The significance of becoming BYU–Idaho is much more than a name change or even the addition of upper-level classes. Many hands have helped shape the university. Employees representing faculty, administration, and staff reflect on the transition. What has changed? What remains the same? What has been learned? Feel for yourself the miracle of BYU–Idaho
Craig Bell ’85
Chair of Department of Business Management
Employed on campus since 1996
Idaho is known for its white water rafting—with some of the country’s most beautiful rivers. My feeling regarding the transition is one of leaving a raft which is floating down a fairly calm river with good visibility to then kayaking down an unfamiliar, rapid-filled river, with poor visibility—a wonderful environment for fostering faith.
I began teaching at Ricks College in 1996. I have taught exactly four years on both sides of the transition. I remember the calm days of a Business Management Department of six faculty, a few hundred students, introductory courses, and patting students on the head as we sent them elsewhere to prepare to enter the workforce. Our department now has 15 full-time faculty, several part-time faculty, 1,700 student majors, 400 minors, with classes being taught in several buildings throughout campus. We are intensely focused on preparing quality graduates for employment and further studies. It is humbling to reflect upon the miracle continually unfolding upon this campus.
During this historic time—I have witnessed the Lord’s influence upon this university and am grateful for the opportunity to be here.
Director of Facilities Management
Employed on campus since 2002
I remember the excitement of the members in the little chapel in Minnesota listening as President Hinckley made the announcement in general conference. It felt right. I had no idea that about two years later I would be working at BYU–Idaho. I still feel excitement. And more importantly, I feel the spirit of this great institution. I am grateful to be a part of what is happening.
The “Spirit of Ricks” is why I enjoy working here. Coming from a state-run institution of higher education, it is refreshing to see students who are clean, well dressed and well behaved. It is wonderful to interact and work with faculty who desire to teach and to make a difference in the students’ lives. The students are first. It is great to see the gratitude and appreciation for what is provided and the care and stewardship given to those sacred resources.
The Facilities Management Department is greatly impacted by the transition. We see increased utilization of facilities and campus grounds with the Activities Program, the Three Track System, and the increase in student population. Our maintenance and support services are scheduled more efficiently to keep the buildings clean, the grounds beautiful, and classrooms and activity spaces ready.
The major planning and construction mode is intense. Construction since the announcement includes the Gordon B. Hinckley Building, the new Spori Building, the Austin Building addition and remodel, the Benson Building addition, an electrical substation, and the new Student Health and Counseling Center. The University Village and the Thomas E. Ricks Building are almost completed. Additions and remodels are being planned for the Snow, Manwaring, Hart, Clarke and Romney buildings. The impact on campus is substantial. Some alumni may return to campus and not recognize it, but they will still feel the same spirit that makes it special.
Faculty Member in the Department of Geology
Employed on campus since 1971
Would Ricks College again become a four-year institution? That was my question and inner hope when I began teaching geology in 1971. I came to believe it would always remain a two-year college. I learned to appreciate Ricks’ unique contribution to the students’ education. Excellent teachers offered personal attention to students and a pervasive spiritual atmosphere. I enjoyed the choice experience of teaching in the two-year program and eventually forgot my dream of Ricks becoming a four-year university.
The announcement in June of 2000 was totally unexpected but stirred excitement within me. My desire to teach upper division classes was reignited. The realignment in divisions changed my assignments. I was the dean of the Physical and Mathematical Sciences Division but became the associate dean of the new College of Physical Sciences and Engineering. Then I returned to teaching full-time. It was stimulating to develop the new classes.
Our department went to work to provide solid programs for our eager students. Faculty sensed a new purpose as they geared up for upper-division classes. With concerns for expanded academic programs driven by increasing enrollments and year-round offerings, we carefully retained qualities that made this school exceptional. We were encouraged to use space efficiently. A storage room was converted to a rock specimen preparation lab. A general geology lab is now a high-tech computer lab; and a map storage room has become a staff office, conference room, and department library. We feel we are heading in the right direction when our students receive positive reports in their internships and research experiences and as they are accepted into graduate schools and find employment in their major.
My question of becoming a baccalaureate-granting institution has been answered and come to pass. Ricks College will always be close to my heart. Now BYU–Idaho will continue to make a unique contribution to education.
