John S. Tanner Called as New BYU–Hawaii President

Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer

  • 12 May 2015

John S. Tanner and his wife, Susan W. Tanner. Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles announced May 12 that Brother Tanner will replace Steven C. Wheelwright as president of Brigham Young University–Hawaii this July.

John Sears Tanner, first counselor in the Sunday School general presidency, was announced as the next president for Brigham Young University–Hawaii during a special devotional held in the Cannon Activities Center on the BYU–Hawaii campus, on May 12.
“I feel humbled, but I also feel confident that the Lord will bless me as He has others in the past because He’s the one who directs this university,” Brother Tanner said.
The announcement—made by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—came Tuesday morning after members of the Church’s Educational System Executive Committee addressed students and faculty at BYU–Hawaii.

Brother Tanner, who has spent his career in education, will follow President Steven C. Wheelwright to become the university’s 10th president. Joining Tanner in his new assignment will be his wife, Susan Winder Tanner, former Young Women general president for the Church.
“I’ve always felt on [this] campus a special spirit,” Brother Tanner said. “Because ‘aloha’ here is more than a word, isn’t it? It’s a way of living. It’s a way of living with love and unity and fellowship and hospitality.”
Brother Tanner, who has a bachelor’s degree in English from Brigham Young University and a doctorate in English from the University of California, Berkeley, spent his career in education, both as a professor of English and as a college administrator. He will assume his duties on July 27.
“Dr. Tanner brings a wealth of teaching and administrative experience to this teaching assignment,” Elder Nelson said.
Elder Nelson thanked President Wheelwright and his wife, Margaret, for their almost eight years at BYU–Hawaii. President Wheelwright has served as president since November 6, 2007.
“During this time of sustained growth and impressive progress, he has superbly carried out the mission of this great university, which is to integrate both spiritual and secular learning and to prepare students with character and integrity who can provide leadership in their families, their communities, their chosen fields, and in building up the kingdom of God,” Elder Nelson said.
“I am grateful for the leaders past that have seen in vision what can take place here and will take place here,” he said.

President Wheelwright shared a few words expressing thanks and appreciation for his wife, the faculty and students of BYU–Hawaii, and Church leaders.
The event brought the Church’s Educational System Executive Committee to the university’s campus. The committee includes Elder Nelson; Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy; Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president; and Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy and Commissioner of the Church Educational System.

Each committee member shared a few remarks on the topic of the power of faith, beginning with Elder Nelson.
Recognizing the BYU–Hawaii student body as “most remarkable,” Elder Nelson praised the students from more than 70 countries who have come together to become a university with a higher percentage of international students than any other baccalaureate institution in the United States. It is an institution that brings students together in “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”
“It is regarding that ‘one faith’ that we would like to speak today,” he said. “That faith needs to be strong enough to fortify us through our trials in life.”
In an effort to help students fortify their faith, Elder Nelson invited each of the committee members to share some thoughts about the power of faith.
Elder Johnson spoke first, focusing on faith to gain knowledge and understanding through education. Sister Burton told students to have faith in marriage and family. Elder Hallstrom, who also spent much of his life living in Hawaii, spoke of the “faith to serve.”

“The foundation of our willingness to serve is based on the love we have for Heavenly Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. Having the faith to serve—in family and in church—is an expression of one’s covenants as well as a way to show love for Heavenly Father and the Lord.
Elder Oaks spoke of the “power of the doctrine of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.” He focused his remarks on the doctrines of the gospel, specifically speaking of the importance of marriage and family.
“To these excellent messages, I would add one more concept,” Elder Nelson said. “You students have lived all your lives in a ‘task-oriented’ environment.”
Explaining that students have been meeting standards set by other people as they have passed tests and college courses, Elder Nelson said that as they pass those tests, they then qualify for the next hurdle, making progress toward being able to do their life’s work.
“The time will soon come, however, when you must enlarge your focus from what you want to do in life to what you want to become in life. … What people will remember most about you will be your spiritual attributes,” he said. “They will speak of your faith, virtue, charity, fidelity, dependability, and trust. I could think of no greater accolade for you than to be known as a ‘covenant keeper.’”

John S. Tanner

Family: Born July 27, 1950, in Salt Lake City, Utah, to William Coats Tanner Jr. and Athelia Sears Tanner. Married Susan Winder in the Salt Lake Temple in September 1974. Five children.

Education: Bachelor of arts degree in English from Brigham Young University, 1974; doctorate in English from University of California, Berkeley, 1980.

Employment: Assistant professor at Florida State University; assistant, associate, and full professor at BYU; Fulbright professor (Brazil); chair of English Department at BYU; associate academic vice president and academic vice president at BYU.

Church service: Currently serving as a member of the Sunday School general presidency; former full-time mission to the Brazil South Mission, 1969-71; bishop, stake president, high councilor, Gospel Doctrine teacher, president of the Brazil São Paulo South Mission from 2011 to 2014.