Thomas E. Ricks, president of the newly organized Bannock Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announced in stake quarterly conference in April 1884, “We must educate our children as there are important positions awaiting them.” Accordingly, a local board of education was organized consisting of President Ricks and his counselors, William F. Rigby and Francis C. Gunnell, and appointees James E. Fogg and Andrew S. Anderson. The stake clerk, Thomas E. Bassett, was called as the first teacher. He taught for only three weeks, then left for Logan, Utah, to work in the tithing office. Schooling was sporadic for the next few years until Bannock Stake Academy, the forerunner of Ricks College, was established in 1888.
There are three distinct phases to the college’s history. From 1888 to 1929 the institution was founded, went through hard times and name changes, and emerged with some stability. From 1929 to 1961 the college was in almost constant turmoil. From 1961 to the present the college enjoyed a period of rapid growth with a sense of stability and only minor chinks to keep things interesting.
This history is chronological with a specific tag for each chapter. At times there are many names, but only when considered necessary to explain a “first” or a concept. I tried to be anecdotal enough to convey the humor, pathos, and occasional grandeur of students, faculty, staff, and patrons.
This study is not: a list of every faculty or staff member who ever worked for the college; a history of each department and division; a history of every club, athletic endeavor, alumni honor, fine arts production, homecoming queen or woman of the year, devotional or forum speaker, baccalaureate or commencement address, or student-body officer. This is not to say that each organization or entity is not important. Each should have an up-to-date history on file in the college archives.
This history provides a unique window for observation. We can look back and acquire perspective on who we are and how we arrived at this point. A sense of pride in the antecedents of the college is appropriate, yet a sense of direction for the future needs to be the outcome of a retrospective exercise. Perhaps a hundred years from now, some researcher will try to make some sense out of the college’s second century. Most of us will not be there to give first-hand accounts, so good personal and institutional records need to be kept to aid that future interpreter. That researcher will likely be as amazed at the accomplishments of this generation as we are at the accomplishments of those of the last 110 years.
I appreciate and gratefully acknowledge aid that I received from many people. Especially helpful were the archive staffs of Ricks College (especially Blaine Bake), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Historical Department, Brigham Young University, and the Idaho State Historical Society. All photographs found in this book were provided by the Ricks College Archives and Public Relations Department unless otherwise noted.
Others who made important resources available were Gary Brock, Dr. Daniel Hess, the Arthur Porter, Jr., family, and the Dr. Merrill D. Beal family.
I acknowledge the contribution of those who read all or parts of the manuscript and made suggestions that strengthened it: former presidents Steven D. Bennion, Henry B. Eyring, Bruce D. Hafen, and Joe J. Christensen, Lawrence Coates, Norman Ricks, Eldred Stephenson, Robert Worrell, LaRae Clarke, and James R. Smyth.
Special thanks is extended to Don W. Sparhawk, the project editor, for his expertise and dedication, and to President Bennion and R. Brent Kinghorn for their encouragement and support. Thanks is also expressed to Scott Franson and the Graphic Services staff at the college for designing the book.
Finally, I appreciate the insight and encouragement of my wife, JoAnne, who devoted numerous hours reading, revising, and typing the manuscript.