Jo Anne Wrobel Kay ’68
Associate Dean for the College of Education
Employed on campus since 2002
“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”
—Elizabeth Barrett Browning
And so it has been with the transition. Each day has been filled with planning and work, decisions and dilemmas, obstacles and opportunities. It is often easy to be blinded by the details and miss the beauty of what is happening here. The transition of Ricks College to BYU–Idaho has and will continue to bless the lives of students, faculty, administrators, and staff. One has only to walk the campus to see the physical changes, to glance at the university catalog to see the additional courses, but one must look with heart and soul to see the most important changes. Faculty members have grown through the challenges of creating four-year programs where none existed. Miracles have unfolded as our campus world has expanded to far and distant sites. Prayers have been answered. Shoulders have been strengthened to carry loads not foreseen. Talents and training, long before developed, have been called on in new and creative ways. Burdens have been shared, hearts have been lifted and testimonies have been strengthened. Students have been blessed by their experiences here and will continue to bless the lives of others. And we in the midst of the change see our Father’s hand in all.
Rod Keller ’77
Dean of the College of Language & Letters
Employed on campus since 1982
As chair of one of the largest departments on campus, I was used to activity, but nothing on the scale that was provoked by the BYU–Idaho announcement. Even before the stunned feeling wore off, our college dean asked us to create and submit in one week a four-year program proposal for an English major. As chair of the Department of English, I felt almost an immediate sense of peace and comfort knowing that this opportunity would receive divine guidance. I attended the temple while fasting; and there, I began to feel strong impressions that would soon become the framework for the program. I met with Elaine Hawker, our director of composition, who also had similar promptings. Within minutes, the two of us began to see an overview of the program with its primary components and emphasis areas, as well as specific courses and requirements within the major—something neither of us had planned nor seen before.
English faculty members helped to flesh out and contribute to the new four-year major and individual course development. As the faculty worked together, we were blessed with a sense of unity, compassion, and insight. In a relatively short time, English was approved as one of the first four-year integrated programs.
Three years later, the English program remains much the same as we envisioned it with only minor modifications. During those years, I have observed firsthand, now as a dean, that when our faculty members relied heavily on heavenly help to discern every “needful thing” rather than every “wanted thing,” we individually receive inspired direction and strength in preparing ourselves, our disciplines, and our students to learn and grow together.
Betty Sauer Oldham ’71
Employed on campus since 1986
Travel back with me to the evening before the announcement was made that Ricks College would become Brigham Young University–Idaho. Earlier that afternoon, President Bednar was informed that President Hinckley planned to announce the change the next morning at a press conference in Salt Lake City. There wasn’t much time to pull loose ends together, and members of the President’s Council and a few other administrators were at the office late that night making last-minute preparations. It was close to 11:30 p.m. when things were finally wrapping up and winding down. I was at the copy machine; President Bednar was leaving the building. I said to him, “President, does any of this scare you? Do you feel a bit sick to your stomach?” I will never forget his response. Without even a hint of a hesitation, he said: “If I thought I had to do this by myself, I would be scared to death. But I know who’s in charge.”
I, too, have come to know who is in charge—for I have seen a miracle unfold. No, not a miracle, but a myriad of them. Most of them have come quietly, insignificantly when considered on their own merits. But combined, when viewed as an aggregate, they provide evidence beyond doubt that Someone who sees all and knows all is aware of and involved with the very details of all that happens on this campus.
So how do I, in the short space that has been provided here, describe what I have sensed, felt and observed? About as easily as I can describe what salt tastes like to someone who has never experienced it. Salt tastes … well, it tastes like salt. And the transition … well, let’s just say that it is a miracle in process.
Suffice it to say that I know who’s in charge.
James E. Sessions ’73
Dean of Students
Employed on campus since 1973
The announcement by President Hinckley on June 21, 2000, that Ricks College would become a four-year institution called BYU–Idaho was probably not viewed by anyone more naive than I. Having been at Ricks for 28 years, I had become accustomed to the functions and processes of a two-year institution unburdened by the myriad of processes and complications which accompany a four-year institution.
I soon became overwhelmed by the enormity of the task before us, yet felt a strong, calming reassurance from President Bednar and Vice President Robert Wilkes that the ultimate solution to many of these problems and the direction we would need would come from above. Reflecting on those reassurances now brings remembrances of lessons taught and learned by our leaders from other experiences in Church callings. It was difficult to not look left, right or even back but to continue to move forward and not be afraid to step into the darkness which became lighted as we moved forward. I was soon aware of a growing personal witness of who was actually guiding the transition.
As I now look back, I have a very calm and peaceful assurance. What has transpired is indeed the mind and will of our Father. Every day I see students whose lives have been blessed because of the change. I see young married couples with new families struggling to complete their education in an environment rooted in gospel principles and blessed with an outpouring of the spirit. I see students, faculty, staff, and administrators who have a deep conviction and witness of the spirit that when the Prophet spoke, the mind and will of the Father was unfolded as we diligently sought solutions to problems. I know as we opened our hearts and looked to God for guidance and direction we received more than we asked. SM
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