Standing on the Shoulders of Giants


President Eric B. ShumwayJubliee Devotional Given at
Brigham Young University–Hawaii

October 18, 2005
President Eric B. Shumway
President of Brigham Young University–Hawaii

Aloha, this is a very moving and joyous sight. In the last nine months of this Jubilee year I have sensed several times, as if communicated through the veil, the personal interest and the affection of the men and women whose vision and sacrifice made this university what it is today. We have celebrated over these months the visionary founder of the campus, President David O. McKay, many faculty, construction missionaries, and a number of graduates.

Today, I should like to honor the first seven presidents of this institution, three of whom are on the stand: Dan W. Andersen, J. Elliot Cameron, and Alton Wade. With Presidents Cameron and Wade are their incredible wives, Maxine Cameron and Diana Wade. Unfortunately, because of time, I won't be able to say much about the wives of the presidents. That's for another time and another talk.

I've entitled my remarks today "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants." I pray earnestly that the Holy Spirit will open our eyes and expand our imaginations to see the Lord's intimate concern and guidance of this campus over the years. And despite human frailty the campus has made steady progress.

When David O. McKay became president of the Church in 1951, the vision of an institution of higher learning in La'ie, Hawaii, was still on his mind. Such an investment of Church funds in a tiny village on a tiny island in the Pacific seemed counterintuitive to some. But President McKay was adamant about the school and the place. In 1954 he selected Reuben D. Law, Dean of Education at BYU, to be the first president. It is not difficult to imagine the magnitude of this calling, to be the president of a school that did not exist yet, no students, no faculty, no curriculum, and no buildings—not even an exact location. President Law's assignment was to "turn President McKay's vision into a reality." President McKay said to Dr. Law, "You have my sincere blessings. You have my full confidence. You have the positive approach not the negative."

Seven months later, February 12, 1955 President McKay broke ground for the college and insisted that the doors open to students that very Fall. The grandeur of President McKay's dedicatory speech about what the school would become and the influence it would have in the Church and the world might have been intimidating to a lesser soul than Reuben Law.

Starting from scratch, a million details had to be addressed, each one of which could have been overwhelming. But Law did not flinch. He may have felt more apprehension if it weren't for four critical elements: (1) His absolute and fervent testimony of President McKay's calling as a prophet, seer, and revelator; (2) his direct access to President McKay on nearly all matters concerning the college, including budget, thus bypassing much of the bureaucracy and red tape of the Church; (3) his immaculate and courageous wife, Leda Law, who became a full partner in the college building enterprise. The Laws had just constructed their own new home in Provo when the call was extended to come to La'ie, but Leda "cheerfully gave away what the family had collected thirty years to become the mother of the new campus." And (4), a knowledgeable and supportive local Board of Trustees chaired by Edward L. Clissold.

Reuben Law's organizational skills were taxed to the fullest. The immediate task at hand was to get facilities ready for the September 1955 opening of the school. Here Edward Clissold was invaluable. In April 1955, Clissold purchased seven surplus barracks from Wheeler Air Force Base and had them taken to La'ie. "At one time thirty-six sections of the buildings were on the two-lane highway simultaneously."(History) They were set up just below the temple with asphalt pavement linking the buildings together.

A battalion of construction missionaries were called from the U.S. and Hawaii to build the new physical plant south of the temple. By September of 1955, twenty faculty, 153 students crowded into the temporary buildings. The faculty were green. Few had experience teaching on the college level. Only a few had any experience living overseas, but like President Law they were committed to President McKay's vision and to Hawaii. When Kenneth and Dorothea Slack had their baby shortly after arrival, they named her KananioLa'iekapuamuakakulanui, the beauty of La'ie, the first flower of the college.

President Law cultivated a sense of pioneering among the faculty. Like all pioneering efforts, there was occasional conflict and misunderstanding among the ranks. A man of strong character, Law wielded a firm hand. Under his guidance a strong curriculum was created, focusing on the Liberal Arts with some vocational courses and teacher education, as well as courses in Religion. When President David O. McKay returned in the spring of 1957 to visit to the campus, he was amazed at what he saw exclaiming, "what hath God wrought." He said to President Law, "You have the right spirit at this college, I can feel it."

