Past Presidents

Now in its sixth decade, BYU–Hawaii's unique history combines solid moral roots with legacies of evolving academics and interwoven cultures.

On July 2, 1954, David O. McKay, ninth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announced the establishment of a college in Hawaii, fulfilling what he had envisioned 33 years earlier. At that time as Latter-day Saint apostle, he witnessed a flag raising ceremony by children of the Church-sponsored elementary school in Laie, and foresaw an institution of higher learning in this small community. A decorative mosaic above BYU–Hawaii's David O. McKay Building commemorates that historic occasion.

On February 12, 1955, President McKay presided at a groundbreaking ceremony attended by more than 1,000 Church members and guests that marked the beginning of what is today Brigham Young University–Hawaii.

Dr. Reuben D. Law former president of BYU-HawaiiDr. Reuben D. Law

As the first president of the college, Dr. Law played a key role in selecting a suitable site for the campus and designing the curriculum. Under his leadership, the two-year Church College of Hawaii opened the doors of a temporary campus in August 1954 with an enrollment of 153 students.

"Always bear these two things in mind as you proceed with this college," he told the students in the first assembly on September 25, 1955, 

"First, the students must be imbued with the fact and be led to feel that the most important thing in the world is the Gospel (of Jesus Christ) and that the observance of its principles in their lives brings happiness and joy in this life and further progress and exaltation in the life hereafter. And secondly, the college must be fully creditable in all its instruction and activities."

During his tenure, the first students graduated from CCH with associate's degrees, and the labor missionaries under the direction of Joseph E. Wilson completed the first phase of the permanent campus.

Dr. Richard T. Wootton former president of BYU-HawaiiDr. Richard T. Wootton

Dr. Wootton, a member of the original faculty and acting president for the 1958-59 school year, took over the brand-new facilities of the Church College of Hawaii campus in 1959. He was instrumental in getting the school accredited as a four-year liberal arts and teacher training institution on February 23, 1961, and oversaw the school's mounting credibility.

Beginning in 1962, he oversaw the addition of a fifth year to the education program, which qualified students for the State of Hawaii Professional Certificate in Education. Dr. Wootton also worked closely with the administration of the new Polynesian Cultural Center, which opened on October 12, 1963.

Dr. Owen J. Cook former president of BYU-HawaiiDr. Owen J. Cook

Dr. Cook, as Executive Secretary of the Church's Pacific Board of Education, took over the leadership of Church College of Hawaii when Dr. Wootton left in 1964 and was officially named president on August 1, 1965.

President Cook oversaw the increase of enrollment to about 1,200 students who represented every major island group in the Pacific and many Asian rim countries. He also initiated a work/study sponsorship program in cooperation with the Polynesian Cultural Center that continues to help hundreds of students finance their education at BYU–Hawaii every year.

Dr. Stephen L. Brower former president of BYU-HawaiiDr. Stephen L. Brower

Dr. Brower, a former sociology professor at Utah State University, defined the university's role as focusing on spiritual things and creating an academic experience based on a spiritual foundation. He elevated the idea of work ethic, instilling this virtue into the students working at the Polynesian Cultural Center and on campus. He also pointed out forcefully that the intercultural experience on this campus would be one of our unique characteristics, so the spiritual, academic, work and intercultural combination became an educational package for BYU–Hawaii.

The Aloha Center building was also completed under his direction.

Dr. Dan W. Andersen former president of BYU–HawaiiDr. Dan W. Andersen

As the "first" president of BYU–Hawaii, Dr. Andersen reported to Dallin H. Oaks, President of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. President Andersen helped to refine changes instigated by President Brower, and placed strong emphasis on programs to prepare students for living and working in the Pacific and Asia. Several major buildings, including a campus library, were planned and completed under his direction.

Under President Andersen's leadership the University prepared for and, in 1976, received a full ten-year accreditation by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

Dr. J. Elliot Cameron former president of BYU-HawaiiDr. J. Elliot Cameron

A former Vice President for Student Life at BYU in Provo, Utah, Dr. Cameron initiated several dramatic changes to BYU–Hawaii facilities with the completion of the 4,500-seat Cannon Activities Center and the Lorenzo Snow Administration Building, which were conceptualized during Dr. Dan W. Andersen's tenure.

In close cooperation with the Polynesian Cultural Center, President Cameron also extended the university's outreach to China by establishing internships and a faculty-exchange relationship with Jilin University. He left BYU–Hawaii to serve as Commissioner of Education for the Church Educational System.

Dr. Alton L. Wade former president of BYU-HawaiiDr. Alton L. Wade

President Wade assumed the great challenge of reorganizing BYU–Hawaii's academic programs into the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, and the School of Education. He moved the school away from specific vocational technology training to programs that would be the foundation for Computer Science and Information Systems.
In addition, he supervised the renovation of many campus facilities and the construction of the 24-office McKay Faculty Office Building. During his tenure, Alton Wade raised the bar for BYU–Hawaii's academic and athletic programs. He strove to enhance community relations and emphasize the concept of "harmony amidst diversity" among students. President Wade left the BYU–Hawaii campus a better place and went on to become the Vice President of Student Life at BYU in Provo.

Dr. Eric B. Shumway former president of BYU-HawaiiDr. Eric B. Shumway

Dr. Shumway was Vice President for Academics to President Wade before becoming the eighth president of BYU–Hawaii. During his presidency, the University launched the Hawaiian Studies program, the School of Computing, and the Willes Center for International Entrepreneurship. The University also established formal programs dubbed "return-ability" to help students return to their home countries and make a difference in their careers, communities, the Church, and their families. President Shumway also served the Church as Area Authority Seventy for Hawaii and California. He retired after 41 years of service at BYU–Hawaii, and was called to serve as president of the Nuku'alofa Tonga Temple.

Dr. Steven C. Wheelwright president of BYU-HawaiiDr. Steven C. Wheelwright
2007- 2015

Dr. Steven C. Wheelwright, the Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus at Harvard Business School, succeeded President Shumway on June 23, 2007. Dr. Wheelwright is internationally recognized for his ability to solve complex managerial problems and foresee future business trends. In addition to serving as senior associate dean of the Harvard Business School MBA program, he also oversaw the business school's publication activities and on-campus building projects.