One Life Changed
One thank you note outlines exactly
what tradition it is we are continuing.
By Brett Sampson
|I received a letter recently from Jessica Bagley, a current student at Ricks College from Rigby, Idaho. She is a scholarship recipient.
She and I met as we worked together on a project several weeks prior. In conversation I mentioned that I worked in the Development Office and that we assist donors to the college. She then said, “So you work with the people who give money to make scholarships and other things possible?”
I told her that I did have occasion to meet some of those individuals. She leaned forward and looked at me with her huge sincere eyes and said: “Brother Sampson, I don’t know how many people made it possible for me to get my scholarship but will you please tell them ‘thank you’ from me? You can’t believe how much being at Ricks has changed my life and I don’t know who to thank.”
Had Jessica received a private scholarship, she most likely would have been given an address to which she could send her personal “thank you.” Instead, Jessica was awarded an appropriated scholarship, one which comes through the Ricks College General Scholarship Fund and made possible through the generous donations of many individuals.
The only thing she could think to do was write an open letter of gratitude and leave it with the one person she had met who might be able to relay her feelings.
I share her letter of gratitude here because I know her scholarship was made possible by so many alumni and friends like you who will otherwise never hear the heartfelt gratitude of students like Jessica. She speaks for all those who have received a scholarship with no one in particular to thank.
“To whom it may concern: I just wanted to thank the donors of scholarships and the people who work to find donors for Ricks College scholarships. I am so grateful for the money I received in the form of the scholarship and I want the donors to know what a great cause they are a part of.”
Jessica then outlines how her Ricks experience has “improved her life” socially, academically, and finally spir-itually. Each alumnus of Ricks College has treasured memories of life-molding experiences similar to Jessica’s. And this is what we hope is perpetuated when we say we are “continuing the tradition.”
As we become Brigham Young University–Idaho, it will be perhaps even more important that we focus on those areas of positive, personal, Christian development for which Ricks College has become quietly renowned.
The first area Jessica mentions is her social experience. “Here at Ricks I have made friends and strengthened old friendships that will last my whole life. I have been able to associate with thousands of people my age who believe in Christ and have a testimony of the gospel. I’ve lived with roommates and learned my weaknesses and strengths. And I’ve learned from the examples of some of the amazing youth in this Church.”
Students come to Ricks at a vitally formative period in their personal development. When they arrive—many from areas with very few fellow Latter-day Saints—they find themselves suddenly surrounded by others who share their beliefs. It is in this environment that smoldering spiritual fires are fanned. Testimonies are strengthened, and graduates leave Ricks with a newfound confidence and a desire to share their strength and testimony as they go out into the world.
Ricks College is, in fact, a significant pillar in the kingdom. It is at Ricks that many of us first tasted the sweetness of brotherhood that will exist when the Savior comes again. In Doctrine and Covenants 130:2 we read, “And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.”
In his inaugural response several years ago, David A. Bednar, current president of Ricks said: “The word ‘sociality’ as used in the scriptures refers to more than the sociability and socialness we experience in everyday living. Sociality implies an enduring bond of love and brotherhood and sisterhood…. The unique environment of Ricks College exists, in part, because of the righteous endeavors of both students and employees. Participation in all types of wholesome activities– spiritual, academic, social, and cultural– promotes the positive interactions that bring about a righteous sociality capable of enduring throughout eternity.”
There is a tradition of righteous sociality at Ricks College for which Jessica and many thousands more are thankful. We, as alumni, not only basked in it while on campus, but we internalized those bonds and allowed them to have an eternal imprint on our souls. This is the essence of the Spirit of Ricks that must continue, no matter the name of the institution.
President Gordon B. Hinckley has said, “I have never talked with a graduate of Ricks who did not praise it and express his love for it. He may not have been able to explain this unique quality, but he was totally aware of it and of its influence in his life. It is the indescribable ‘Spirit of Ricks.’”
In reference to what she gained academically at Ricks, Jessica’s note says: “In my one year at Ricks so far, I feel like I’ve received a very well-rounded education. I have been challenged in my classes. I have had teachers that would do anything to help me learn, including giving me their home phone number and spending lots of time after class helping me understand the material. I feel like I understand the world better. I’ll be a better community member and mother because of the education I have received here.”
I relate to Jessica in her appreciation of caring teachers. Several years back I sat in my first day of classes as an anxious freshman, expecting college to be an uncomfortable and intimidating experience. My vivid imagination concocted visions of college professors sitting in rostrums high above classes, lecturing into microphones without regard to the congregated students.
When at least three of my Ricks College teachers included their home phone numbers on their class syllabi, I was comfortably shocked. I realized quickly that instructors at Ricks were strikingly different from my expectations. And I later learned that they are, in fact, unusual in the world of academics. In general they have an understanding of the vital role they have in the education of Latter-day Saint youth.
