David A. Bednar was born on June 15, 1952, in San Leandro, California, to Lavina Whitney Bednar and Anthony George Bednar. Lavina was a descendant of the Mormon pioneers, while her husband Anthony was not a member of the Mormon Church. With the support of her husband, Lavina raised her three sons to be faithful members of the Church. Even though Anthony was not a member of the Church, he supported his sons by attending Church with them and helping with Church functions. When it was time for David to serve a Mormon mission, his father supported him completely.
Throughout his life and even through his letters while serving a mission, David would always ask his father, “Dad, when are you going to be baptized?” The answer would always be, “I’ll join this Church when I know it’s the right thing to do.” After David had returned from his mission and was married and living far from home, his father called on a Wednesday to ask, “What are you doing Saturday? Can you be out here [in California] to baptize me?” After many years of prayer and fasting on behalf of this husband and father, Anthony George Bednar was baptized and confirmed by his son David.
David grew up in the San Francisco Bay area where he enjoyed playing sports, working on his grandfather’s dairy farm and helping his mother can peaches and berries.
In 1971, David received a call from the Prophet to serve as a missionary in the South German Mission for twenty-four months. Years later, David would admonish the members of the Mormon Church: “All of us now are serving and will continue to serve as lifelong missionaries. We are missionaries every day in our families, in our schools, in our places of employment, and in our communities. Regardless of our age, experience, or station in life, we are all missionaries” (“Becoming a Missionary,” Ensign, Nov 2005).
Marriage and Education
After returning home from his Mormon mission, David chose to attend Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. There he met Susan Robinson, who was completing her degree in elementary education. They attended the same ward and met during a family home evening football game. Susan likes to tease, “He threw a pass and I caught it.” David and Susan were married in 1975 and are the parents of three sons, Eric, Michael, and Jeffrey.
After their marriage, David and Susan continued to live in Provo, Utah, while David completed his education. He received his Baccalaureate degree in communications in 1976, and his Master’s degree in organizational communication in 1977. The Bednars then moved to Indiana, where David pursued and received his Ph.D. in organizational behavior at Purdue University.
Upon David’s graduation in 1980, the family moved to Arkansas, where David was appointed Assistant Professor of Management at the University of Arkansas—a post he held from 1980–1984. From 1984–1986, David taught at Texas Tech University before returning to the University of Arkansas. There he taught courses in organizational behavior, team management, total quality management, and managerial communication. From 1987–1992, he served as the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies in the College of Business Administration, as well as the Director of the Management Decision-Making Lab from 1992–1997.
Throughout his professional career, he has been the recipient of the Outstanding Teacher Award in the College of Business Administration. And in 1994, he was recognized as the outstanding teacher at the University of Arkansas and received the Burlington Northern Foundation Award for Excellence in Teaching.
David has had numerous articles published—some of which were in Labor and Industrial Relations Review, Academy of Management Review, Human Relations, Quality Progress, Quality Management Journal, Cornell Research Quarterly, National Productivity Review, The Journal of Retail Banking Services, The Journal of Business Communication, and The Journal of Business Education. Together, he and Donald White authored: Organizational Behavior: Understanding and Managing People at Work; and, with Donald White and Ronald Sims, he co-authored: Readings in Organizational Behavior.
In the summer of 1997, David accepted the position as president of Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho. At the time of his acceptance, Ricks College was the largest privately-owned junior college in the United States, with an enrollment of 8,500 students. From the beginning of his appointment, President Bednar would be a president who listened, taught and participated in the students’ lives. While there, he taught a religion class every term; he and Sister Bednar invited students to come to family home evenings where they taught from the scriptures. During their years in Rexburg, close to 35,000 students were blessed to spend evenings with the Bednars.
In 2000, the decision was made to change Ricks College into a university. It would now be known as Brigham Young University—Idaho. When asked if he was scared to take on such a project, President Bednar said: “If I thought we had to execute this transition relying exclusively upon our own experience and our own judgment, then I would be terrified. But we will have help from heaven. Because we know who is in charge and that we are not alone, then no, I am not scared. I have come to know that President Hinckley’s vision concerning the future of BYU—Idaho is not really about two-year or four-year status. It is not really about academic rank or athletics. And it is not really about a name change. This announcement is about faith—faith in the future. Given all the changes that have taken place at this institution in a relatively short period of time, I testify that miracles have occurred, revelations have been received, and doors have been opened, and we have been greatly blessed as individuals and as an institution. These truly are days never to be forgotten” (“Going Forward in the Strength of the Lord,” Ensign, Mar 2005).
On August 10, 2001, Ricks College officially became BYU—Idaho. By the summer of 2004, the university was able to announce that it had received academic accreditation; four-year baccalaureate degrees were available; and the traditional academic year had been replaced by a year-round schedule, which allowed more students to be admitted throughout the year. With the year-round schedule, students could take internships away from campus at times other than the usual summer break.
As a member of the Mormon Church, David was always actively engaged in Church service. While living in Fayetteville, Arkansas, he was called to be a counselor in the stake presidency at the young age of thirty. He also served as a bishop, as president of the Fort Smith Arkansas Stake, and as president of the Rogers Arkansas Stake. Later he would serve as a regional representative and as an Area Authority Seventy. Much of this Church service was performed while David and Susan were raising their family and while he was working at the University of Arkansas. Those that associated with David, whether it was in Church service or at the University, were always amazed with his leadership and zeal for life. One associate from the university commented, “David Bednar was part of our leadership team. He sharpened our vision. He always exuded enthusiasm for students and a passion to help his fellowman. To all our discussions he brought reason and compassion. He inspired his colleagues and students by his example and was held in the highest esteem.”
Since he has left Arkansas, David Bednar’s presence is still felt, and many believe that it was his leadership and the tireless hours that united the members there. One of his trademarks was inviting all members of the stake to bring their scriptures to every meeting. If he noticed that some did not have theirs, he would encourage them to do better.
Elder Bednar commented: “During my training before my mission, we went to the solemn assembly room in the Salt Lake Temple. President Harold B. Lee was there to answer questions from about 300 missionaries. He stood there in his white suit, holding his white scriptures. He answered every question from the scriptures, or he said, ‘I don’t know.’ I sat there and thought that I would never be able to know the scriptures the way he did, but my objective became to use the scriptures in my teaching the way that I saw President Harold B. Lee do it. That desire is the genesis of all my scripture study.”
In the fall of 2004, after serving as President of BYU—Idaho, President Bednar was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.