President Clark G. Gilbert
Clark G. Gilbert became the 16th president of Brigham Young University-Idaho in April 2015.
President Gilbert brings a range of academic and professional experiences to his assignment in Rexburg. Prior to coming to BYU-Idaho in 2015, President Gilbert served as CEO of Deseret News Publishing Company and Deseret Digital Media. He also served as an associate academic vice president at BYU-Idaho, overseeing the implementation of online learning and the Pathway program. As a deeply committed teacher, President Gilbert had administrative responsibility for the Learning Model at BYU-Idaho. Prior to coming to Rexburg, he was a professor of entrepreneurial management at the Harvard Business School where he taught and studied in the field of organizational innovation.
President Gilbert graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor's degree in International Relations. He earned a master's degree in East Asian Studies from Stanford University and a doctorate degree in Business Administration from the Harvard Business School.
President Gilbert has served in multiple ecclesiastical roles, including counselor in a stake presidency, bishop, counselor in a bishopric, Young Men's president, Gospel Doctrine teacher, and Scoutmaster. He currently teaches the CTR 9 Primary class with his wife, Christine.
President Gilbert was born in California and raised in Arizona. He and his wife, Christine, are the parents of eight children.
It was a pioneer's heart that enabled the Lord to gather His Saints at the opening of this dispensation. Those early pioneers brought a spirit of frugality, a faith and optimism for the unknown, a longing for prophetic direction, and a spirit of personal sacrifice to their trek west. It was those same attributes that allowed the Lord to reveal the ideas and innovations needed to gather His people . . . .
At BYU-Idaho we draw on that same pioneer's heart, a gift of the early settlers who came to this valley and eventually founded this college. The pioneer's heart has been preserved by the Lord in the very location of this campus. It has been carefully cultivated in the Spirit of Ricks. Regardless of its origin, the pioneer's heart was held in this valley "for such a time as this" when the Lord would significantly expand His educational gathering across the Church.
These words come directly from my inaugural response. Today, I would like to explore once again how we can preserve the pioneer's heart even in periods of great change. In doing so, I will draw heavily on the institutional identity of BYU-Idaho. I hope you will recognize what President Henry B. Eyring has taught--that our students can learn patterns for their own lives by watching the people and the work of the university.
Spirit of Frugality
A spirit of frugality is the first characteristic in preserving the pioneer's heart. Forward-thinking pioneers realize that the very uncertainty of their journey requires the preservation of resources for uncharted paths. In his foundational address A Steady, Upward Course, President Henry B. Eyring discusses the turbulent future BYU-Idaho students will face: "We will live for better or for worse with rapid change and the uncertainty it brings. You and I want to make that change work for the better for us and not for the worse." In fact, President Eyring mentions the word "change" over forty different times in his message. Later in the talk he turns to the topic of frugality. He uses phrases like "doing more with less," "the management of resources," and "spartanism." When I first recognized these clear themes in his talk, I began to highlight references to change in green and references to frugality in red. At first I thought I had found two separate talks within an overall message--one talk on change and another on frugality.
However, the more I studied his message for the university, the more I realized that these themes were actually one and the same. In other words, I believe President Eyring was trying to teach us that there is a relationship between being frugal and being innovative. You see, when we are frugal, we cannot get very far without asking whether we are on the right path, on His path. Being prudent with the Lord's resources also allows us the flexibility to adapt to unforeseen circumstances, keeping nimble as the terrain changes. For example, when BYU-Idaho first started the Pathway program, wise leadership counseled us to start with only three pilot sites. As we experimented, we found many changes to our initial assumptions that needed considerable adaptation. Because we were still small, we could pivot and change, allowing us to learn from our early efforts.
This has implications in our personal lives as well. I remember when Sister Gilbert and I were asked to leave Boston and come to Rexburg. I was grateful that we were living well within our means and that we had some savings so when a new direction came, we could follow without encumbrance. The spirit of frugality also provides more than simple flexibility. A sense of scarcity, financial or personal, keeps us reliant on the Lord and reminds us of our dependence on Him.
A Faith and Optimism for the Frontier
The second characteristic required to preserve the pioneer's heart is a faith and optimism for the unknown that comes on the frontier. Again, President Henry B. Eyring has taught that "[t]he purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to change you so that you're not trying to resist change." Change can be frightening, but facing such fear with faith and optimism is what the Lord expects of His pioneers. In fact, Elder Kim B. Clark has taught that "[i]f you want to know the Savior, go to the frontier because that is where you will see Him in action. It is at the frontier where He does His work."
