Some 200 students had registered for classes by the second week of January 1919. A daily inspection by a physician and an attempt to keep students and faculty isolated from the community resulted in a flu-free environment. Students and faculty were doubling their efforts, including Saturday sessions, to catch up as a result of the school closure due to the epidemic. Many former students did not register for the term, evidently deciding they did not want to expend the effort needed to catch up. This disappointed President Romney, who said that not only would the lost time be made up but the school year would be completed on schedule. Those not attending could expect to be a year behind their former classmates. Despite decreased enrollment, a sizable missionary class was organized, which was considered “a sure indication of the splendid spiritual condition of the school.“
The student body increased in numbers when several veterans returned to campus to resume their studies. They received special recognition at a devotional assembly. They were called into formation by the stirring sounds of a bugle, and they then marched to the rostrum. There they received a rose and were honored with musical presentations and patriotic talks. Although the program honored those on the rostrum, the proceeding was made melancholy by news that Melvin F. Fikstad, a former member of the academy missionary class, had been killed in action in France.
A new outbreak of influenza in the community worried President Romney. He had maintained the campus quarantine, effectively keeping the flu from spreading among students and faculty. When allowed to vote whether or not to maintain the quarantine for at least another week, students voted in the affirmative, even though that meant they would not be allowed to go off campus to attend church, visit home, or watch a movie. Some faculty members had children who were in the public schools. Children of two faculty members contracted the illness, so those faculty members stayed home to prevent spreading the disease on campus.
In an effort to make students happier with their quarantined situation, a contest was initiated to write a new college song. A prize of $10 was given to the winner, Reed Bitters, who wrote “We’ll Never Let R.N.C. Fall.” Students also were informed that the new gymnasium soon would be dedicated, and they were expected to be careful to see that the building was kept nice and clean.
The Fremont Stake quarterly conference afternoon session on March 22, which was held in the auditorium of the gymnasium with a capacity crowd, was devoted to the dedication of the college gymnasium. The final cost of the building was $82,000, almost entirely paid by local subscription. The structure was considered to be “up-to-date in every respect, a credit to the builders, and a source of pride to the people of the Upper Snake River Valley.” Elder Hyrum G. Smith pronounced the dedicatory prayer.
The summer of 1919 was dry and hot. Many from the community took advantage of the swimming pool in the new gymnasium building. College faculty members Clyde Packer and Sarah Gillespie gave swimming lessons and supervised pool activities. A small fee charged to community patrons helped the college general fund. Coach Packer also supervised weekly campus dances to which the community was invited. While participating in the Utah Association of Dance Masters conference in Salt Lake City, he learned the “latest and best ideas in social dancing,” so he could see that Ricks’ dances were a “pleasing and wholesome social entertainment.“
While in Utah, Coach Packer also visited with Church education authorities about implementation of a full-fledged football program at Ricks. To his delight, he was informed that “football is being talked of for all the Church schools with a great deal of enthusiasm, and will doubtless be given in all during this season.“
Early in August 1919, Adam S. Bennion, the recently appointed superintendent of Church schools, and Elder David O. McKay visited campus. They were there to help with long-range planning and development of the campus. When school commenced for fall session, a general consensus was that “probably never in the history of the school has there been such well laid plans and such thorough preparations made, as are made this year.“
Enrollment for fall term was the largest in the school’s history. Almost 400 registered during the first week. To accommodate the increased enrollment, the Idaho Hotel was secured for a dormitory. Between sixty and seventy students and several faculty members were housed there. Enrollment was bolstered by the announcement that Coach Packer was looking for football players. He would soon have many from whom to choose to build a squad that he expected “to make a splendid record.“
The first Ricks College football game was held on October 10, 1919, against St. Anthony. The Ricks team was hampered by the fact that “none of them have ever seen a game of football, and the few day’s practice they have had, has at best, only given them a few rudimentary ideas and served to knock off some of the rough corners.” However, what they lacked in know-how, they made up in “enthusiasm and determination.” They lost that first game, but learned some lessons. They met the same St. Anthony team on October 15 and triumphed by a score of 18-7.
