The Board of Trustees of Brigham Young University–Hawaii has appointed John “Keoni” Kauwe the university’s 11th president. Kauwe and his wife, Monica, will succeed John S. Tanner and his wife, Susan, who have served since 2015.

The announcement was made Tuesday, May 12, 2020, by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the weekly BYU–Hawaii devotional. The address was broadcast from the Church Office Building auditorium on Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

Dr. Kauwe is the dean of graduate studies at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah. He is an internationally recognized researcher who specializes in Alzheimer’s disease genetics. He has deep roots in Hawaii; spent several years of his childhood on the islands of Kaua’i, O’ahu, and Moloka’i; and graduated from Moloka’i High School. In recent years, the Kauwes have returned to Hawaii to visit relatives in the summer.

More About John “Keoni” Kauwe

John “Keoni” Kauwe

Dr. Kauwe joined the biology department in the College of Life Sciences at Brigham Young University in 2009 and later served as chair of the biology department. He was appointed as the dean of graduate studies in 2019. Dr. Kauwe received a doctorate in evolution, ecology and population biology in 2007 from Washington University in St. Louis. He then completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Alzheimer’s disease genetics at the Washington University School of Medicine. He received a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology and a master’s degree in population genetics from BYU. He has made important contributions toward discovering more than a dozen new genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Kauwe served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Japan Fukuoka Mission from 1999 to 2001.

In 2003, Dr. Kauwe married Monica Mortenson of Provo. They are the parents of five children, who range in age from 2 to 13, and currently reside in Orem, Utah.

Dr. Kauwe’s fourth great-grandfather, Kaleohano, was one of the first converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Hawaii. He was taught by Elder George Q. Cannon in 1851.

In his off time, President Kauwe enjoys playing with his children and fishing. Monica’s hobbies include baking and hiking.

(For more details read the article on Church Newsroom)


Dr. Kauwe is an internationally recognized researcher specializing in Alzheimer’s disease genetics. He earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at BYU Provo. He then completed his Ph.D. at Washington University in St. Louis in 2007 and a postdoctoral fellowship at the Washington University School of Medicine in 2008. He joined the faculty at BYU in 2009 and is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology and Associate Chair of the Department of Biology.

Dr. Kauwe has over 100 peer-reviewed publications and his research is funded by more than $6 million dollars in extramural grants. He has made important contributions towards discovering more than a dozen new genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. His work has been recognized nationally and internationally as evidenced by his appointment as a Senior Editor for the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, his recent service as a panelist for the 2015 National Institutes of Health Summit on Alzheimer’s disease Research, and as the scientific lead for the international Alzheimer’s disease DREAM Challenge.


Dr. Kauwe has regular teaching assignments in BIO 130: Biology, and BIO 463 Genetics of Human Disease. He is also committed to providing high quality mentored research experiences in his lab. His research is designed to include significant contributions from BYU undergraduates. His students have authored and co-authored more than three dozen manuscripts and received many awards for their research efforts.


Dr. Kauwe’s research leverages novel phenotypes and approaches to characterize the genetic architecture of Alzheimer’s disease with the ultimate goal of finding a cure.

Research in the lab also includes studies on prevention, diagnosis, and the genetic basis of rheumatic heart disease and the use of genomics to address evolutionary questions in several species of fish and reptiles. (Website:


Dr. 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



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



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



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



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

Photo of 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


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

Portrait of President 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

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.

John S. Tanner


John S. Tanner was born on July 27, 1950, as the fifth of 13 children.

Brother Tanner served a mission in southern Brazil and then attended Brigham Young University, graduating with a bachelor of arts in English in 1974. While attending BYU he met Susan Winder. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple in 1974 and are the proud parents of five children. Brother Tanner continued his schooling and went on to receive a doctorate in English from the University of California, Berkeley.

After beginning his academic career as a professor of English at Florida State University, he soon made the transition to become a member of the BYU faculty. There he worked as a professor of English and later as the associate academic vice president for undergraduate and international education. President Tanner went on to serve as chair of the BYU English Department from 1998 to 2003 and became academic vice president of BYU in 2004. His contributions to BYU have led to improvements in the university’s environment, teaching, and scholarship.

As a scholar, President Tanner’s achievements include receiving the Best Book Award from the Milton Society of America for his book entitled Anxiety in Eden, contributions to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, and two terms as president of the Association for Mormon Letters. He has published numerous articles about literature and religion and, as a lover of music and poetry, authored the hymn “Bless Our Fast, We Pray.”

While serving as mission president, President Tanner received the call to become first counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency, a position which he stepped into upon the conclusion of his three-year service in Brazil. His service in the Sunday School General Presidency ended in 2015 when he was invited to serve as the president of BYU–Hawaii.


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