At BYU-Idaho, that frontier came with President Hinckley's announcement of a student-centered, teaching-focused university. For BYU-Pathway Worldwide, those frontiers involve distributed gatherings using online and onsite instruction to build hope and confidence in students across the Church. A new frontier is emerging for both institutions through prophetic counsel given to stay close to each other. BYU-Pathway needs the expertise of the faculty and the strength of the online organization on this campus. BYU-Pathway also needs the modesty and frugality so well modeled from the faculty and staff on this campus. In turn, BYU-Idaho needs the opportunity to serve a worldwide Church made possible through BYU-Pathway. Consider President Henry B. Eyring's inaugural response in 1971 where he said: "Finally, I believe the community which education should serve is the whole world. Just as our obligation is to our local students . . . We must also find ways for this college to serve young people . . . who may not be able to come to this campus." Elder Bednar spoke to this same charge in his inaugural response where he described the need "to serve ever better the thousands of students we have on campus while simultaneously reaching out to bless the lives of tens of thousands of young latter-day Saints throughout the world." The need for BYU-Idaho to serve a worldwide Church is grounded in its prophetic destiny. The need for BYU-Idaho to stay close to BYU-Pathway also provides added protection to help avoid overshooting the needs of its own students right here on campus. You see, many of the students across the Church are not so very different from the everyday students we might unknowingly look past on campus.
I have been speaking of institutional frontiers. Of course, there are also personal, spiritual frontiers for each of us individually. I remember a time when Sister Gilbert and I were living in Boston and President Hinckley extended a challenge to the whole Church to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year. Sister Gilbert and I had already been searching for direction in several career choices, and we took this invitation as a gift to go further in our own efforts to be close to the Spirit. It was during this very season that we received an unplanned call from Elder Kim B. Clark to consider coming to BYU-Idaho. In hindsight, Christine and I believe we were ready for such an invitation because we were searching for the frontier in our own lives. Each of you will have opportunities to go to your own spiritual frontiers. Remember, the Lord's pioneers go to the frontier. They are not satisfied to stay where they are or to stay who they are. The Lord's pioneers change, they repent, and they go to the hard places the Lord needs them to go.
A Longing for Prophetic Direction
The third characteristic in preserving the pioneer's heart is to seek prophetic direction. You see, it is not enough to simply be willing to go to new places. We need to want to go to the places the Lord wants us to go. To know that, we need direction and guidance from His servants. In this sense, the Lord's pioneers are very different from the world's pioneers. Both groups came to the frontier, but the world's pioneers came seeking adventure, wealth, or even self-ambition. In contrast, the Lord's pioneers came under the direction of a prophet, and this made them unique. Even the vanguard pioneers who went out ahead of the body of the saints went under the direction of Brigham Young. With the Lord's pioneers, there was a spiritual deference, even with their pioneering initiative.
Let me describe again how this works at BYU-Idaho. In his announcement of the creation of the university, President Hinckley introduced the school as having a "unique role" that would be "distinctive from the other institutions of higher education." That announcement included an unequivocal declaration that the school would be teaching-oriented and that effective teaching and advising would remain the primary responsibilities of its faculty. President Hinckley also described calendaring innovations and advancements in technology that would allow the school to reach many more students. Regarding our curriculum, President Eyring later added clarification to President Hinckley's announcement: "He said there would be focus, not a growth and spread, in the academic offerings. He expected that people would willingly sacrifice what they do best and love most for what the Lord wants even more for our students." Accordingly, curriculum would not simply focus on adding more and more disciplinary content but on building "natural leaders who know how to teach and how to learn." All of this is part of what Elder Bednar meant when he described BYU-Idaho as a ship of curious workmanship, different from other educational models of the world.
Of course, having prophetic counsel does not mean we have all the answers. President Hinckley did not explain to us how the three-track system would work or how our online courses should be designed. President Eyring did not tell us how many academic programs we should have. But there is on this campus a spiritual deference that comes when we seek prophetic direction. I have seen how our employees lean on BYU-Idaho's foundational addresses to find guidance in their work. I have seen it as our deans review proposals for new degrees. I have even seen it from a department that rewrote their entire senior capstone project once the faculty realized they were overshooting the needs of the majority of everyday students. I am grateful for so many of the Lord's pioneers who have studied the prophetic direction given to this university and sought to innovate within the parameters the Lord has set.