Armistice Day and the college Founders Day program were combined in 1919. A morning parade from the college with students and faculty, city officials, and spectators ended at the depot in time to meet the train bringing Adam S. Bennion, superintendent of Church schools, to town. He delivered his Founders Day oration in the tabernacle at 11 a.m. after addresses by local dignitaries. The biggest excitement of the day was the football game. At 3 p.m., the game of the season against the Idaho Technical Institute team from Pocatello commenced in zero degree weather on a snow-covered field. A large crowd watched the game and cheered the college to a 12-6 victory. To show appreciation, a rally was held after the game, and players were “treated to a chicken supper.” The day’s activities concluded with dances held for college students-the upperclassmen danced in the basement of the tabernacle and lowerclassmen danced in the gymnasium. The general public was invited to dance at Woodmen of the World Hall.
School commenced after Thanksgiving with a large missionary class enrolling. This boosted enrollment for the term to well over the 500 mark. However, many students and some faculty were not in attendance for the beginning of classes after the holiday. They were home very ill. There was a certain amount of relief when physicians’ examinations proved the illnesses were not the dreaded influenza. All were back in school soon.
Ricks Normal College got some national attention early in 1920 when an editorial by Dr. A.E. Winship appeared in the Journal of Education. He noted that “Ricks Normal College, Rexburg, Idaho, is in a class by itself in educational service rendered its students.” He pointed out how the college had accommodated the needs of an agricultural community by allowing students to register for one college credit and work at home on the farm under supervision. There they would study assigned materials, as well as develop practical farming skills. Cost per student was “$5.00 for summer supervision, and the books cost $1.50. This is $6.50 against $65.00 average cost for a term at the college in which the same credit would be earned.” Dr. Winship noted a “greatly improved . . . relation of the home to the work of the boys and girls. Parents appreciate that there is real educational value in farm and home work; that improvement in methods has other than financial value; that there are ways and means to prevent drudgery; that the college is really interested in their boys and girls.” He concluded that a college faculty member visiting homes of students two or three times a year gave an indication of the importance of the student and the good effect that would have on parents.
An innovation introduced to aid faculty and students during the beginning of the 1920 fall term was establishment of a cafeteria as part of the domestic science department. This helped compensate for “inadequate facilities for boarding students in the town.” A good cook was hired to supervise the cafeteria where “students and teachers may, for a few cents, procure one or more meals a day, saving the trouble of going into town and being often inadequately served.” The new cafeteria got a lot of attention. Fremont Stake President Mark Austin and the college Board of Education took an opportunity to eat there and were “highly pleased.” President Romney “predicted great success in this new venture” and invited townspeople to eat in the college cafeteria.
Another addition to the high school and college curriculum was an automobile mechanics class. “A complete auto mechanics shop was installed” in the mechanical arts building, and it was “equipped with the very best of machinery for automobile work.“
The college football season did not engender the enthusiasm of the previous year, perhaps because the team did not do as well. The team completed the season with a game at Gooding College attended by President Romney. In age, the Ricks players were “handicapped by several years.” Tactics of the Gooding team “were new to our team and so they let the other team get away during the first half.” During the second half, Ricks played “nobly and really covered themselves with glory even though they lost the game.“
Sports enthusiasts looked forward to basketball and track. President Romney had been elected a vice president in the newly organized Southern Idaho Conference that included basketball, track, and debate, oratorical and declamation contests. That President Romney was involved in administration of the conference seemed to augur well for the college. “This will no doubt bring our school to the front as never before,” one observer noted.
An exceptionally exciting basketball game was played on February 17 when the College of Idaho from Caldwell visited Ricks. When the first half ended, Ricks was “far in the lead.” Perhaps some overconfidence led to complacency for Ricks. Quickly, in the second half, the College of Idaho team rallied and tied the “Ricksie boys.” With only a short time left in the game, Ricks went up by one point on a “foul pitch.” The visitors answered with a “field basket” and “hopes dropped several degrees.” However, “our boys worked like Trojans; they brought the ball to the hoop time after time, but it would not go through.” With only seconds left in the game, a desperate shot was taken from the field. “It was a long throw, but the ball clung on the rim of the hoop, hesitated, and fell through-and Ricksie won, 24-23.“
Ricks was one of the schools in the state certified by the state Board of Education to instruct in teacher certification. Some 100 teachers took advantage of the Ricks program to aid them in their academic progression. A training school enrolled about sixty-five students. Teachers could apply theory learned in actual teaching situations. To assess the effectiveness of Ricks’ program, Ethel E. Redfield, state superintendent of education, spent two days on campus early in July. She checked each class and the training school and was “pleased and satisfied” with all she saw.
