to move to Provo this summer. They have five children and three grandchildren. Although some BYU presidents have later been called to serve as LDS Church general authorities, Samuelson is only the second man to become president as a general authority. Bateman was the first, he said.

Samuelson still serves as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. He has served in the LDS Church as a regional representative, stake president, stake high councilor, branch president and missionary. He has also served as president of the church's Utah North area, second counselor in the North American West Area presidency and president of the Europe North area.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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