Nephi Georgi, also on the original faculty said "Right from the first, it was quite obvious that there was a very strong divine guidance that was present here, even though [at first] it looked like a haphazard situation." Brother Law's experience in higher education and his steady hand, at some times rather heavy hand provided a profound settling influence.

Think about it, says Georgi, "We were thrown together and asked to form a faculty that is supposed to set up a new institution and do it without long range planning, but within a couple of months (I think we got here in August). We started our school in September and that was when our planning started—when we got here. So we were planning under great pressure.

"It took an enormous leap of faith and inspiration to preside over a school like CCH." Law's greatest achievement was undeniably his complete fidelity to the personal vision of David O. McKay.

Eleven years after Law returned to the U.S. mainland he visited La'ie by invitation to speak at a devotional. He said to the students then as he might say now, that this institution was established by inspiration and prophecy and that they are under the burden of a divine mandate to carry forward the ideals of the university forged in the very beginning.


The second president of the campus was Richard Wootton who was one of the original faculty. At the time he was invited to join the CCH faculty he was the Director of the LDS Institute and the LDS Business College. A man of enormous energy, he worked twelve hours a day for the infant college. He had responsibility for guidance and testing services, the Religion department, and public relations. He taught religion, journalism, and history. He chaired five committees: publication, spirituality, scholarship and research, the Aloha Week Committee and the college catalog. When President Law resigned to take a post at Southern California, Wootton was appointed as Acting Administrator, and later President. In July of 1959 he went on a vacation to Utah where he was offered a very lucrative position with the big Piney Oil and Gas Company. Owen Cook heard about the high paying offer and said to Richard Wootton "Well, Dick, you'll just have to choose between being wealthy and doing good." (p 5)

With tremendous support from faculty and students, Wootton moved the campus from a two-year junior college to a four-year baccalaureate degree-granting institution, tripling the student body from 250 to nearly a thousand. An avid recruiter, he made student enrollment his top priority. President Wootton was especially engaged with potential students across the islands, with priesthood leaders and parents.

President Wootton watched carefully over the spiritual life of his students. As religion teacher and later president, he was very sensitive to criticism about the college's moral climate. In a 1962 report, Wootton demonstrated the high morality rate of CCH students. Sometimes he was heavy handed, forbidding college girls to date military personnel. He would also pounce on any rumors regarding the moral laxity of CCH students.

The major events occurring on President Wootton's watch included the completion and dedication of the new campus, the present David O. McKay's complex, swimming pool, and Hale 1 and Hale 2. President and Sister McKay were present in an emotional dedication, but the move to the new campus was only a precursor to another wave of construction by missionaries.

In 1961, the Church College of Hawaii received full accreditation from the Western College Association as a four-year baccalaureate degree-granting institution. With this accreditation, questions about quality and peer recognition were answered. Winning accreditation was not without major challenges. The accrediting team were impressed that Wootton received high marks from both faculty and students. However one reviewer was highly critical of the campus and seemed to want to deny accreditation. Wootton flew to California to confront his critic. Not only did Wootton win the day, he so thoroughly exposed the man for taking a disparaging position, but never really doing his homework or reading the documents he was criticizing, that the man was dismissed from the review board.

Although a thorough gentlemen, Wootton was a fighter. His administration, however, was known as democratic and consensus building. The literary magazine Kula Manu was inaugurated in 1962 in August. In February 1963 the David O. McKay Lecture Series was established. Each year since, an esteemed faculty member is chosen to give the lecture in honor of David O. McKay. Wootton was invited to give the inaugural lecture, entitled "Thoughts on the Nature and Reality of God."

In August 1963, the English Language Institute was established and has developed into one of the premier learning centers for English.

The grand event during the Wootton administration, which would forever change the dynamics of the campus and the community of La'ie and better secure the economic future of thousands of working students, was the opening of the Polynesian Cultural Center. The first idea of such a center came largely from the inspiration and imagination of Edward Clissold and Matthew Cowley.

Since securing appropriate employment, especially for international students was a priority for the CCH administration, President Wootton expected the college to play a principal role in the management of the Center, particularly in decisions affecting students and their education. Wootton took a very strong position on this and was disappointed when it was decided that the center would have its own management structure.

Always a gentleman, Wootton resigned his post on May 1964 to return to the U.S. mainland with his family. His final words to the campus were stirring: "It is said that the sign of true intelligence is being able to do the right thing the first time. For all of us, this was the first time and results proved that the job was done right . . . but I feel we ought rather to acknowledge the hand of the Lord which guided us better than we knew in this work, one in which he himself is spiritually concerned."