Several other dignitaries visited summer school. Dr. Bryan, state commissioner of education; Miss Martin, assistant superintendent of education in Idaho; Mark Austin, from the district Board of Education for Ricks; and Adam S. Bennion, superintendent of Church schools, each assessed the school’s progress. Each pronounced the program satisfactory. Ordinarily, all those educators would not have bothered to check on Ricks, but this was the first formally authorized Ricks Normal College summer school, thus deserving, and receiving, a lot of attention. Hyrum Manwaring acted as summer school director since President Romney was attending graduate school at Stanford University.
When President Romney returned to campus the fall of 1921, he brought with him a master of arts degree. He administered an expanded faculty, hired in anticipation of increased enrollment. By the fall of 1921, the post-war economic condition had deteriorated, especially in areas with an agriculture-based economy. Ricks felt the impact. Costs of operating the college were increasing, while the amount of money being generated by parents sending their children to Ricks was decreasing. Despite the uneasy situation, Ricks maintained an entrance fee of $15 for high school entrance.
Economic conditions did not seem to create too much of a problem, since during the first two days of enrollment, September 26 and 27, 1921, a substantial increase was noted over previous enrollment periods. Additionally, the size of the college class enrollment doubled.
One of the first orders of business for students was to adopt a code of conduct. Boys and girls met in separate meetings and each adopted their own code. “We, the girls of R.N.C. stand for the following regulations in dress:
l. Simplicity in dress.
a. No transparent material or party dresses in school.
b. No French heels in school.
c. No rolled stockings or fancy garters below the knees.
d. No skirts shorter than thirteen inches from the floor.
e. No extreme hair dress and its accompanying rouge and lip sticks.“
The boys paid no special attention to dress standards, but concentrated on dance standards:
“We stand for proper dancing both in position and step. We are also resolved to join the special dancing classes where we can learn what is proper. We invite our friends to join us in these classes. We are in favor of printing invitation cards that our friends may get an application.“
Moral and dress standards were reinforced shortly after school commenced in January 1922. The devotional period on January 11 was unusual in that boys and girls met in separate meetings to discuss standards. President Romney met with the girls to encourage them to maintain high standards, explaining the consequences if standards were not maintained. The boys also had the standards explained to them. Later in the afternoon each class met to pledge themselves to adopt and adhere to the school standards. One problem the administration wished to have students avoid was any involvement with the bootleggers operating in the area. Although prohibition had been in force in Idaho since 1916 and had been nationalized by constitutional amendment, enforcement was sporadic and did not deter bootleggers.
Freshman Day was inaugurated on February 10, 1922. Freshmen or “greens” were to provide entertainment at the “character ball” held in the tabernacle. Prior to the ball, freshmen had to prove their character by bearing jibes and jokes at their expense. This was freshman initiation, and so much fun was had that students decided Freshman Day should be institutionalized and held annually.
Early in March, President Romney sent a letter to those who had neglected to pay tuition during the 1920-1921 school year. He insisted that payment be made or special arrangements be made with the Board of Education. Otherwise, he noted, “Their credit for the year should be stricken from the record.“
While in Salt Lake City to attend April conference, President Romney attended a Church Board of Education meeting. Upon his return, he reported discussion of making Ricks Normal College a “senior college.” The discussions were very preliminary and brief.
