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A Historic and Special Day

At services like these, we are never entirely sure whether we are allowed to applaud or not. We are allowed, and we hope that applause carries over to those in the choir for their music as well as to all who have spoken. While we are at it, we should acknowledge that President Kauwe’s mother is here in the front row. I think if anyone in the room deserves a little applause, it is Sister Kauwe.

President, Monica, your delightful family with whom we have enjoyed getting acquainted, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, students of BYU–Hawaii, and all distinguished guests, welcome. Thank you for your attendance today.

This is a beautiful and a historic day at Brigham Young University–Hawaii. Of course it is always beautiful in Laie, but today it is historic as well. Such is always the case at the inauguration of a new president. In the two-thirds of a century that this school has been in existence, we have held such installations only 10 other times. There is always a spirit of institutional pride, shared goodwill, and community celebration on a campus at times like this, and rightfully so. Sister Holland and I enthusiastically join with all of you in that spirit of the day. Every now and then— and I say this primarily to the students—school is supposed to just be fun. Now most days you won’t think that, but today is one of those, so I command all of you to be happy. You are to have fun today in one of the highlight days in this university’s history.

Thank you, President Kauwe, for your life, for your marriage and family, for your preparation, and for that marvelous acceptance speech. I think you did accept, didn’t you? We love you for accepting this marvelous assignment as president. As noted, yours is to be the major message of this day. So let me conclude these services, so ably conducted by our new commissioner, with just three observations that are, I believe, consistent with the charge that you have just received and with your view of the history of this institution. I should note that it is good that we got here and installed President Kauwe before he retired, inasmuch as he has already been at work for a year and a half and can thus speak so authoritatively on the accomplishments already made in that term of service. That is a wonderful omen for the future.

First of all, today is special because it marks a fresh, new, ever-higher level of contribution by Brigham Young University–Hawaii to the world of higher education and to the small but increasingly significant Church Educational System of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As the Church itself grows in strength and influence, so too does this campus, with its unique position in a system that can be, and is determined to be, a unified force for good in the world. Heretofore the word system in our umbrella organization—the Church Educational System—meant it was one of a half dozen or so institutions or agencies loosely linked to one another in a fraternal sort of way, with shared access to a common commissioner’s office and board of trustees.

Today, with the charge that has already been given to President Kauwe, we are hoping— indeed, we are expecting—that BYU–Hawaii will work in ever more harmony with her sister institutions to use our generous resources ever more effectively and see ourselves more and more visibly as representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the educational world.

Our principal target area for BYU–Hawaii, as has been mentioned and as you know, will continue to be Pacific- and Asia-oriented areas of the Church. We will always have an agreed-upon component of students from the mainland, but that must be constantly monitored and limited. We will also have a representative group over time from Latin America, Africa, and even parts of Europe. We have in the past; we will in the future. But these will be relatively small groups compared to our principal populations from Hawaii itself, from other islands of the Pacific that we have loved for so long on this campus, and from the broad semicircle of the Asian Rim, so increasingly important to us. We are in hopes that an ever-larger population of students and future leaders will come from these lands.

One might ask, “How is this new today? We have been doing this for years at BYU– Hawaii.” My response is that what we have done in the past has led us marvelously to this day, but in no way is it sufficient for the trajectory the Church and the university are now on. We need to do all we have done in the past but do it better, for more students, in less time. The financial investment in BYU–Hawaii is huge. We need to extend those resources to more students, with such things as reduced time on campus, ongoing curriculum innovation, in-field internships, and on-time graduation—to name a few principles. It will also be expected that the entire system will come into play in these and other tasks, with different kinds of assistance coming to this campus from those schools even as BYU–Hawaii makes contributions to them in return. The idea of a true emerging system in the Church is one reason today is not only special but historic.

Second, today is special because it is one more conspicuous step in the fulfillment of prophecy that is inextricably linked with this particular campus. I think I am in no danger of exaggeration if I assert that more has been said more often by more people about the prophesied future of this school than of any other school in our system—indeed, perhaps more than the prophecies about all of our other institutions put together! From the time that then Elder David O. McKay witnessed that flag-raising ceremony, alluded to by President Kauwe, by those schoolchildren here on this property in 1921 until today, there have been prophecies and promises, projections and pioneering efforts to make this school something very special under the hand of the Lord and guidance of His prophets. Elder McKay blessed the school at that early time of its development to be an influence not for “thousands, not [for] tens of thousands, but [for] millions of people” [1] who would come here.