Owen Cook followed Richard Wootton as the third president of the campus. A very likable man of sweet disposition, he was approachable and very warm to students. He learned their names. What's more he pronounced the names correctly. (Although let it be known that there were no Mongolian students on campus at that time).

Owen came into his position during one of the most chaotic times in higher education in U.S. history. The tone was rebellion, the theme anti-establishment. The so-called movements of free speech, sexual emancipation, the drug culture, civil rights, and the Vietnam War took their emotional and spiritual toll on our campus, as it did elsewhere. Cook had served faithfully for seven years as the Executive Secretary of the Pacific Board of Education, thus knowing well all the Church schools in the Pacific. Cook had an excellent cadre of leaders in Nephi Georgi, Wayne Allison, Ralph Olsen, and Kay Andersen. Kay Andersen was instrumental in implementing the three-year recommendations for re-accreditation received in June 1964.

Like his predecessors, Cook would be held accountable for the moral character and the spirituality of the students. Much of his worries focused on student behavior. For one thing, he had inherited a large number of students who were neither LDS or interested in keeping the honor code. According to one historian, in Cook's first year over forty percent of the student body were non-LDS. With strong direction from the Board of Education by 1972 the number of non-LDS students was down to a hundred.

In Owen Cook's tenure our athletic teams excelled. Three CCH students were chosen as collegiate all Americans in men's volleyball. Our rugby team won a national title. One student from Peru, Felipe Pomar, won his second world surfing championship. The Seasiders might have won another national rugby championship, but declined to play in the national tournament because it was scheduled on Sunday.

Also on Cook's watch, the first full time doctor and nurse were hired, the Phi Alpha Beta was the college's first international academic fraternity. The first Book of Mormon class was offered on TV and in 1966 CCH offered its first summer school program, catering to local elementary and high school teachers for in-service and upgrade.

It was President Owen Cook who started the tradition of the flags in front of the campus and energetically supported the recruitment of international students. Our first students from Korea, Rarotonga, Guam, Thailand, and the Philippines came to the campus during President Cook's tenure.

February 17 1969 the Language Training Mission opened on campus. Hundreds of missionaries learned Japanese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese here. The presence of the missionaries on campus added an additional dimension of spirituality felt by all of us. For they too became part of the prophetic mission of the campus in spreading the gospel across the nations of Asia and the Pacific.

President Cook's leadership style was measured and deliberate. He listened to ideas, and as one faculty member pointed out, was not threatened or embarrassed when he had to change his mind. Yet he grieved deeply over the fact that the campus and many students were impacted negatively by forces which proved to be so destructive elsewhere. He also suffered from what was perceived by some as unassertive leadership. But Owen was true to his calling and hundreds of students and faculty were sorry to see him and Ellen return to California in 1971 where he became the superintendent of schools in the Colton Unified School District.


If Owen Cook seemed patient and relaxed as a president, his successor, Stephen Brower, arrived in La'ie with an agenda for change and an intensity that put him at odds with many faculty and students. Fresh off an assignment as mission president in Venezuela, President Brower had an air of authority about him. He had strong feelings "about what he called inflexible administrative structures in higher education, tradition bound curricula, and scholarly stagnation." He was especially insistent that all education should include a strong link to employment and the work force. He called it "education for reality."

Brower's three years as president were bumpy and filled with angst. More like Reuben Law than Wootton or Cook, President Brower tended to direct more than counsel with. In a perspective of the campus' fifty year history, still keeping in mind the context of the early 70's in higher education, it is clear the Brower made significant contributions although not without some pain.

He was a man of tremendous courage and loyalty to the Church. His four "pinnacles of excellence" are still very much part of our present educational commitments, though articulated now in different terms: to provide for students (1) experiences in righteous living in a truly spiritual environment, (2) an education that prepares them for employment, (3) experiences in international acculturation and cross-cultural understanding and respect, (4) and finally experiences that will inculcate a strong work ethic and stewardship accountability.

Brower approved the Hospitality Management major, the Social Work program, emphasized business and entrepreneurship and the new teaching English as a Second Language major. He advocated a shorter time to complete academic degrees and to increase educational opportunities in cooperation with the Polynesian Culture Center.

