Continuing the Tradition


By Brett Sampson '88

Shon Conover, beneficiary of scholarships through the BYU-Idaho Fund.

Bart and Karen Hunt (and son Spencer), recipients of Grants-in-aid through the BYU-Idaho Fund.

When my wife and I bought our first home, we were thrilled. It was built in 1906, and the bricks were mortared with history. The house itself had been kept up and modernized; it didn’t have any of the challenges typical of older homes, like bad plumbing and outdated electrical wiring. Everything was in order—wood Doors, the original cast-iron fireplace, oak paneling, etc.—everything except the yard. Shortly after moving in, I wandered back through the shoulder-high overgrowth to a ramshackle shed (next to…where the outhouse had stood). Among the leftover supplies of years past I found a sickle, thick with rust.

The thought immediately came to me that with this tool I could clear away the encumbering weeds that rose across the yard. I grabbed the old sickle and began swiping. After a few minutes I was exhausted. It didn’t take long for me to discover the need to at least sharpen the blade of my newfound antique tool. I realized how much better it would be to have something more modern and efficient.

I have been able to apply this experience in different ways in my life; but the lesson I learned that day in my backyard also has application, I believe, to what is happening here at BYU–Idaho. The fields of essential progress are undeniably filled with tremendous challenges. In order to cut through and forge ahead, we need sharp, effective, and sometimes newer tools.

We are just introducing the BYU–Idaho Fund here on campus. It is a new tool for the university. With this tool, the administration is able to allot financial support where it is needed most to move the university faster towards its board-approved goals.*

Through the BYU–Idaho Fund you may choose to give a gift to be used where it will provide the greatest benefit for BYU–Idaho and its students. This type of gift enables the administration to pull out and use the “tool” most needed at that moment. You may also specify how you wish your gift be used, matching one of the approved priorities to your particular area of interest.

Whichever way you choose to give to the BYU–Idaho Fund, the direct beneficiaries of your generosity are the students and the university’s work is accelerated.

How wonderful to work within a context of divine direction where we are given the required financial tools by prophets and other inspired leaders! They have invited us as alumni, friends, employees, and students to join them and actually help accelerate this work with our financial resources—or “tools.”

Not long ago I heard BYU–Idaho president, David A. Bednar, say to those who donate to the university, “Your generous gifts simply help us to achieve more rapidly the priorities that have been approved by the Brethren and to be more responsive than we could otherwise be. ”

As alumni and friends become involved by giving to BYU–Idaho, our combined efforts provide the president and his administration the ability to more quickly cut a swath through the unavoidable challenges that arise in our efforts to move the university forward.

I have always known that there is something amazingly different about BYU–Idaho. As a student at Ricks College, and later as I entered the workforce, I don’t think I really appreciated the extent of BYU–Idaho’s uniqueness. Since coming back to work at BYU–Idaho, I have come to see the inspired nature of this place from within its workings.

I am on campus every day, working among those who sincerely care about making a difference in the lives of young people. It is an amazing opportunity to experience this daily association and witness so many come forward for the purposes of supporting students.

In my work, I often meet individuals and families who give generously to the university. Some are not Latter-day Saints. Some have never been to BYU–Idaho. And, it may be hard to believe, but most of those who give generously are not what the world would call “wealthy.” They give because they want to help, not because they can afford it. Regardless of the size of the donation, every gift given to BYU–Idaho is a new tool that helps students.

Some of those who support BYU–Idaho have seen the light in the eyes of the students here. Others simply approach the university with hope in the future. And many have felt the distinctive spirit at BYU–Idaho.

As a student I experienced the “Spirit of Ricks;” and now as someone privileged to serve the students, I feel it. I have felt it today. And if I open my heart, I have the opportunity to feel it every day.

What I have learned to call the “Spirit of Ricks” is too close to the feelings of the Holy Spirit for me not to acknowledge their common source. The spirit of love and giving—the spirit of pulling together when the world around is in turmoil—is what makes BYU–Idaho more than words like “special” or “exceptional” can convey.

I do not speak lightly when I say that lives are changed at this place. Lives are saved here. And through that process, we do our small part in the building up of the kingdom of God.

President Bednar recently gave his opening devotional for the beginning of another semester. He read a letter from a young man who realized he had lost his wallet shortly after returning to his dorm room one evening. Within an hour or so he got a call from Lost and Found notifying him that it had just been turned in. President Bednar used this experience to exemplify the level of honesty and integrity of the entire student body.

I share President Bednar’s thought because I associate with enough students every day to know the level of goodness at BYU–Idaho is only increasing. The student who picked up the wallet and took it to Lost and Found is in fact typical of so many others at BYU–Idaho. He or she probably didn’t even think twice before performing that simple act—an act that in other places would warrant newspaper articles about a rare, honest soul.

There is an undeniable atmosphere on this campus witnessing that we are truly raising up the youth of Zion. As alumni and friends, you can be assured this school is as good as you remember it, or better than you imagine.

Students at BYU–Idaho learn more than the lessons given in class. The example of your generous giving is a lesson to the young men and women who are the beneficiaries. I have heard one student after another express their appreciation for your generosity.

One who has benefitted from those who give to the school is Shon Conover, from Twin Falls, Idaho. He says of his experience receiving much-needed help, “I remember receiving the letter that said I had been given this gift and it was really a great feeling. I felt very indebted. I felt like I also wanted to give. I wanted to do well so that I could provide that same type of benefit for someone else.”

And speaking to those who made a grant possible for Bart and Karen Hunt, Karen recently said, “When Bart and I received this grant, we made a commitment to one another that when we can, we will donate back to the school. We were both raised believing that education will take you places. This scholarship helped us get there. With your donation you have started a legacy of education, and we hope to carry it on. Thank you so much; our prayers have been answered.”

The cycle of giving truly is perpetual. Those who have been helped often desire to share that incredible feeling of love and trust in others by giving back.

I have to admit that I still have my rusted sickle, and it’s still unsharpened. I kept the old instrument as a reminder of that day and what it had taught me. I had discovered how difficult a job can be when you don’t have the tools that can help you get a job done most efficiently. Shortly after my attempt at attacking the weeds with the old sickle, I actually bought a gas-powered “weed-eater” and cleared my yard within the hour.

Those who support the BYU–Idaho Fund enable the university to do more quickly what needs to be done. Through your help, we are able to use newer and even more efficient tools to help students enjoy greater success.

There is no way to fully measure the eternal effect those who donate to BYU–Idaho can have on its students. By giving to the BYU–Idaho Fund, you and I become catalysts in accelerating the work set forth by the inspired leaders who sit on the Board of Trustees. I doubt any of us truly comprehend the fullness of the destiny of BYU–Idaho and the students who study here.

For what you do to help accelerate the work, the students thank you. And I thank you. SM

For additional information regarding the BYU–Idaho Fund, the philanthropic Objectives and Priorities at BYU–Idaho, LDS Foundation, or planned giving and estate planning contact:

   LDS Foundation at BYU–Idaho
   220 Kimball Building, Rexburg, ID 83460-1655
   800-227-4257 or 208-496-1128

*In past "Continuing the Tradition" articles I have explained and explored the specifics of each of the goals, objectives, and priorities (see Summit Magazine, Spring 2000, pg. 22, “Staying on Course,” for example). You may refer to for a complete list of current priorities, various methods of giving a gift, and the success stories of students who have benefitted.