Faculty and Staff

brother chad olson

Chad Olson was born and raised in Orem, Utah. He grew up in a sports family with his dad coaching BYU football for 20 years. In high school, he played football, basketball and track and then played a year of football before his mission at Ricks (now BYU-Idaho). Chad was called to serve in the Poland, Warsaw mission and while serving there, fell in love with studying and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.


After his mission, he was planning on playing football at Dixie, but received a call from the Provo MTC to teach Polish so he decided to transfer to BYU and teach at the MTC. Chad graduated in Marriage, Family and Human Development and also received a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.


While at BYU, Chad met the love of his life, Janae Van Tassell who is from Tabiona, a small town in Utah. They were married in the Bountiful temple on December 16, 2005. They moved to St. George in 2008 to teach seminary at Dixie High School. They have six children and love being parents. Chad enjoys playing golf and coaching his children in whatever sport they are playing. He loves the youth and young adults and is so excited to be teaching at the institute.

At present, he is director of the St. George Utah Institute of Religion.

brother wilkins

Ryan Wilkins was born and raised in Pleasant Grove, UT. During high school he participated on several athletic teams and he still enjoys athletics, pickleball being his major hobby these days. 

From 1998-2000 he served a full-time mission in Hamburg Germany. He was raised in an inactive home so his mission set the tone for the life he wanted to live and the family he wanted to raise. After being home for about a year he married one of his good friends from high school, Melinda Francom (but everybody calls her Mini). 

Mini and Ryan both graduated from Southern Utah University and it was there in Cedar City that Ryan began teaching seminary. He taught seminary for 17 years in Cedar City, Beaver, and St. George, and has now been at the St. George Institute for two years. Ryan holds a bachelor’s degree in German and History from SUU and a master’s degree in Religious Education from BYU. 

Together Ryan and Mini have five beautiful children, four boys and one adorable girl who Ryan unabashedly claims is his favorite. He currently serves as a member of his stake’s high council and as a stake institute teacher.

brother Black

Brother Black was born in Kennewick, Washington and grew up in Monticello, Price, Bountiful, and Blanding UT. He served a mission in Spain and afterwards obtained a bachelor's in human development, a master's degree in marriage and family therapy, and another master's degree in divinity. 

Besides teaching the gospel full-time, Brother Black is also a licensed therapist and works at Diamond Ranch Academy. He is also a chaplain for the Utah Army National Guard. He met Lori, his wife, at their college singles ward and now they have four beautiful children with one on the way!

Brother Black enjoys triathlons, mountain biking, Cafe Rio, Swig, and hanging out with his family at the lake.

brother McConkie

Marshall McConkie moved to St. George when he was in fourth grade. After graduating high school, he left town, swearing he would never move back. He has lived in St. George for the past 16 years.


Brother McConkie served his mission in McAllen, Texas from 1997-1999. (Fun Fact, the McAllen, Texas mission is the only US mission that is completely bilingual.) He treasured his experiences there.


Following his mission, he received his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from BYU, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Valparaiso University School of Law in Valparaiso, Indiana. Following his graduation from law school he practice law for eight years, spending most of that time as a prosecutor. He finally decided to stop putting people in jail and teach the gospel.


He loves learning, reading, playing the piano, exercising, and being a part of the local theaters whenever time permits.


He is married to his wife Sue, and together they have 5 wonderful (sometimes) children. His two oldest are in college at BYU and BYU-I. His absolute favorite thing in the world to do is to travel with his family. Disneyland always calls to his heart, but feel free to ask him about his month long road trips. They’re his favorite.

brother Olson

Brother Olson was born in Sanpete County and grew up in Spanish Fork, Utah. After high school he served a mission in the Canada Toronto East Mission. Following his service as missionary, he met his wife Janille at Snow College and the two were married in 2000. They have been blessed with 4 amazing children who are full of life and adventure! 

Brother Olson graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in English from Dixie State University as well as a Master's Degree in Academic Advising from Kansas State University. 