Spirit of Personal Sacrifice
Finally, preserving the pioneer's heart requires personal sacrifice. I shared the following story on the day of the announcement of BYU-Pathway Worldwide. It comes from Elizabeth Claridge McCune who wrote of her father's call to serve in the Mission on the Muddy. The exchange came during a meeting where Brigham Young simply called out names at a conference for those assigned to the mission. When Elizabeth heard her father's name called, she cried and cried. Trying to console her (and I'm paraphrasing), a friend said, "I don't know why you are so sad. My father's name was called, and there is no way he'll go." Elizabeth replied in tears, "My father wouldn't be my father unless he would go."
I felt echoes of this story in the lives of so many Pathway employees as they watched a live stream of the announcement of BYU-Pathway Worldwide. Beyond the initial excitement, there was also some trepidation when President Uchtdorf announced that the new organization would be moving to Salt Lake City.
Throughout the ensuing weeks, many of those employees had to ask whether their call to the frontier would require a modern sacrifice--affecting not just livelihoods, but also whole families. With his approval, I share the story of one of those BYU-Pathway employees. The note was titled "The Pioneer Spirit," and it comes from Bryan Pope:
Tuesday's announcement has become a waypoint in our lives. It is a point that JaNan and I will look back on and mark the progress of our faith and our testimonies of Jesus Christ.
My great grandfather helped settle this valley. He was the first to dry farm on the Rexburg bench. The grain was so hard he had to pull his wagon all the way to Mud Lake to find a mill strong enough to grind it. My youth was spent following in my grandfather's legacy--dry farming, ranching, and serving others. JaNan and I have worked very hard so that we could return to Rexburg and raise our family in the shadow of that legacy.
Tuesday marked the day that we decided that living in their legacy is insufficient, and that we need to harness their pioneering spirit and forge our own legacy of faith. We feel called to this work and know that in our extremity the Lord will bless both this program and our family--Minerva Teichert could not have known how well she painted our feelings.
Thus, I end where I started. The painting by Minerva Teichert shows a pioneer sister beaconing all of us to forge our own legacy of faith and to gather for His purposes.
Some of you might say: "Wow, President. I don't know if I can make those kinds of sacrifices." But you do and you can. I see it in a first generation university student who is forging his own path to succeed here at BYU-Idaho. I see it in a new married couple who is weighing decisions about work, graduation, and when to start a family. I see it in a student who is trying to overcome anxiety and is not sure how to do it. And, of course, I see it in so many of our faculty and other employees who are searching to become the Lord's pioneers here at this unique and distinctive university.
It is my prayer that each of us can preserve the pioneer's heart by maintaining a spirit of frugality, a faith and optimism for the frontier, a longing for prophetic direction, and a spirit of personal sacrifice.
I also hope you know what a special road you have ahead of you with President Henry J. Eyring and his wife, Sister Kelly Eyring. They love this place and you students like we do, and I know you will love them. It is impossible for us to tell you how much we will miss serving with you. But I also hope you will remember that when the call came to our family and so many others, we responded with the faith and optimism of the Lord's pioneers.
As we say farewell, I invite our family to the podium. We love you, and we will continue to pray for your success in the Lord.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Clark G. Gilbert, "A Pioneer's Heart, A Disciple's Future," BYU-Idaho Inaugural Response, September 2015.  Henry B. Eyring, "A Steady, Upward Course," BYU-Idaho Devotional, September 2001.  Ibid.  Ibid.  Clark G. Gilbert, "On the Frontier," BYU-Hawaii Devotional, November 2010.  David A. Bednar, "Inaugural Response," Ricks College, February 1998.  Gordon B. Hinckley, "A Testimony Vibrant and True," Ensign, August 2005.  Gordon B. Hinckley, "Announcement: Ricks College to Become BYU-Idaho," June 2000.  Henry B. Eyring, "A Steady, Upward Course," BYU-Idaho Devotional, September 2001.  Ibid.  David A. Bednar, "Inaugural Response," Ricks College, February 1998.  Elder Holland, "Faith to Answer the Call," Ensign, July 2011; (Found in Elizabeth Claridge McCune, in Susa Young Gates, "Biographical Sketches," Young Woman's Journal, July 1898, 292, 293).  Bryan Pope, personal note, permission granted for devotional use, April 2017.
Preserving the Pioneer's Heart
Audio of President Clark G. Gilbert's final devotional address as president of BYU-Idaho Winter Semester 2017.
BYU-Idaho Radio Interview with the Gilberts
Audio of President and Sister Gilbert's interview with BYU-Idaho Radio about their final devotional addresses at BYU-Idaho Winter Semester 2017.