Ricks College: A View from the Hill

Cover Story

Spori Building (Early 1900s)Ricks College: A view from the hill

A photographic journey through this century.

The end of a century affords a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to glance back upon the milestones of the past 100 years. Fremont Stake Academy, the forerunner of Ricks College, was barely thirteen years old in 1900 and three years away from moving to its present-day location on the hill south of Rexburg. Now in its 112th year of operation, the college has a lasting legacy of providing higher education to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and others.  
      
We have chosen just 24 dates, or fragments of time, to tell of the triumphs, the struggles and the progress made during this century. We have taken these glimpses of the past from the pages of The Spirit of Ricks, a 450-page book by former Ricks College history professor David L. Crowder. (The book was published by the college and is available through the Ricks College Bookstore.)

June 25, 1900  President George Q. Cannon of the Church First Presidency laid the cornerstone (for today's Spori Building) before a large crowd. Several townspeople questioned the wisdom of choosing a site so far from downtown, arguing that a downtown location would be more appropriate. Others -- perhaps being more visionary -- argued that the town would grow to meet the campus. (pg. 7)

February 27, 1902  At a meeting of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, the matter of Smith Academy was discussed. (Upon combining the stakes of Fremont, Bingham and Teton to comprise one educational district, the name Smith Academy had been adopted.) Elder John Henry Smith's motion carried that the academy be renamed Ricks Academy, honoring and memorializing Thomas E. Ricks (who died September 28, 1901). (pgs. 8-9)

November 12, 1906  Earlier, in September, enough money had been raised to pay off the academy building and grounds mortgage. Elder John Henry Smith was the presiding authority at the dedication. Total cost of the building, furnishings, and grounds was $63,475. Of that amount, Church headquarters had contributed $14,000. The rest had been paid by "people in this section of the country," according to Principal Ezra Christiansen (who changed his last name to Dalby in 1907). (pgs. 19-20)

The Old B2 BuildingEarly August, 1915  Principal A.B. Christenson announced Church board authorization of Ricks Academy curriculum expansion to accommodate first-year college courses. That news was greeted with enthusiasm. Sacrifices by those involved with the academy during very trying times seemed to be further rewarded. He also announced authorization for a new academy building -- a gymnasium. Permanency of the institution seemed assured. (pgs. 53-54)

March 1, 1918 The district Board of Education was present to formally open the new (gym) building. (The building was razed in 1978 to make room, in part, for today's Eliza R. Snow Center for the Performing Arts.) People gathered from near and far to tour the facility, which included a swimming pool, kitchen, dining room, and domestic science department classrooms on the first floor. The second floor was the auditorium. The third floor was the gymnasium, which had already been the scene of several basketball games. 
     
Although the public was impressed with the new building, they were equally impressed with an announcement made by Mark Austin, president of the Board of Education. He announced the institution would be known as Ricks Normal College. (pgs. 63-64)

Early January, 1923 Information was issued by the Church Board of Education that Church schools would gradually phase out high school classes. Enlarging the college curricula brought a name change. Henceforth, the college would be officially known as Ricks College. (pg. 79)

Winter Quarter, 1931  Winter quarter continued after the 1930 Christmas holidays amid speculation and trepidation. The Church Board of Education had instructed the Ricks College board to offer the college to the state of Idaho so it could be included in the state educational system. 
     
Representative Frank Turner from Madison County introduced the bill in the House of Representatives. There was little debate or opposition in the House where members recognized that major debate would take place in the Senate and quickly passed the bill.
     The opposition (in the Senate) did not argue against the merits of the institution, but instead centered their arguments on the cost of adding the institution to the state system.       Even so, the vote was close; twenty in favor, twenty-three opposed. (Similar offers to Idaho's biennial sessions of the Legislatures of 1933, 1935 and 1937 were defeated or failed to come to a vote.) (pgs. 109, 111-112)

March 1937   To see if he could arrange for continued operation of the college, President (Hyrum) Manwaring traveled to Salt Lake City to meet with the Church Board of Education and Commissioner Franklin West. By 1937, David O. McKay, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, "had become the dominant educational advisor in the church."  His influence was evident when President Manwaring received the welcome news that Ricks was to be maintained as a Church school. (pg. 142)

April 19, 1948  The Church Board of Education announced that Ricks would phase in a full four-year, degree-granting curriculum. At the conclusion of the 1949-1950 school year, the first bachelor's degrees were to be granted. (pg. 186)  

April 7, 1955  The information that Ricks would revert to a junior college quickly circulated. A letter to faculty, administrators, students, and patrons of Ricks stated, "After long and careful consideration we (First Presidency and Board of Education) have come to the conclusion that Ricks College will be of more service to the church, and have a greater destiny as an integral and permanent part of the church school system by being a first class junior college than by continuing as a relatively small four-year college." (pg. 213)