In recent years there has been a deluge of professionally successful and highly qualified academicians applying to work at Ricks College simply because they love the youth and wholeheartedly want to help them.
One recent applicant is highly respected in his scientific field, holds high faculty rank at his current ivy league university, and has been very involved in ground-breaking research. When the president asked why he would give all that up to come to Ricks he said without hesitation: “because I will be able to share my experience with these young people. What better use of my knowledge and practical experience is there than to share it and help prepare students more fully for their own professional careers?”
Young men and women like Jessica have open minds and hearts; they are at a critical crossroads in their lives. The sincere commitment to their progression on the part of caring faculty at Ricks College will continue the tradition of setting students on the right path.
Of her spiritual growth Jessica says: “I gained my testimony of the Book of Mormon in a religion class at Ricks. I gained a testimony of obedience, scripture study, keeping the Sabbath holy, and service because of the roommates I lived with. I learned what humility is from my campus ward bishop. I learned that if I do what Heavenly Father wants me to do, then trust in Him, everything will work out.”
Another student recently shared with me how living with returned missionary roommates had helped him be a better person. By the time he went home for Christmas he had gone through his extensive and prized CD collection and had weeded out those with questionable lyrics. He said he replaced them with spiritually uplifting music his roommates had introduced him to.
While he was home for the holidays his bishop asked to meet with him. He asked about his experiences at Ricks and, among other things, if he had been reading the scriptures. “Yes,” the young man replied. The bishop responded, “We can all tell; there is a new light in your face that is different from when you left here.”
His hair is still a little disheveled; he stays in contact with most of his old friends; he remains an active skate boarder; but this young man has been spiritually changed at Ricks College. He was ordained an Elder last Sunday and is sending in his mission papers next week.
As they say, “You find what you’re looking for.” Even though Ricks College is not an impervious bubble of untainted righteousness and not every student comes away spiritually reborn, Ricks is an unmatched microcosm of Mormondom. I personally know of nowhere else that has such a high percentage of truly well-intended, temple-worthy Latter-day Saints working together in such a concentrated geographic area for a common cause. It is Zionistic in a sense. And most of the youth who have been blessed with the opportunity to be here today are, in fact, looking for more goodness in their lives.
Not only are students surrounded by religious leaders, but they coexist in an optimal spiritual environment as well. As you know, students participate in campus wards, they take religion classes, and they can go to weekly devotionals. Even the halls they walk add to their religious experience.
If you have not been on campus since the 1997 dedication of the new John Taylor Religion Building, you have not seen the newest fountainhead of spiritual instruction. It houses the religion and humanities departments and is complete with office space, lecture halls, and a chapel crowned with a striking pipe organ. Its halls are adorned with artwork from Church history and the scriptures, most recently including a collection of Minerva Techert paintings on loan to the college. It is a pinnacle of light and, while reverent, it is a favorite gathering place for students.
One of the first evidential physical changes taking place as a result of growing into a four-year university is the new multi-use building currently under construction. Located just uphill from the new Spencer W. Kimball Student and Administrative Services Building, it will also have a large chapel and classrooms.
President Bednar has said: “The mission of Ricks College is clear and unchanging. Our efforts and resources are aimed at educating the whole man and woman, to focus upon the spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical development of every student who studies on this campus. Specifically, the mission of Ricks College is to (1) build testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and encourage living its principles, (2) provide a quality education for students of diverse interests and abilities, (3) prepare students for further education and employment, and for their roles as citizens and parents, and (4) maintain a wholesome academic, cultural, social and spiritual environment.”
As it becomes BYU–Idaho, Ricks will preserve and enhance its significant and unique role in the Church Educational System. In coming years it will effect even more lives as the Admissions Office and administration continue striving to allow as many young people the privilege of a continuing tradition of sociality, scholarship, and spirituality as possible.
| One Thank You Represents Thousands
As one whose rare opportunity it is to attend Ricks College, and to do so by means of a scholarship, Jessica concludes her letter with, “Thank you so much for the part you had in giving me this great experience.”
Currently, there are tens of thousands of Ricks College students and alumni around the world who are having or who have had similar experiences to Jessica’s. For many of them—maybe even for you—these milestones were made possible because of the generosity of caring Christian people. If you are among those who have already given toward scholarships (or any other priority at the college), I hope Jessica’s message helps you understand the good you have done.
As President Hinckley said: “You never can foretell the consequences of a dollar invested in education. It goes on multiplying itself. It becomes not an expenditure, but an investment which pays returns far and wide and through generations to come....”
When you give a gift, in any amount, you help to change at least one life. As always, the students thank you. And we thank you.
Ricks College Development & Alumni Relations
220 Kimball Building
800-22-ricks or 208-356-1128