Who is C. Shane Reese, BYU’s next president?

A statistician and the BYU academic vice president, Reese almost left BYU as a new freshman in 1989; a brief meeting with another BYU president changed the course of his life

BYU’s New President: A Walk Down Memory Lane

In fall 1989, C. Shane Reese was a wide-eyed, new freshman at Brigham Young University, surrounded for the first time in his life by a “critical mass of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

After one day at the new university, he discovered that people referred to him by his ID number more than his name. His classes were harder than he expected. He found being surrounded by members of the Church “peculiar.”

“In short, the reality of my first couple of weeks at BYU was miles apart from my enthusiastic expectations,” he recalled.

He called his mother and reported he had made a mistake and was coming home.

Nursing some shame and embarrassment for not “having the umph to stick it out,” young Shane Reese responded to his mother’s invitation to visit a faculty member on campus, the brother of his family’s former bishop.

In short, that faculty member promised the young man “that if I would give BYU a chance, he was confident that BYU would be a welcoming and wonderful place. …

“That short but profound meeting was the beginning of my remarkable experience at BYU. My freshman year at BYU is one of the most cherished times in my entire life.”

Elder Holland Announced BYU’s Next President

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, speaking on behalf of President Russell M. Nelson, announced Tuesday that C. Shane Reese would serve as BYU’s 14th president — filling the “huge shoes” of BYU President Kevin J Worthen, who has served for nine years as leader of the Church’s flagship university and will complete his time as BYU’s 13th president on May 1.

Of Reese, Elder Holland said, “The Lord has prepared him in profound ways. He has the confidence and trust of the Church Board of Education to lead BYU at this critical time.”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland hugs Shane Reese, BYU’s new president, during a campus devotional in Provo, UT, in March 2023.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hugs C. Shane Reese, named as the BYU’s new president, during a campus devotional in the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, March 21, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Reese’s Journey as BYU President

Reese has served as BYU’s academic vice president since 2019. Before that, he was dean of the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences from 2017 to 2019 and joined the BYU statistics faculty in 2001. In recent years, he directed the BYU Committee on Race, Equity & Belonging, which offered 26 recommendations to root out racism and address inequality at BYU. BYU opened an Office of Belonging last fall to meet one of the recommendations.

“I am told a statistician can have his head in an oven and his feet in ice cubes and say that, on average, he feels just right,” said Elder Holland to the delight of the crowd. “Over the next several years, Shane, you will have plenty of fires to put out and cold-blooded decisions to make, so you should be ecstatic all the time.”

Something that would not have been possible without the faculty member who took time to encourage him to stay at BYU in 1989.

The rest of the story exemplifies the “spirit of inspiring learning” at BYU. That faculty member was a “young, up-and-coming law professor named Kevin J Worthen.”

Reese’s Story Comes Full Circle at BYU

“What I say next may well sound like a funeral,” said Vice President Reese of his predecessor while addressing students at BYU’s weekly devotional on Tuesday, March 21, moments after being announced as the university’s next president. “We love you. Our campus community is eternally grateful for your grace, wisdom, kindness, individual attention and love that you have so generously offered us during your recent tenure as president. Today, we honor your unending energy, your bold vision and your unfailing loyalty.”

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Speaking as the freshman student President Worthen encouraged to stay at BYU and most recently as a member of his president’s council, Reese pledged his best efforts to build on the progress made by both President Worthen and his wife, Sister Peggy Worthen.

Referencing a speech giving by President Spencer W. Kimball in 1976, during which he said BYU can become an “educational Everest,” Reese said he and his wife, Sister Wendy Wood Reese, feel a “deep and abiding spiritual connection to President Kimball’s prophetic vision for BYU as we approach the beginning of the ‘second half of the second century.’”

Shane Reese and his wife, Sister Wendy Reese, smile after he’s announced as BYU’s new president in Provo, Utah, in March 2023.
C. Shane Reese and his wife, Sister Wendy Reese, smile after he is announced as the university’s new president during a BYU devotional at the Marriott Center in Provo on Tuesday, March 21, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Get to Know BYU’s 14th President

C. Shane Reese earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in statistics from BYU and a doctoral degree in statistics from Texas A&M University. His research has focused on sports analytics, Bayesian hierarchical models and optimal experimental design. He is an elected fellow of the American Statistical Laboratory. He has created statistical models addressing a range of issues from predicting the power of solar storms to determining the safest method for destroying chemical weapons, according to his official BYU vitae. His work has been used by the U.S. Olympic volleyball team as well as the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.

He served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Taiwan Taipei Mission from 1990 to 1992. He is the first counselor in the Mapleton Utah North Stake presidency, where he previously served as a bishop.

He and his wife are the parents of three children. “BYU’s motto is ‘Enter to learn, go forth to serve,’” Sister Reese said. “We look forward to serving and learning alongside each of you. BYU is truly the Lord’s university. I love BYU, I love the Lord, I love the Church, and I love the education here at BYU.”

In an interview after the devotional announcing his appointment as the 14th BYU president, Reese said in recent years as BYU academic vice president he has been “laser-focused” on academics.

“President Worthen has set a tremendous standard for the university,” he said. “And so when you talk about inspiring learning, that’s clearly going to continue for us as a university. When you talk about emphasis on the mission of the university, that’s going to continue. … The second half of the second century becomes a really important moment in time for us as a university. We feel like we’ve got a lot of things left to do with respect to President Kimball’s vision for the university.”

He is also excited for BYU’s emergence into the Big 12 athletic conference and the “opportunities that await us.”

While his focus has been academics, Reese said: “I know I love BYU athletics. I love our student athletes, and I see the things they do as ambassadors for the university — and I think even for the Church at large.”

He said he sees a bright future for religiously affiliated universities.

“We are trying to find more ways for more students to have a BYU experience,” he said.

C. Shane Reese speaks after being announced as BYU’s new president during a campus devotional in Provo on March 21, 2023.
C. Shane Reese speaks after being announced as BYU’s new president during a campus devotional in the Marriott Center in Provo on Tuesday, March 21, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Past principals/presidents of Brigham Young Academy/Brigham Young University

  1. Warren N. Dusenberry, January 1876 – April 1876
  2. Karl G. Maeser, August 1876 – January 1892
  3. Benjamin Cluff, January 1892 – December 1903
  4. George H. Brimhall, April 1904 – July 1921
  5. Franklin S. Harris, July 1921 – June 1945
  6. Howard S. McDonald, July 1945 – October 1949
  7. Ernest L. Wilkinson, February 1951 – July 1971
  8. Dallin H. Oaks, August 1971 – August 1980
  9. Jeffrey R. Holland, September 1980 – April 1989
  10. Rex E. Lee, July 1989 – December 1995
  11. Merrill J. Bateman, January 1996 – April 2003
  12. Cecil O. Samuelson Jr., May 2003 – April 2014
  13. Kevin J Worthen, May 2014 – April 2023
  14. Shane Reese, beginning May 2023

This article was updated on June 28, 2023.

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