Some 20 years later, in 1973, President Marion G. Romney said:

"This college is [to be] a living laboratory in which individuals who share the teachings of the Master Teacher have an opportunity to develop appreciation, tolerance, and esteem for one another. For what can be done here interculturally in a small way is what mankind must do on a large scale if we are ever to have real brotherhood on this earth." [2]

However true that was in 1973, the need is even greater today, our time being riddled with divisiveness, conflict, animosity, and politicization of almost everything. We have spoken long and often of prophecies uttered regarding this campus. Today is historic because we are making yet another step toward the fulfillment of prophecy on this campus.

Third and last, today is special—and this is the most tender of all for me—because for the first time we are installing a native son as president of this university. We have had a remarkable series of presidents at this school, an unusually competent and creative list of administrators—one of them, President Eric B. Shumway, is here with us today. As an exception to that excellence, even I was for a time technically the president of this university by virtue of my presidency in Provo. (It strikes me that I’ve never been inaugurated. We should do something about that, maybe today. I’m getting old. You had better hurry!) Now eliminate me from that earlier list of presidents and you will see that those other fellows were all magnificent. However, every single one of us has been a haole. In the future, the president of this university might again be a haole, or be one of any other race or color or gender or nationality. But today—today we install a son of Hawaii. And for me, of all the indicators we are celebrating today, that may be the most significant indicator of the growth and maturity of this university.

I am very proud that John “Keoni” S.K. Kauwe III is a descendant of Kaleohano—one of the first and most influential native converts to be baptized by Elder George Q. Cannon on the island of Maui in July 1851. [3] President Kauwe spent much of his growing-up years in Hawaii, including on the island of Molokai, where the family still has homestead land and where young Keoni graduated from high school at age 16. Something of an island wonder boy, President Kauwe enrolled at Brigham Young University in Provo, where he completed his bachelor’s degree in molecular biology in just three years—at age 19. The day of his college graduation ceremony in Provo, President Kauwe received his mission call to the Japan Fukuoka Mission. The rest, as they say, is history, filled with marriage to Monica, graduate school, the arrival over time of five beautiful children, and terms as chairman of the Department of Biology and dean of Graduate Studies at BYU, all of which prepared this young Hawaiian boy for the presidency of this university.

So, today is very historic as well as fun, but the great work of BYU–Hawaii is still ahead of us. As President McKay said on that fateful day in 1955, the purposes for this school being built are, first, to pursue “the things pertaining to God and His kingdom”; second, this school is to be a place in which those who are obeying divine principles will cultivate the “character [that will] make noble men and women” in the world’s work. [4]

President McKay also said, “What an example [will exist] in this little place of the purpose [for uniting] all peoples by the gospel of Jesus Christ.” [5]

Those great purposes of BYU–Hawaii will demand the very best of us. They will demand the very best of Keoni Kauwe. We have looked far and wide to find the very best to lead out in this next chapter of the quest. We found him who will be the youngest president ever to serve here and a true native son of these beautiful islands of his ancestors. We have asked him to step forward into this community with that nobility of character for which Kaleohano was known and to build to maturity a corner of the kingdom of heaven right here in Laie. These were the two tasks that the prophets gave us to do. We wish him Godspeed and every blessing necessary for success, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


  1. David O. McKay, “Church College of Hawaii Groundbreaking Address and Prayer,” 12 February 1955, in Something Wonderful: Brigham |oung University–Hawaii Foundational Speeches ( Laie: B righam Young University–Hawaii, 2012), 15.
  2. Marion G. Romney, “Aloha Center Dedicatory Address and Prayer,” 26 January 1973, in Something Wonderful, 42.
  3. The Journals of George Q. Cannon: Hawaiian Mission, 1850–1854, ed. Chad M. Orton, vol. 2 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2014), 99.
  4. McKay, “Church College of Hawaii,” in Something Wonderful, 12.
  5. McKay, “Church College of Hawaii,” in Something Wonderful, 9.