By the third week in April, about 200 students were on campus. Another 250 were enrolled in the “project system,” whereby they studied at home. Faculty supervisors would drop in occasionally to check on their work. Most of those who studied at home were from farming families. Much of what they did on the farm was considered practical experience and counted toward credits earned for graduation. But farm work counted as one project, and most students were required to have four projects, including one directed toward social and religious activities. The religious project could be completed by participating in local ward activities. Other projects dealt with civics, public speaking, health, or music. Six faculty were assigned to check each student’s progress.
President Romney spent much of the week of April 24, 1922, in Boise attending the first College Week ceremonies. Under the auspices of the Boise Chamber of Commerce, all institutions of higher education in the state and their accomplishments were featured in Boise window displays. Ricks received substantial attention. President Romney was invited to speak about Ricks Normal College achievements to four different groups.
He had conducted a survey among twelve businessmen in Rexburg to arrive at his conclusions of “Why . . . Idaho students [should] receive their college education in Idaho.” Loyalty to the state should be foremost to keep Idaho’s students in Idaho’s colleges. Second, “Idaho men in Idaho colleges could better understand the problems under which they would face Idaho life.” The third most often expressed opinion regarded development of character. Character building was easier in a small college environment because of less “opportunity for temptations which college men too often come in contact with in the larger centers.“
The address was well received. Boise newspapers noted that Ricks was an important part of the state’s educational system and “has before her a great future as one of the large colleges of this section.” President Romney joined other college presidents and guests at a reception and dinner sponsored by Men’s Brotherhood of the First Presbyterian Church. The next day each president spoke to high school and grade school teachers who were special guests of the Chamber of Commerce. Idaho Governor D.W. Davis summed up the prevailing attitude in his address to the group, declaring that institutions of higher education in the state and groups like the Chamber of Commerce needed to work to boost Idaho. “Idaho can never build up her schools and institutions by allowing so many of her youths to go to other states for their higher education,” he said.
Graduation exercises on June 1 and 2, 1922, were well attended by visitors from around the district. President Mark Austin had issued a call for school patrons to declare a two-day holiday from their labors and to travel to Rexburg to witness college graduation ceremonies. Thursday was filled with class activities and ball games. More than 1,500 people crowded into the tabernacle on Friday to witness graduation of twenty students from college and fifty-six from high school, and to listen to Elder Melvin J. Ballard deliver the commencement address. He exhorted his audience to make faith in God the “ballast” in their lives and to maintain personal purity, as “only the pure in heart shall see God.“
When students arrived for fall classes on September 25, not only did they find an enlarged faculty, increased student enrollment, and expanded curriculum (including a class on calculator operation), but also a renovated administration building. The library had been enlarged. All high school classes were confined to the first floor and the east end of the second and third floors. In addition, electric bells had been installed in the gymnasium. One observer noted, “Altogether the school is assuming a decidedly college air.“
An article in The Rexburg Journal on December 1, 1922, noted Ricks Normal College expansion’s impact on the community. The student body, numbering a record 621, was extolled as “virile, energetic and loyal” and as having come “from the homes of the best citizens of Idaho.” The school had been pronounced as “one of the best schools in the state” by “state educational authorities.” Not only was the regular school successful, but those attending the past summer session were taught so well that 100 percent passed the state teacher certification examination. Those taking college courses could enroll in the “normal teacher’s institute” or the “college of Arts and Sciences.” Those in the high school could enroll in regular high school, the commercial curriculum, or vocational high school. Additionally, college extension courses were offered in the surrounding communities. Furthermore, “the purity of life required of members of the Church to which the institution belongs, has long been considered the most valuable part of the education received by the students who attend.“
The economic asset to the community also was noted in the newspaper. Annually, more than $250,000 was brought into businesses by the college. “Our people are fast learning to appreciate this splendid asset,” the article concluded. “Now only in rare cases [can] disgruntled and short-sighted individuals . . . be found who do not appreciate the value of our great school [as] evidenced by the most hearty support which the business men and patrons are giving to our institution.“
Early in January 1923, information was issued by the Church Board of Education that Church schools would gradually phase out high school classes. With the intent of making their junior colleges the nation’s best, Church schools would be devoted to junior college curricula. President Romney met with Rexburg school board members informing them that the public school system would need to accommodate high school freshmen. Ricks Normal College no longer would do so. However, sophomores, juniors, and seniors would continue to attend the college until those classes were phased out. “When it was announced . . . that the Ricks College would retire from the field of high school training and give its principal efforts to the higher or collegiate work in education, the news was received by the business people of the city of Rexburg with considerable gratification, . . . [having] been hoped for by many . . . for several years,” commented C.W. Poole, chairman of the Rexburg Commercial Club.