April 8, 1957  As President (John L.) Clarke and Dr. (Ernest) Wilkinson (director of Church educational system) were walking to the Church Office Building to attend a meeting (of presidents from 15 stakes surrounding Ricks College), Dr. Wilkinson mentioned that "we're going to discuss today the proposal to move Ricks College to Idaho Falls."  He had not told President Clarke the purpose of the meeting because, "I knew it would be upsetting to you and I wanted to protect you as much as I could." (pg. 222)

July 11, 1957  President David O. McKay tells delegation from Rexburg that Ricks College would remain in Rexburg. (pg. 237)

November 2, 1958  Elder (Hugh B.) Brown made the announcement (at a special priesthood meeting in Rexburg), echoed by Elder (Marion G.) Romney, that after careful deliberation the First Presidency had decided to move Ricks College from Rexburg to Idaho Falls. (pg. 246)

Presdint David O. McKay and President John L. ClarkeMarch 16, 1961  "According to a source extremely close to President McKay for over three decades, on that day President McKay made recommendations to the Authorities in the Temple that the Church make appropriations for the improvement of Ricks College at Rexburg." (from Jerry Roundy's Ricks College: A Struggle for Survival)  (pg. 258)

June 7, 1962 Richard "Dick" Davis of Rexburg, owner of Davis Construction Company, was awarded the contract to erect the library building. (Later to become the Administration Building.) Groundbreaking ceremonies signaled the beginning of long anticipated campus construction. (pg. 264)

The Old Library (David O. Mckay Building)December 11, 1963  Buildings dedicated and named were the David O. McKay Library (former Administration Building); George S. Romney Science Building; and one men's and four women's residences. The heating plant and utility systems were dedicated but not named. The previously dedicated auditorium building was given the name of Oscar A. Kirkham, and the administration building was named in honor of Jacob Spori. (pg. 269)

September 22, 1972  Elder Delbert L. Stapley of the Quorum of the Twelve presided at the dedication of two buildings (John W. Hart Physical Education Building and Mark Austin Industrial Science Building) as part of Homecoming. (pg. 304)

April 13, 1976  On that day Elder Ezra Taft Benson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve, dedicated nine buildings: the John L. Clarke Family Living Center, Classroom Office Building (COB, now known as the Smith Building); Women's Residence Halls 33 and 34 (former women's Dorms 3 and 4), Pioneer Halls 35 & 36 (former women's Dorms 5 and 6), Ensign Halls 45 and 46 (now Lowell G. Biddulph Hall, a men's dorm), and the new Physical Plant Building. (pgs. 321-322)

June 5, 1976  Early Saturday morning the almost completed, almost filled Teton Dam northeast of Rexburg broke, sending millions of gallons of water down the Teton River canyon and over the towns (including Rexburg) and farmlands of the river basin.
      (College) President (Henry B.) Eyring immediately made the campus (situated out of harms way on a hill) available for 2,000 homeless and hungry people. Dormitories became home for about three months for many. More than 386,000 meals were served in the college cafeteria free of charge. The campus became the center for recovery efforts. (pgs. 323-324)

President Ezra Taft BensonJuly 8, 1979  A lodge was built and dedicated on 200 acres of land on Badger Creek a few miles north of Tetonia (west and north of Rexburg). (College) President (Bruce C.) Hafen agreed that the purchase would further an outdoor education program, as well as provide a good location for outdoor family programs. (pg. 341)

September 16, 1980  Elder Ezra Taft Benson spoke at the devotional assembly and dedicated three buildings, the plant science building (today's Ezra Taft Benson Agricultural and Biological Sciences Building), the agricultural mechanics building (today's Agricultural Engineering Building) and the livestock arena building and stable (located six miles west of campus). (pg. 345)

Fall 1985  A welcomed announcement by President Hafen affecting students for the fall semester of 1985 was that tuition would be reduced. There were two objectives for lowering tuition -- to "keep the cost of a Ricks College education within reach for average family income levels" and "attract more students," according to President Hafen. (The latter exceeded all expectations and an enrollment limit of 7,500 was established in 1987.) (pgs. 361 & 399)

Centennial CelebrationNovember 12, 1988  Ricks was 100 years old. That evening (college) President (Joe. J.) Christensen invited everyone to the Associated Students' birthday party and dance in the Manwaring Center. The defining moment came at midnight when the president and others blew out 100 candles on a huge birthday cake (measuring) five feet long at the base and three feet tall, the top layer sculpted into the shape of the Spori Building. The cake fed about 600 people and sheet cakes fed another 1,500. (pg. 382)

June 29, 1995  Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve represented the Board of Trustees at the religion building groundbreaking ceremony. The Board of Trustees had enthusiastically endorsed the administration's recommendation to name the building for Church President John Taylor, who had sent Thomas E. Ricks to colonize the Upper Snake River Valley. (pgs. 402-403)

 

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