The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always had a great
commitment to education. When its members were forced from their homes
and established communities in the eastern United States, the desire for
knowledge still burned strong. Following their western exodus, numerous
church academies were established in the pioneering communities to provide
the basics of education and spiritual growth. Most of these have since
been absorbed into their respective state educational systems. Of the original
academies, only Brigham Young University-Idaho and BYU in Provo, Utah, remain as part
of the Church Educational System.
On November 12, 1888, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
created Bannock Stake Academy in Rexburg, Idaho. Numerous other church
academies were also set up in the Mormon communities of the western United
States in commitment for education. Three teachers were appointed to provide
the basics in elementary education and spiritual growth. Jacob Spori
concurrently on the faculty and as the first principal from 1888 to 1891.
When the Academy found itself in debt, Spori resigned his teaching assignment
and that portion of his salary for a term to help make up the deficit.
As the population grew, it became necessary to divide the geographical
area designated by the LDS Church as the Bannock Stake. Fremont Stake was
created, and thus in 1898 the school was rename the Fremont Stake Academy.
In 1903, the school was renamed again as Ricks Academy in honor of Thomas
E. Ricks, the Bannock Stake president at the time it was founded and the
chairman of the school's first Board of Education.
Charles N. Watkins
served as the principal from 1891 to 1894, during
which time members of the stake were asked to contribute money to help
keep the school open. In 1894, a new principal, George Cole
, was hired;
but financial problems continued. In order to keep the school open during
the winter of 1895-96, Cole and the faculty agreed to work for one-third
of their salary in cash and the rest in produce.
Douglas M. Todd
replaced Cole in 1898, the year the school became known
as Fremont Stake Academy. Todd introduced a high school program the only
one in the upper valley at the time. Under his administration, a building
was begun which was later named after Jacob Spori. In 1901, Ezra Christiansen,
who later had his name legally changed to Ezra C. Dalby
, became the principal.
During his thirteen years of leadership, the Academy moved into the new
rock building and became a standard high school, normal school, and commercial
Andrew B. Christensen
, who served as principal from 1914 to 1917, was
instrumental in adding a year of college work to the curriculum, bringing
water to the campus to beautify the grounds, and beginning the construction
of a new gymnasium.
In the summer of 1917, George S. Romney
replaced A.B. Christensen as
principal. At this time, the school was granted state certification (which
allowed the graduates to teach in the State of Idaho), the Academy became
Ricks Normal College, and the principal became its first president. In
1923, the school became known as Ricks College.
became acting president of Ricks College in 1930 when
the school was in danger of being closed or turned over to the State of
Idaho. Things looked bleak when the state legislature defeated a bill to
take over the college; but through President Manwaring's efforts and the
support of the patrons, the school remained open and became fully accredited
by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges.
John L. Clarke
became president in 1944, and served for twenty-seven
years. He helped make Ricks into a four-year institution and then saw it
changed back to a two-year college. He also struggled through the years
when the Commissioner of Education tried to move the college to Idaho Falls.
Under his administration the college grew from an enrollment of 200 to
5,300 and its two original buildings multiplied to become two dozen.
Henry B. Eyring
became president in 1971. His administrative and public
relations skills ensured the college's successful transition from a regional
junior college to the nation's largest private two-year college. He oversaw
the construction of additional buildings and developed new technical and
vocational programs. He also opened the college to those left homeless
by the Teton Dam flood.
In 1978, President Eyring was succeeded by Bruce C. Hafen
. Under his
leadership, the college acquired 130-acres in the Teton Basin for its new
Outdoor Recreation program. Construction included the Fine Arts Center,
Livestock Center, Outdoor Learning Center, and Viking Stadium. The general
education program was revised and the learning assistance programs established.
Joe J. Christensen
became president in 1985, and served during the
Centennial year of Ricks College. During his tenure, the college reached
its enrollment limit of 7,500 students. Campus projects included the doubling
in size of the George S. Romney Science Building and a major landscaping
project in the closure of a through-street which had previously dissected
Dr. Steven D. Bennion
became president in 1989. Among his accomplishments
were the creation of two new academic divisions, new guidelines and refinements
in the admissions process, and the continued expansion of computers for
both student and employee use. In 1995 construction began on a new classroom
building for the religion and humanities departments, the John Taylor Building.
Dr. David A. Bednar
took the helm
of Ricks College in 1997. Construction during the early years of his tenure include
the Spencer W. Kimball Student and Administrative Services Building, the John Taylor Building, and
the Radio and Graphic Services Building.
On June 21, 2000, the announcement was made by the First Presidency
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Board of Trustees
of Ricks College that Ricks College would change from a two-year
junior college status to a four-year institution. The school officially became
known as Brigham Young University-Idaho on August 10, 2001. To meet the
needs of BYU-Idaho students and the transition in academic programs,
the physical facilities have been expanded to include the Gordon B. Hinckley Building,
the Student Health and Counseling Center, the Henry's Fork Outdoor Learning
Center, the Thomas E. Ricks Building, and University Village (family housing).
Additions or renovations have also been made to the Benson, Austin, Smith, and Romney
Buildings and the McKay Library.
Accreditation at the baccalaureate level was gained June 30, 2004, through the Northwest
Commission on Colleges and Universities. The Commission also reaffirmed
accreditation at the associate level.
Robert M. Wilkes accepted the position of interim
president of BYU-Idaho effective December 1, 2004. This temporary assignment
will continue until a new president has been selected to succeed Elder
Bednar who was called to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
While "rethinking education," the commitment to quality education and spiritual growth remain as strong
today as they were when the founding fathers sought to build an institution
of learning and growth for those living in the sage-brushed Snake River