Legacy of a Legend

PROVO, Utah – Jun 11, 2019 – Climbing the tallest mountains in the world, running a marathon, learning to fly, and doing research in Uganda are incredible feats on their own—and BYU Marriott associate professor Stacy Taniguchi has done them all. “This is a life to thrive,” he teaches his students. Retiring from BYU Marriott after eighteen years, Taniguchi will be remembered for his adventure-filled stories and inspirational advice. 

Originally from Hawaii, Taniguchi grew up surfing big waves and exploring the islands. He graduated with an associate degree from the University of Hawaii and received his BA in biology from the University of Alaska. Intending to pursue a career in the medical field, Taniguchi found himself at a crossroads when he wasn’t accepted to medical school but was offered a high school teaching position in the Anchorage, Alaska, school district. Taniguchi chose to teach and was hired on the spot by his former high school principal. "I stayed there for twenty-three years,” he says.  

Putting his talents and love for physical activity to use, Taniguchi began coaching the high school's varsity cross-country running, cross-country skiing, and track and field teams. Taniguchi himself ran cross-country and skied for the University of Alaska in his college days. “Because I love doing those things, I just did all three,” he says. “I went from one season to the next and the next.”  

At the high school where Taniguchi taught, cross-country skiing in particular grew in popularity, and many of his students would move on to compete internationally. Kikkan Randall, five-time Olympian and one of the first women to win an Olympic gold medal in cross-country skiing, trained under Taniguchi. “I worked with great students, great kids,” Taniguchi says. “In fact, right up until the most recent Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, one of my skiers had always been in the Winter Olympic Games. That has always been a reward for me.”  

During his time teaching high school, Taniguchi spent his summers on the Alaskan seas and in the mountains as a wilderness guide. He also took a sabbatical from teaching to obtain an MS in exercise physiology from the University of Utah. While in Utah, he met and married his wife, LuAnn, and they have four children. 

Earning a doctoral degree was always something Taniguchi hoped to do. At age fifty, he moved back to Utah and did just that, receiving a PhD in education with a minor in education law and tort liability law from Brigham Young University. When asked why he chose to pursue his doctorate, Taniguchi says that “as you get older, your body starts to fall apart, and you can only do so much. My neighbor asked me if I had ever thought about getting a PhD and using all my life experience as a basis for teaching at a college or university. I loved that idea. So that's what I did.”  

Taniguchi’s doctorate research included studying family structures in Uganda. “I quickly realized that this was the right field of study for me to do research,” he says. Taniguchi, along with other graduate students, spent many summer months in Ugandan villages. They specifically observed orphans, as more than half of the youth in Uganda are parentless due to the country’s AIDS epidemic. “The youth are desperate to have a father figure, a mother figure, and brothers and sisters,” he says.  

Taniguchi has influenced both students and faculty alike through his lifetime of service in education. His career at BYU Marriott began in 2001 where he taught as a professor until his final semester in 2019. One of his most outstanding achievements includes developing a risk-management course for the Department of Experience Design and Management at BYU Marriott. This course opened the door for the expansion of outdoor recreational activity offered in BYU classes, including the addition of a rock-climbing class, which he designed.  

Though Taniguchi is retiring from BYU Marriott, he’s far from done. He frequently speaks at educational and religious institutions across the nation. Looking forward, he will focus his efforts on his consulting firm, Ampelis, a leadership-training and legacy-planning service for businesses and families. 

Taniguchi, whose impactful career spans the ski slopes of Alaska to the lush forests of Uganda, hopes he has left his students with an understanding of how to thrive in life rather than just survive. “Endure to the end,” he says. “I hear that all the time—and it does not resonate with me. You have a choice. You can either decide to endure or you can decide to thrive.”

BYU Marriott associate professor Stacy Taniguchi
BYU Marriott associate professor Stacy Taniguchi. Photo courtesy of BYU/Bradley Slade.
Taniguchi leading a climbing expedition
Taniguchi leading a climbing expedition. Photo courtesy of BYU/Bradley Slade.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Erika Magaoay