Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

New interim president to take helm at BYU-Idaho

Published: Saturday, Nov. 20, 2004

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REXBURG, Idaho — The First Presidency announced Nov. 12 the appointment of Robert M. Wilkes as interim president of Brigham Young University-Idaho, effective Dec. 1. President Wilkes, 64, will take over the helm of the Church-owned university in southeast Idaho from Elder David A. Bednar, who was sustained Oct. 2 to the Quorum of the Twelve. During a devotional assembly Nov. 16, Elder Bednar introduced President Wilkes and his wife, Estella, to the students. (Please see accompanying article on this page.)

Photo by Michael Lewis
Robert M. Wilkes

"It's a humbling thing," President Wilkes told the Church News during a telephone interview just hours after a press conference on the Rexburg campus. "You have a sense when you're asked to do something by the leaders of the Church, especially President (Gordon B.) Hinckley, the way will open up and you'll be able to do as you're asked. That's our faith and the way we've approached this.

"We hope to maintain the direction for the university that the board of education has set through all the previous presidents, particularly Elder Bednar, and to implement and carry out whatever their instructions are."

President Wilkes, who has served at the school since 1970 and was named the BYU-Idaho Man of Excellence this past February, takes the reins of the university as it continues its transition from a junior college to a four-year, baccalaureate-granting university. The First Presidency announced in 2000 that Ricks College would become BYU-Idaho; the transition occurred in the fall of 2001.

"Obviously, the time is fraught with opportunity," the new interim president said. "Our challenge is to not have any slowdown or any regression in what the university is accomplishing. I'm confident that even though we won't be setting our own agenda, we can all improve individually and as a university community. I think that's our challenge at this time, when so much has happened. If you're not careful you might say the task is done and the race is won and we can ease off.

"We have to press ahead and become better and better. The ultimate reason is we want to serve our students better. The object in all of this is to provide a better and better experience for the students who come here."

President Wilkes came to Ricks College in 1970 as a faculty member in the Department of Religion. He served five years as chairman of the Department of Recreation Education, five years as chairman of the Division of Religious and Family Living, and four years as chairman of the Division of Education. From 1999 to 2003, he served as vice president of Student Life.

He presided over the Wisconsin Milwaukee Mission from 1995-1998. He is a former bishop (twice), a counselor in a stake presidency, a high councilor, stake president and regional representative.

He and Sister Wilkes are the parents of six children and have 19 grandchildren. He was born in Afton, Wyo., to Murray M. and Lucy Wilkes.

E-mail to julied@desnews.com