Skip to main content

The unique heritage and legacy of BYUH depends on its students, says President Kauwe

landscape shot of President Kauwe in the Stake Center Chapel talking to new students seated in the front pews
President Kauwe talks with new students at the Spring 2022 New Student Devotional.

New students, some who arrived on Oahu only days earlier, packed the Stake Center chapel for the New Student Orientation President’s Devotional on April 24, 2022. President Kauwe addressed the new students and invited them to contemplate the legacy and purpose God has designed for them to fulfill at BYUH.

A vital part of a unique heritage

Kauwe said the most important part of the continuing story of BYU–Hawaii is the students. “It is all for you,” he said. “BYUH exists for your secular and spiritual education.”

Kauwe introduced his family, welcomed the new students and expressed his gratitude for them and the sacrifices they and their families have made so they can be at BYUH.

He also expressed the love and support the Board of Trustees has for each of them. The board spends “much more time than [one] might think” praying and planning specifically for BYUH and its students to ensure their future and opportunities are properly built, Kauwe shared.

sideview landscape photo of male students wearing white shirts and ties sitting in a line on the bench of the stake center chapel looking forward
Students who are new to BYUH sat in the chapel and listened to President Kauwe and others speak of the unique heritage of this university.

He said he and his wife, Monica Kauwe, also pray and work daily for the success of the students and knows he has a responsibility to fulfill a specific role and purpose according to the legacy of his forefathers and the prophecies given about the school.

Each of the students also has a specific, vital role to play in the unique heritage and legacy of the school, he said. As this legacy is prayerfully sought after, Heavenly Father and Christ’s influence will be felt in their lives, Kauwe said.

He shared the unique heritage of his ancestors who were involved in and witnessed the building up of the Church community in Laie as well as the temple, school and PCC.

Kauwe also talked about Laie as a place of refuge, or “pu‘uhonua,” and how it has continued to be that in its entire existence. Not only is BYUH a school in Zion, but a Zion university, he said.

He expressed his hope that BYUH builds an “appetite” in its graduates to build Zion everywhere.

Kauwe also addressed a few questions he has been asked by students. One was: What makes BYUH special? He said one word in specific came to mind: incomparable.

An incomparable university

He said what makes BYUH incomparable is the students. It’s a small community with incredible diversity and it is “one” in unity and purpose, Kauwe expressed. The gospel of Jesus Christ and the desire to learn to love and serve each other brings the community and campus together and is a vital context to the purpose and mission of the university.

There are more than 50 countries represented within the student body, he said, and there will be more than 70 countries once the school is up to full capacity. Diversity and unity work together at BYUH, he said.

landscape shot of President Kauwe and five students in Sunday attire posing for a picture inside the campus stake center chapel
President Kauwe met with and talked to new students at the devotional on April 24.

“See your classmates, university faculty and staff and community as children of God. Give space to learn and change,” Kauwe said.

Caroline Hsu, a freshman from Taoyuan, Taiwan, looking to major in psychology, said she loved Kauwe’s invitation to love others and oneself and to give oneself space to learn and grow because she doesn’t think her English is very good yet.

She said she is looking forward to the future so she can accomplish the purpose of the school and take part in David O. McKay’s prophecy; learning from and loving one another, as her knowledge increases.

Kauwe said BYUH is the only church school that has been established in its particular way. He referenced Elder Jeffrey Holland’s remarks during the Inauguration Ceremony last year, when he said BYUH has more prophecies about it than any other Church institution.

He encouraged students to dedicate and consecrate themselves towards specific prophecies associated with the university and its students.

Maintaining momentum

Kauwe shared a story from his mission in Japan, where he and his companions would try to keep balanced on their bikes when they were stopped at stoplights. “Staying balanced while stationary takes incredible effort and isn’t something you can sustain indefinitely,” he said.

He compared this experience with his first semester at college. He said he missed new student orientation and the first week of school due to an infected arm injury sustained while boogie boarding. Kauwe said he knew he was “off to a bad start,” and was wondering how to get back on track. A lot of difficulty came, he said, from a lack of direction and momentum.

landscape shot of three male students displaying shakas with their gloved hands next to plates of refreshments in the church multi-purpose room
Student volunteers and workers helped distribute refreshments for the new students following the devotional.

When a bike is moving, he said, staying balanced is natural, easy and requires very little conscious effort. After he was able to “build up speed” in his studies, Kauwe said, balance was easier to find, and he was able to make small adjustments in his schedule to continue in a direction toward a mission and a future career.

He invited students to worry a lot less about balancing and a lot more about creating momentum in the direction one wants to go.

Kauwe then quoted President Nelson’s recent address and listed the five actions the prophet suggested each person do to maintain spiritual momentum and impressed upon the students the importance of paying attention to these words:

  1. Get on the covenant path and stay there.
  2. Discover the joy of daily repentance.
  3. Learn about God and how He works.
  4. Seek and expect miracles.
  5. End conflict in your personal life.

Misako Murayama, a freshman TESOL major from Okinawa, Japan, who arrived to the island three days previously, said one thing that stood out to her about Kauwe’s address was that balance is simple.

She said she is usually a shy person and is nervous to attend classes in English, but she knows she can grow more with the spiritual momentum that following God’s commandments brings.

A voluntary commitment

Kauwe stressed the importance of maintaining the commitment each of the students made to be obedient to the Honor Code, both on and off campus. “Your actions outside of the community directly affect the spirituality of this town,” he said.

He invited students to “put away” the clothing and accessory items they might have that do not adhere to the Honor Code so they can help maintain the spiritual oasis that is Laie.

He said no one dislikes shaving everyday as much as him, but for now, as part of BYUH, each person made a voluntary commitment to follow the dress and grooming standards.

landscape shot of President Kauwe wearing a suit and off-red tie and yellow flower lei smiling at the pulpit in the stake center chapel
President Kauwe reminded students to live up to their commitment to obey the Honor Code.

Following these standards and code is an outward demonstration of one’s integrity and willingness to keep commitments, Kauwe said. He encouraged students to set an example for their fellow classmates. “It is part of your responsibility to support the sanctity of the temple,” he said.

Jennifer Duerden, adjunct faculty of the Faculty of Culture, Language & Performing Arts, accompanied the music on the piano, and Erie Tse, a sophomore piano performance major from Hong Kong, also provided piano music and accompaniment.

Student Life Vice President Jonathan Kala Kau and his wife, Jazzeth Kau, were also present, as well as student volunteers and Student Life employees who put the orientation together.