Dr. John S. Tanner was formally installed as the 10th president of Brigham Young University ̶ Hawaii on Tuesday, November 10, 2015. An inauguration ceremony was held during a devotional assembly open to the community on the Laie, Hawaii, campus.
President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the Church’s First Presidency and first vice chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees, presided at the event, which he called a “historic point in the history of BYU ̶ Hawaii.”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles conducted the inauguration held in the Cannon Activities Center. Other Church leaders in attendance included Elder Kim B. Clark, a member of the Seventy and commissioner of education for the Church; Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president; and Sister Bonnie K. Oscarson, general president of the Young Women.
“President Tanner, you have your charge to help the Lord build a Zion community here,” said President Eyring, who spoke about the divine purpose of the university. “It is traditional in university inaugurations for the president to receive a charge from his leaders,” he explained. “Since President Tanner and I both knew whose university this is, I was confident he would receive the charge from the Lord.”
President Eyring added, “You have been prepared with unique gifts and experiences to move this university to its destiny.”
“I see a school with prophetic origins,” said President Tanner. “This one came by revelation to a prophet, David O. McKay, who spoke expansively and explicitly about his vision for it. … At the same time, may we take direction from living prophets.”
“I see a school that fashions its programs to fit its target areas in the Pacific and Asia,” he continued. “I also envision a university that is really good at helping international students learn English. … I see a school that serves its vast target area by leveraging resources through collaboration and technology.”
“Here students learn both how to make a living and how to make living happier,” said President Tanner. “But above all, the influence of our graduates for good will be felt in the walls of their own homes.”
Elder Clark called President Tanner and his wife, Susan, pioneers. “The Lord will take them to the frontier of His work in the education and development of the rising generation.”
President Tanner succeeds Steven C. Wheelwright, who served as BYU–Hawaii president from 2007 until the middle of this year. He officially began his tenure as president of the university on July 27, 2015.
Prior to his new role, President Tanner served as first counselor in the Sunday School general presidency (2014–2015) and as academic vice president at BYU in Provo, Utah, from 2004 to 2011. He was BYU’s associate academic vice president for undergraduate and international education from 1992 to 1998, where he developed the BYU Freshman Academy program, and he served as chairman of the BYU English Department from 1998 to 2003. President Tanner joined the BYU faculty in 1982.
A native of Salt Lake City, Utah, President Tanner grew up in South Pasadena, California, and served a mission to the Brazil South Mission. He graduated from BYU with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1974 and later received his Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1980. President Tanner served as president of the Brazil São Paulo South Mission from 2011 to 2014.
President Tanner is married to Susan Winder Tanner, former Young Women general president of the Church. They have five children and 20 grandchildren.
BYU ̶ Hawaii is one of four colleges and universities owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including BYU in Provo, Utah; BYU ̶ Idaho in Rexburg, Idaho; and LDS Business College in Salt Lake City.