He has had many roles during his 23 years working on a college campus including time as a basketball coach, English Professor, Director of Academic Advising and currently holds the position of Associate Athletic Director and TV/Radio commentator for Dixie State Basketball; however, his favorite role has been teaching Institute! 

He absolutely loves spending time with his wife and kids in the outdoors where they love to fish, hike, climb and everything in-between! Other favorites include following his sports teams (Red Sox, Golden Knights and the Jazz) and weekly trips for ice cream.

brother coder

Bro. Coder was born in Alaska where he lived until he was about 7. He then moved to Washington state for a few years before his dad’s job took his family to Stockton, CA.  A few years later, they moved back to Washington and he “grew up” in a little town called Adna. There were a total of 350 students in grades 6-12 and they all met in the same building. There were only 6 members of the church in that whole school so Bro. Coder got a lot of experience explaining how Mormon’s didn’t have horns, that we could drink water on Wednesday, and that we do not have magical underwear that grants wishes. 

After serving a mission in Florianopolis, Brasil, bro. Coder attended BYU where he got a degree in Advertising. He also earned his Masters degree in Education from SUU. 

He has a beautiful wife and 4 wonderful children. 3 girls and 1 little guy. 

He taught in Cedar City for 10 years and has been very grateful to be teaching in St. George, Utah for the past 7 1/2 years.

sister stewart

At 10-years-old, I would study English on my own by listening to music in English like the 80’s song “Eternal Flame” from the Bangles. Music was a big motivation for me to learn English. At age 22, I was teaching English in Brazil for middle and high school students. I love language, music, dancing, and socializing with friends. 

I was born in Minas Gerais State, Brazil and taught English and Portuguese as an occupation in Brazil. I also previously worked as an Educational Analyst for the Brazilian School district and had to supervise school’s development system and follow up teachers and students. I have written a chapter in a book about Education in Brazil for a Federal University. 

I served as missionary in the Brazil Natal Mission from September,2015 to March 2017. I was married to my amazing musician Matt Stewart who also served a Mission in Fort Worth in 2009 to 2011 Saint George Temple, Utah in 2018, to Matt Stewart. Currently, I teach ESL at Pine View High School and had taught Portuguese there in 2019. I am a certified Portuguese Teacher and have a bachelor’s degree in Foreign Language Teaching Education with 10 years of experience I also have a Teaching Endorsement through Utah Valley University. I am happy to be part of Saint George Institute Program and helping my students learn the gospel in a fun and interactive way.

Brother Dressler

J. Dressler was born in Orem, Utah. From there his family moved him to Las Vegas and eventually settling here in sunny St. George. After graduating HIghschool, he went to the United States Marine Corps where he served as a Combat Engineer at 2d CEB, Camp Lejeune, NC. After his honorable discharge from the military service he came back to St. George to start his degree in Music Education and is currently working on obtaining said degree at Utah Tech University. He currently volunteers as and is the founder of the St.George Institute Orchestra.

Sister merrell

Keely was born and raised right here in Sunny Saint George. She spent her high school years playing tennis and singing in the choir!

She then attended Utah Tech for a year before leaving on her mission to Yakima, Washington!

While on her mission she met so many wonderful people including her husband, Izen, who was also serving there as a missionary. They have now been happily married for one year! 

Keely is now a senior at Utah Tech majoring in communications! She spends her time reading, playing video games with her husband, watching Friends, running, hanging out with her family, and doing photography! 

Keely is the assisting office administrator here at the institute and she is so happy to be here! She enjoys getting to know all of the students and faculty! 

Sister thompson

Michelle Thompson is the Administrative Assistant at the St George Institute. Michelle is grew up in Brentwood, New York. Attended College at Boise State University. There she met her best friend and now husband Rick Thompson. They have 3 wonderful children. Rick and Michelle have lived in Hawaii, Boise and now live in St George. Michelle has worked for the Washington School District the last 7 years. She is so excited to be part of the St George Institute.