Enlarging the college curricula brought a name change to Ricks Normal College. Church Board of Education Commissioner John A. Widtsoe wrote a letter to the Ricks College Board of Education indicating that “Normal” had been dropped. Henceforth, the college would be officially known as Ricks College.
The first Leadership Week program was held on campus from February 13 to 16, 1923. Students and patrons from various stakes participated in a curriculum intended to make each into a stake, ward, or community leader. Ricks faculty, others invited from the Church education system, community leaders, and faculty from colleges outside the area taught a variety of classes. The program was such a success that the district Board of Education decided to make Leadership Week an annual affair. Leadership Week was held for the next three decades.
On March 23, 1923, the “greatest, most important, most thrilling, grandest, event of the year took place” on campus: the annual Girls Day. The gymnasium was decorated in fairy tale themes. Presiding over the festivities was Leora Rock, who had been elected queen. She was on stage throughout the devotional assembly attended by all students and faculty. However, the faculty and boys had to sit along the sides of the gymnasium, as the girls marched in taking their places in the middle of the hall. After a program conducted by Esther Hamilton, president of the Amagus Club, the girls posed for a picture. In the evening, a dance concluded a delightful day.
The Girls Day dance may have been nice, but it could not compare with the college prom sponsored by the freshman college class. “The blood of every student is surging with enthusiasm,” a participant noted. Twenty-five cents assured students of an enjoyable time.
The president of the United States, Warren G. Harding, was in Idaho Falls on June 28, 1923. A contingent from Ricks College was among more than 25,000 people welcoming him. Summer school students had decorated a chartered car with banners to “prove the patriotism of the school.” Driving around Idaho Falls, they “made a very creditable showing for themselves” and for Rexburg. President Harding spoke, toured the area, and accepted several gifts. He then continued on to Tacoma, Washington, Alaska, and then back to San Francisco. Word was received in Rexburg that the president had died unexpectedly on August 2. Ricks students joined in mourning the president’s death.
To buttress the college agriculture program in 1923, Dr. Milton Knudsen, a “recognized authority in agriculture” and a University of Wisconsin graduate, was hired. He developed curriculum for animal and dairy husbandry courses. He also taught extension courses to local farmers. Perhaps his most important contribution, at least from the dairy farmers’ point of view, was his advice to students that each should drink at least a quart of milk each day. This would ensure that “they would do efficient work.“
Shortly after school commenced on October 1, 1923, a problem became apparent. President Romney, meeting with the Church Board of Education in Salt Lake City, explained that elimination of the first two years of high school had created a severe financial strain because of the dramatic drop in enrollment. The Church board decided the problem needed to be resolved at the local level. Stake presidents were to campaign in their stakes for students to attend the college.
President Romney also addressed another issue. The library was inadequate for college work. Books and reference works were needed. Stake members would be asked to supply books from an approved list or to donate money to buy needed works. The college was to appoint a library committee to work with stake committees to aid the library. Neither the attendance nor library building drive was too productive, and these issues continued to require ongoing encouragement by President Romney and the Board of Education.
The first football game of the season against another college was held on November 2. Despite the presence of Ricks’ “Big Boy,” Leo Beckstead, Brigham Young College of Logan, Utah, defeated “the Ricks purple and white gridiron heroes” 27-0. However, “the decisive score . . . tells very little about the game,” one spectator noted. “The boys from the ‘college on the hill’ well deserve the title of heroes considering the game scrap which they exhibited during all stages of the game.” If only “a little hard luck in the form of a fumble” had not occurred, the game may well have been much different.
