Man of Many Titles
IP&T's Dr. Russell T. Osguthorpe serves also as CTL Director and LDS general authority
Some people seem almost superhuman in their ability to meet great responsibilities, and often even more amazing is the great humility and wisdom these individuals possess. The McKay School of Education is fortunate to have the leadership of an Instructional Psychology & Technology (IP&T) professor who also assists BYU as the director of the Center for Teaching & Learning. This faculty member, Dr. Russell T. Osguthorpe, furthermore serves as the Sunday School General President for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
When asked what his life is like, Osguthorpe says with a smile, “Endless administrative decision-making meetings.” He may be joking, but Osguthorpe is indeed scheduled to meet with many BYU administrators, McKay School faculty, graduate students, and/or church officers on a daily basis. “But primarily there are so many rewards,” he adds. “I feel incredibly blessed.”
Though he carries such responsibilities, Osguthorpe enjoys a successful home life first and foremost. He and his wife Lolly have 5 children and 21 grandchildren. When he’s not working or attending meetings, Osguthorpe is likely exercising by swimming, hiking, or playing with his hilarious grandkids.
Prior to joining BYU, Osguthorpe taught psychology and conducted research at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, New York. This experience was an “amazing beginning” to Osguthorpe’s quite remarkable career. “It’s amazing to watch people stretch to do things they’ve never done before and by doing so realize they’re more than adequate to do difficult things,” Osguthorpe explains.
In 1978, Osguthorpe joined the McKay School Department of Instructional Psychology & Technology after earning multiple degrees from BYU, including a PhD in instructional psychology. He was later appointed associate dean of the McKay School for nine years before serving as IP&T Chair from 2001-2003. “I came to BYU for the students, and I cherish my work with them,” says Osguthorpe, who has a particular passion for guiding students toward improved writing skill.
“Writing never ceases to amaze me with its challenges,” he says. “Getting that logic right isn’t easy, but when students try the impossible and succeed, they change—and watching that kind of growth is exciting.”
In 2007, Osguthorpe also became director of the BYU Center for Teaching & Learning, where he has helped provide and direct services to support teaching and enhanced student learning across campus. This fall, Osguthorpe will continue to lead the Center while also being responsible for advising several IP&T graduate students through their dissertations. Over the course of his career, Osguthorpe has authored five books and more than 50 journal articles on instructional design, teacher education, and special education.
As a result of his educational and religious responsibilities, Osguthorpe has traveled to all corners of the earth. He has collaborated on educational projects in China, Europe, and Polynesia and has been a visiting scholar at the University of Toronto and the University of Paris. Fortunately, Osguthorpe speaks several languages including French, Spanish, Chinese, Tahitian, and American Sign Language.
Like many members of The LDS Church, Osguthorpe has served in callings that have varied greatly. He has been a stake president, stake and ward Young Men president, counselor in a bishopric, branch president at the Provo, Utah, Missionary Training Center and president of the South Dakota Rapid City Mission. He has also been a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
As Osguthorpe was serving as a member of the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy, he was asked by The Church to serve as the general president of the Sunday School. The LDS Church functions solely on members fulfilling volunteer positions called callings. Some of the highest administrative callings are known as auxiliary leaders, who are responsible for providing training for leaders in several Church programs—the Primary, Relief Society, Sunday School, Young Women, and Young Men. As Sunday School General President, Osguthorpe oversees the teaching of gospel principles in LDS churches around the globe. He admits that such a responsibility is “almost indescribable.”
Part of this service includes joining weekly with the four other auxiliary leaders and general authorities of The Church. “I’m always impressed by all the unique personalities and character of the brethren,” he says. Osguthorpe also likes to describe the auxiliary leaders as a basketball team. “The five of us train together, learn from each other, and root endlessly for one another,” he explains. Besides the opportunity to collaborate with such great examples, Osguthorpe feels his travels for The Church have brought him some of the greatest joys. “I’ve been blessed to witness the great faith and power of members from all over the world,” he says. “It’s been the reward of rewards.”
Osguthorpe has found that making decisions for a worldwide church requires great effort, support, and togetherness. After teaching and serving from pulpits on every continent, Osguthorpe has learned one of several great life lessons—“We can all build each other up more than we do,” he says. “A common thread among the leaders of The Church is support and togetherness, of which you can never have too much.”
September 4, 2012
Banner photo courtesy of speeches.byu.edu.