Brower championed the Honor Code, dress and grooming standards, and took a strong stand against willful violators. He also instigated a new student government model in which officers were appointed by the L?'ie Stake President instead of being elected by students. Although excellent leaders were chosen, the non-election model lasted only as long as his three year tenure.

Some people have referred to President Brower's tenure as the dark period of our history. I believe Curtis Van Alfen's assessment is more accurate. He called it a "purification process" out of which the campus emerged into a new era, with a new name (BYU-Hawaii), a new relationship with the Board of Trustees, and a new president: Dan W. Andersen.


If ever there was a "Balm of Gilead" in higher education, it was Dan W. Andersen. He was the consummate healer when many hearts were pierced with deep wounds. Although he was exceedingly bright and had had considerable international experience, it was the tenderness of his personality and the willingness to take on the pains of the whole university that made such an impact for good. Dan was a master at leading discussions with the entire faculty, fielding questions, deflecting complaints and criticisms with easy humor, and marshalling the energy and enthusiasm of the faculty to move forward.

President Andersen was able to reaffirm our curriculum with a balance between "vocational" and "liberal" education. Like Brower, he preached the Honor Code and emphasized the spiritual foundations of the campus. "Spirituality," he said, should "permeate our very existence." Two significant events occurred during Dan's tenure that underscored the spirituality dimensions of the campus. One was the creation of the BYU-Hawaii Stake of Zion with eleven wards. The second was the remodeling and re-dedication of the La'ie Hawaii temple by President Spencer W. Kimball. The spiritual contributions of these two events to the campus can hardly be understated.

Confident in the new campus leadership and eager to re-validate BYU-Hawaii's purposes, the Board of Education approved an ambitious building program that included a large library addition, the Snow administration building, the Cannon Activities Center, and many more married student apartments. Besides the buildings, Dan Andersen established a relationship with Provo which has been a great blessing ever since. BYU-Provo's President Dallin H. Oaks was Dan's file leader, but Dan continues to affirm that President Oaks and his team always accorded "respect and privilege" to the Hawaii campus. Dan's presidency lasted five years, a period of great transition, progress, and fulfillment. Almost everyone felt his leadership was uplifting and ennobling.


BYU-Hawaii was blessed again in 1980 with the appointment of J. Elliot Cameron, previously president of Snow College and Dean of Students at both Utah State University and BYU-Provo. Elliot's leadership contributions were felt immediately. He had a handsome, commanding appearance and immediately demonstrated a knowledge of people, personalities, and problems in higher education. As a tiny campus far away from Church headquarters, many of us had the impression our fears and challenges were unique to us. Elliot cleared that up. He had seen it all on other campuses. When he was complimentary of what we were doing as a campus, we were encouraged because his commendations came by way of comparison with other campuses he knew about. I shall never forget the day he articulated what became his presidential mantra: "This may be a tiny school in a tiny village on a tiny island, but whatever we do, it will be first class."

High points of the Cameron years included an accreditation self-study that would be the basis of major changes in curriculum emphasis and move the university into the computer age. Fine Arts groups, athletic teams, ward and stake activities, culture nights, and song fests all showed first class preparation and performances.

In 1981, the first six students from the People's Republic of China were admitted to BYU-Hawaii. These were older students, all employees of the national Foreign Ministry in Beijing, headed for diplomatic careers. All but one graduated with high honors in 1983. Completely unbeknown to any of us, one of these students, Wang Yannan, was the actual daughter of then Premier of China, Zhao Ziyang. In 1984 President Cameron received word from Washington D.C. that the visit of the Premier of China to the U.S. would include time at the BYU-Hawaii campus and the Polynesian Cultural Center. We were amazed. Washington D.C. was amazed that one of the commanding figures on the planet at the time wanted to see this place.

I remember standing with President Cameron, Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, and Ralph Rodgers, President then of PCC in front of the foyer watching the big helicopters coming in to land on the front field and the little circle. We all felt that in some significant way we were witnessing another significant event in the on going fulfillment of President David O. McKay's prophecy that this campus would have an effect for good toward the establishment of peace internationally. It was a powerful and unforgettable moment. The Premier loved the campus and the Polynesian Cultural Center and behaved in a warm congenial manner different from how we were told he would behave by the U.S. Secret Service. It was not until several months later that we learned that Premier Zhao was Wang Yannan's father.