Founders Day on November 12, 1923, was celebrated as usual with a parade and speeches. A football game against Montana State Agricultural College freshmen also was witnessed by a large crowd. Ricks lost by a score of 40-0. The only football game Ricks had won during the season was the opener against Ashton High School. Otherwise, the season left a lot to be desired. Coach Packer and his team overcame their frustration with a fishing trip to Camas Creek where they caught a lot of trout and then had a fish feed for some fifty guests instead of the annual football banquet.
Fortunately, a library book drive was more successful than the football season. Library books and other materials were donated from all over the Upper Snake River Valley. Several faculty members traveled to distant places to pick up donated materials. During their travels they touted academic and spiritual advantages of Ricks College, including being able to attend newly organized night classes on campus.
Ricks faculty received special praise in the December 21 issue of The Rexburg Journal. The faculty “rank as leading educators in the state,” the editor noted. “Their standing is unsurpassed in scholarship, experience, and in ability to put over the work of the school.” Credentials of each faculty member were published for public benefit. Of sixteen faculty members, all but three had college degrees. Those three had years of practical experience. The level of education was well above that for comparable educational institutions.
“We look forward with confidence that Ricks College will continue to hold its place as one of the leading institutions of learning,” noted Rexburg Mayor L.Y. Rigby, “and make of Rexburg one of the leading educational centers of the State of Idaho.” Henry J. Flamm, the Rexburg Second Ward bishop, commented on the morality taught by the college faculty and how those values provided young people with a desire to help others achieve them. He said, “I see and feel the influence radiate in all of our gatherings and activities in the ward.” He concluded, “We have but little trouble with those” who “attend and graduate from this institution.“
Ricks’ basketball team started the new year of 1924 by getting the attention of Montana State University. Ricks was in Bozeman and treated a “rather small” crowd to an exciting brand of basketball. A reporter for the Bozeman newspaper noted that Ricks had “some happy passing, a well developed style of play and a brilliant defense, and the crowd stood on its hind legs and howled for more of the same sort of basketball.” The reporter concluded, “It was one of the most thrilling and one of the closest games ever played in the new gymnasium.” Perhaps the Bozeman crowd would have “howled” less had their team not won by a score of 30-27. Ricks received much favorable publicity in Montana. Coach Packer, as a guest of the Bozeman Rotary Club, spoke highly of Ricks and Rexburg.
President Romney conferred with the Church Board of Education in January about the status of Ricks College. He “found an exceptionally encouraging attitude on the part of the board members in relation to the future outlook of Ricks College. It is very bright.” He noted that the board intended “to make Ricks College the one large school of Idaho.“
Nathan Ricks, an attorney at law, represented Ricks during the spring of 1924 before the state Board of Education arguing that the college should be granted the right to award teacher certificates with the same recognition as that granted to state schools, particularly the Idaho Technical Institute in Pocatello. The board agreed to allow Ricks to grant the same teacher certificate for one year only, provided the training received was comparable. The Idaho Legislature would need to deal with the issue of whether privately supported institutions could issue teacher certificates. Presumably, most teachers would be employed in the public school system. Other privately supported schools in Idaho watched the outcome with interest. Most agreed that the State Legislature would institutionalize teacher certification, whether obtained from a public or private school.
Baccalaureate was on June 1, 1924, in the tabernacle with Andrew B. Christenson, former president of the college, as featured speaker. After class programs were presented, a special presentation was made by descendants of Thomas E. Ricks. They gave the college a pumping plant to pump water out of the city ditch into a ditch on the south side of the campus. Adequate water was then available for newly planted trees and lawn.
The executive committee of the district board wrote to all stake presidents in the district and to members of the district Board of Education, noting that
“during the last three years, we have turned out from our winter school and summer school from four to five hundred splendid teachers. More than half of them were the product of our own school, the other half attended the Summer School during the nine weeks. Under the influence of our splendid faculty and institution, most of them became inspired with the importance of impressing the young students with the necessity of laying the foundation of a righteous and spiritual life upon which to build their educational structure. Parents will have the satisfaction of knowing that their children are in good hands, rather than turning them over to irresponsible, unreliable, foreign strangers, whom they know not. When the children grow up, aliens to the truth, cold and indifferent, the parents very often wonder why. Many of the children, no doubt have gotten those Godless impressions from those Godless schools, that Brother Woodruff spoke about when he was urging the importance of Church Schools.“
When fall college term commenced, some faculty changes had taken place. Ray J. Davis, who recently had graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a doctor of philosophy degree, replaced Milton H. Knudsen, who had been called by the Church Board of Education as president of Snow College. Blanche McKay took over the oral expression and dramatic art department. Harry A. Dean joined the music department. Several other faculty members had spent the summer securing advanced training.
