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BYU announces new Sorensen Center for Moral and Ethical Leadership

Sorensen Center will serve students and faculty across BYU's campus

David E. and Verla A. Sorensen
Verla A. Sorensen and David E. Sorensen pose for a photo at Aspen Grove.

Brigham Young University today announced the creation of the David E. and Verla A. Sorensen Center for Moral and Ethical Leadership. The new Center was made possible by a $40 million endowment from the Sorensen Family, longtime supporters of BYU and members of the BYU President’s Leadership Council.

The mission of the new Center is to encourage ethical and moral behavior by supporting the development of moral and ethical leaders through teaching, scholarship and policy engagement. The Sorensen Center will be a university-run initiative accessible to all colleges and departments across campus.

“We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of the Sorensen family, especially Sister Verla Sorensen and her husband, the late David Sorensen,” said President Kevin J Worthen. “Because of their willingness to fund this important project, the Center will forever enhance our ability and capacity to develop students who will leave BYU with the tools and commitment to be moral and ethical leaders.”

The Sorensen Center will support classroom teaching and student-focused inspiring and experiential learning activities related to moral and ethical leadership across campus. It will also support faculty and student scholarship on moral and ethical leadership, its impact on society, and how to promote ethical behavior through grants and faculty fellowships and professorships.

An earlier photo of David E. Sorensen. Brother Sorensen passed away in 2014.

The shared vision for the Sorensen Center is that it will serve as a resource for faculty worldwide on how to teach moral and ethical leadership. To that end, the Sorensen Center will convene national and international conferences for students, academics, businesses and other institutional leaders and policy makers.

“I think this Center will speak to the world and will speak to all the people who believe in the importance of high morals and unflinching ethics,” Verla Sorensen said. “We are honored to have this Center bear our names and to humbly honor David, who always honored moral and ethical leadership.”

David Sorensen, who passed away in 2014, was a general authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1992 until his death. An alum of BYU, David spent his career as a business owner, operating a healthcare services company in California. Verla Sorensen also attended BYU, as have each of their seven children: Stephen, Gregory, John, Sheila, Kristen, Paul and Kathryn.

The Sorensens have donated to BYU since 1976 and are significantly invested in a number of projects across campus, including donor-funded capital projects such as the Joseph F. Smith Building, N. Eldon Tanner Building, Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni and Visitors Center, BYU Broadcasting Building and Engineering Building. They have been members of the President’s Leadership Council for nearly 20 years and are recipients of the prestigious President’s Award.

In a statement, the extended Sorensen Family said they hope the Center can help meet the need for moral and ethical leadership throughout the world.

"Our family is honored to establish the David E. and Verla A. Sorensen Center for Moral and Ethical Leadership at Brigham Young University. BYU is a natural home for the study of moral behavior given that it seeks to instill the core teachings of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, we have seen that at times good people — even members of the Church blessed with a BYU education — keep the outward commandments and yet fall far short when it comes to ethical behavior. We hope that this Center will encourage students and faculty to reflect deeply on how to make moral, ethical choices and help them gain the tools and mindset needed to make such decisions. Part of what made David Sorensen such an extraordinary figure was his ability to follow an ethical ‘true north’ through challenging situations found in the complex worlds of business, finance, and large organizations. The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to cherish fairness and justice, and he was able to bring those values into his day-to-day interactions."
Sorensen Family

While the Sorensen Center will start its operations immediately, a formal ribbon cutting will be scheduled later during the 2020-2021 academic school year when COVID-19 restrictions can be properly addressed. An executive committee comprised of several university deans, including the dean of the Marriott School of Business, will oversee the governance of the Sorensen Center, with Associate Academic Vice President Laura Bridgewater serving as chair of the executive committee.

“We’re excited to see the Sorensen Center bless students and faculty from every college and department across campus,” Bridgewater said. “We are also grateful for the energy and direction the Marriott School has provided as we’ve worked toward the launch of this Center.”

In addition to serving as a member of the executive committee, BYU Marriott Dean Brigitte Madrian will help manage the day-to-day operations of the Sorensen Center.

“We are thrilled about the new Sorensen Center and are grateful for the support it will provide in better teaching and training our students to become moral and ethical leaders in their professions, communities and homes,” Dean Madrian said.

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