Elliot Cameron then assumed a major role in cultivating friendships with China. He represented the Church on a number of assignments involving China friendship building. In 1985, Elliot approved the establishment of the Asian Executive Management Internship Program which in the last twenty years has involved over a hundred and fifty participants from many cities and many departments of government, business, and education—people who have come here to study for ten months, to absorb this environment and to return to elevated positions back in China. In all this time we have had 100% return of those interns to their home country.

Of the many other contributions of Elliot Cameron I will conclude with one singularly important one. President Cameron was able to lay the groundwork and establish the policy and response for the campus that would virtually eliminate the periodic violence that would erupt between students and students and between students and community. Although violence perhaps will never be completely eliminated, President Cameron's zero tolerance for any kind of violence or threatening, with suspension as the single punishment, finally brought about the peaceful conditions we enjoy today.

In 1986 President Cameron was appointed Commissioner of Education for the whole Church, an assignment he held until his retirement in 1989.


Cameron's replacement was Alton L. Wade who was then President of Dixie College in southern Utah. Like Cameron, Wade was a high school and college star athlete and had worked in the Church Educational System for many years. Alton's teaching and administrative experience was in our target area. Before he became the Zone administrator for all the Church schools in the Pacific he had been principal of Church College in New Zealand and a temple ordinance worker. Now as President of Dixie College, he was not looking for another school to give his life to. When Elder Marvin J. Ashton asked if he would be interested in the presidency over BYU-Hawaii, Alton said no. But then Elder Ashton asked him the question that penetrated his heart: "Alton, what do you think you have been preparing for all your life?"

Like President David O. McKay and all the presidents of this campus, President Wade believed that BYU-Hawaii was an institution of prophetic destiny. Then for the next eight years he and Diana would work and serve to lift the university to a new level of performance and respect.

One of the first challenges he and his new administrative team had to address was how to implement the recommendations of the accrediting association. After painful discussions, Alton performed one of the most excruciating tasks for an administrator, namely to eliminate programs and positions, making decisions that affect the future of families, children, and employment. Early in Alton's administration the school moved away from specific vocational technology training to programs that would be the foundation for Computer Science and Information Systems. Our present School of Computing is a result of those important decisions.

Alton Wade's passion for the university was always on the surface. He was swift to defend it, swift to correct it, and swift to rejoice over it. With annual enrollments of over 2,000 students and a strong faculty, Alton guided the reorganization of the campus into a College of Art and Sciences with two professional schools, Business and Education. He added a new vice presidency to the President's Council. Napua Baker, a local native Hawaiian, was selected as a Vice President for Institutional Advancement. In 1992 he re-established a development office and a strong fundraising presence. He gave the university magazine a crisp, new professional look. Men's and Women's Tennis competed for top national honors nearly every year. The Men's Basketball Team went to the Final Four in the National NAIA Tournament, 1992, losing in an overtime in the semifinals. The Women's Volleyball Team virtually dominated the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics throughout his tenure.

Building on the momentum from Elliot Cameron's administration, Alton Wade accentuated and expanded BYU-Hawaii's mission in the preparation for and in support of the internationalization of the Church. The campus had truly become a microcosm of the world Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Alton did not invent but popularized the phrase, "Harmony amidst diversity." Like other presidents, he recognized the immense value of the Polynesian Cultural Center, not just in providing work, but needed job learning experiences as central to the students overall educational package.

Among all the good things Alton accomplished for the university, it was his service to the community that many people will remember the most. It was during his tenure that many of the infrastructure problems plaguing the community for years came to a head in an explosion of confusion and public feeling. Many of the concerns were legitimate. Alton Wade was given the responsibility of Church spokesman on the island in dealing with the multifarious challenges of the environment, waste water treatment and other infrastructure, long time resentments towards Zion Securities, flooding, tense relations with government officials, etc.

As one historian put it, "Wade spent about half his time on this second job." His evenings were often consumed with meetings, large and small. He attended numerous community associations, public hearings, and testified before the City Council. He became a flash point for some people's bitterest feelings. But he always affirmed the right side. The vast majority of our people, he said in a report to the Board of Trustees are "still retain a conviction of the divine prophetic destiny of La'ie . . . BYU-Hawaii, the Polynesian Cultural Center, and the temple. He also recognized that from this travel would emerge a stronger and more united community. His dreams in this regard are still coming true.