President Romney was credited with being forceful in securing faculty members who gave credence to the junior college curriculum at Ricks. By fall of 1924, junior college students could get a good liberal education or a good practical skills education. The college was equally ranked with other older junior colleges by the American Association of Junior Colleges.
During the 1924 state legislative session, Senate Bills Numbers 8 and 9 were introduced by Senator I.N. Corey of Rexburg. Senate Bill No. 8 amended section 82, chapter 215, 1921 session laws “empowering the State Board of Education to authorize any standard normal school or department of education in any standard college or university located in the state of Idaho which has been approved by the State Board of Education to issue elementary certificates.” The bill would allow Ricks College to issue elementary certificates after one or two years of junior college work, providing requirements had been met. Bill No. 9 directed the state Board of Education to “uniformly issue teachers’ certificates . . . without discrimination whether said schools, colleges or academies be public or private and whether supported by public or private funds” if a prescribed course of study leading to accreditation was followed.
Passed by both houses with little debate and little dissent, both bills were signed by Governor C.C. Moore. By law, Ricks College and other private colleges in the state could not be discriminated against in favor of public normal schools. Teaching certificates issued by Ricks would be recognized as equal to those issued by any other institution.
At the afternoon session of Fremont Stake conference on September 27, 1925, Elder Melvin J. Ballard announced President Romney’s call as president of Fremont Stake, with counselors Peter J. Ricks and Arthur Porter, Jr. President Romney now had the dual responsibility of being president of Ricks College and president of the Fremont Stake. He was automatically a member of the district Board of Education responsible for the college’s administration.
Ricks and Porter were assigned to recruit for the college in communities surrounding Rexburg. Each counselor was on the local Board of Education by virtue of his ecclesiastical calling. Increasing student numbers at the college was important because the Church authorities had “under consideration plans for expanding the college provided there is sufficient support to justify this development.” They were to “make a survey of the district and learn the number of students who would attend.” They were pleased to report they “found enthusiastic support of the institution in the sections visited. It stands in high favor and there is a general desire to see it grow. Many young people are planning to attend.“
A few days before Christmas vacation, the college Board of Education met with the student body. The board was optimistic that Ricks would soon be a four-year college. The local board indicated that apparently everyone was in favor, including the Church board. Anticipating an expanded role in the Church education system, the local board announced long-range plans were being developed to increase campus physical facilities.
To start the new year of 1926, Ricks students announced a major drive to enlarge the library collection from adequate to “above standard.” They intended to raise $3,000 to buy books and other materials and received several pledges: faculty, $100; student body, $200; and Home Economics Club, $100. Alumni and others from local wards and stakes supported the project. For an admission fee of twenty-five cents for children and fifty cents for adults, a special program of music, dance, and dramatics was presented January 23 in the college auditorium with proceeds going to the library fund. By mid-February, some $1,000 had been collected. Then disappointingly, very little money was further subscribed. Perhaps a local public library drive had some impact on the college drive.
The most ambitious musical production to date was presented to the public in March 1926. Under the direction of Harry Dean, Gounod’s Faust was staged. In addition to the principals, a 100-voice chorus, a twelve-piece orchestra, and a thirty-two-member ballet company performed. The production was a “decided musical and artistic success.” Performances on March 18 and 19 were in the college auditorium. The performance on March 22 was at the Blackfoot Stake Center. It took a caravan of twenty automobiles to get to Blackfoot with all the props and performers. About 1,100 appreciative people attended the Blackfoot performance. Since the 1926 Blackfoot performance, Ricks students have performed throughout the Upper Snake River Valley and throughout the world.