The Church School in Idaho — Will It Last?
Before class work ended for spring term of 1926 and commencement sent graduates on their way, the campus was excited about the latest rumors concerning the future of the college. The Church Board of Education had been closing some Church schools, but Ricks seemed to be secure. In fact, the Church board had announced an increased appropriation and faculty for the college for the ensuing school year. Most of the increase, according to those who seemed to know, would go to enlarge library holdings and update laboratories. That Ricks would be retained as the Church school in Idaho seemed assured.
The school’s permanency and importance to Idaho was further buttressed when the Idaho State Board of Education and the University of Idaho announced full accreditation for Ricks College. Henceforth, those graduating with teaching credentials would be “certified by the state board without further examination.”
A highlight of another successful summer school session was a three-day trip to Yellowstone National Park. Under the direction of Ariel Ballif, more than ninety students traveled to Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Ricks students regaled other campers with songs and stories. As the caravan returned to the West Yellowstone gate, they were suddenly confronted by a “highwayman” who demanded that they sing “Idaho” before they could proceed. They sang, the highwayman was satisfied, and the party proceeded homeward.
The college recruited William Billiter, a top-notch piano teacher for the music department, in 1926. He came to Ricks with the most impressive music credentials of any faculty member to date. He had degrees from the Zurich, Switzerland, School of Music and the St. Gallen School of Music in St. Gallen, Switzerland. He recently had been awarded the coveted Swiss Gold Medal in competition with pianists from France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Switzerland. And he was only twenty-one years old.
The Ricks College Board of Education held an important organizational meeting on October 29, 1926. Ricks was to be the official Church school in Idaho and all stake presidents in the entire state were called to serve as board members of the expanded college district. An executive committee was appointed with John W. Hart, president; Albert Choules, vice president; George H. Lowe; and Arthur Porter, Jr. President Romney was an ex officio member of the executive committee and all other subcommittees. Public response to the expanded mission of Ricks College was favorable indeed. No longer could anyone question that the college would be a permanent fixture in Rexburg.
Founders Day was celebrated on November 5 with a parade, program at the tabernacle, athletic events, and grand ball. The executive board of the college met that day to decide about remodeling the auditorium in the gymnasium building. The poorly designed auditorium stage was too small and the floor was flat so those seated toward the back could not see performances very well. Furthermore, several wooden pillars supporting the gym floor above cut off the view of the stage. The board authorized a remodeling project and called on President Romney to submit a plan.
At the executive committee meeting of the local board on December 15, 1926, President Romney’s plan for remodeling the auditorium was reviewed and accepted. His plan was to use steel I beams to replace wooden beams to support the basketball and dance floor above, repair the floor, increase seating capacity, and enlarge the stage. His estimate of the cost was $4,000. He reported Alumni Association pledges of $1,000 and faculty, students, and patron pledges of another $2,000. He was confident that the remaining $1,000 would be quickly pledged. To show appreciation to the Church board for the decision to make Ricks the Church’s Idaho school, the local board decided to raise funds for remodeling without asking for Church funds. Confident that the remaining $1,000 could be quickly raised, the local board ordered steel beams at once. To show support, the Alumni Association presented a play aptly titled The Builder of Bridges. The well-attended play raised a substantial amount of money.
President Romney brought the faculty up to date on the auditorium remodeling project shortly after winter quarter commenced in January 1927. The floor had been sloped and the stage was raised and enlarged. The steel beams had not arrived, but were expected shortly. Faculty members were impressed with student support. Many girls donated money and many boys donated labor. Because of the remodeling, arrangements were made to hold school dances in the tabernacle basement.
Leadership Week for 1927 included “many men and women of the highest intellectual standing in Utah and Idaho giving special and expert instruction.” For the first time, part of Leadership Week’s curriculum included an eight-day Scout School to acquaint Scout-masters and committeemen “with the principles of scoutcraft.” Leadership Week concluded with a drama department performance of The Lost Paradise. The play, which was held in the newly remodeled auditorium, pleased patrons with the enlarged stage and a view of the production without the impediment of posts.
Students representing most Upper Snake River Valley high schools attended the first High School Day held on campus on April 29, 1927. Two morning classes were followed with an entertaining assembly by college students from various departments. Lunch was under the direction of Esther Hamilton and the domestic science girls. In the afternoon, high school students watched a tennis match between college students and faculty and then participated in a track meet. The gymnasium provided a place for games, followed by the closing dance. This first high school recruitment effort by the college was deemed successful, and administrators made it an annual event for many years.
Spring quarter ended with a flurry of activity: tennis matches, track meets, recitals, the play The Strenuous Life, annual Girls Day, and publication of the Rixida yearbook. Some faculty became quite annoyed that students seemed to be more interested in reading the Rixida in the classroom than in doing assignments. As an incentive for concentration on composition, a special award was offered. Arthur Porter, Jr., of the college Board of Education offered the first college medal for the best short story written by a college student. The Porter Medal became an annual award.
The Board of Education announced other awards as well. Each stake in the state would be able to send one student to Ricks on a full tuition scholarship. The board anticipated that having students from all over the state on scholarship would stimulate “interest in the college as the Church school for Junior College students of Idaho. New bonds of sympathy among students from various sections of the state” were expected to be created.
Coaches and football prospects reported to the field to begin another season on September 21, 1927. “With an especially strong coaching staff and an unusually high percentage of experienced players ready to train, the outlook for sports at the college is unusually good this year,” a Rexburg Journal article noted. Clyde Packer returned from sabbatical leave, having spent the year in Chicago learning coaching skills under the tutelage of Alonzo Stagg. Assistants to Coach Packer were Cecil Merkley, who helped coach football, and M.D. Beal, a new faculty member who would have a substantial impact on the college for many years, helped coach track.
Ricks’ fortieth school year commenced September 26, 1927, with a 14 percent increase in college students. The “Annual Catalogue” noted the institution’s scope on the front cover: “Normal College, Junior College, Music College, Business College, Senior High School, Vocational High School.”
J.E. Graham, president of the Rexburg Chamber of Commerce, presided at a public meeting of great importance for Ricks on October 28. Wishing to do more than just talk about college needs, the chamber wanted to raise funds for specific projects. Graham asked John W. Hart of Rigby, the college Board of Trustees president, and President Romney to speak about needs of the college. They talked about the excellence of the college and prospects for growth. After some discussion, W. Lloyd Adams moved and C.W. Poole seconded that the “club go on record to raise $8000.00” to be used to acquire land adjacent to the campus for a football field. All money not needed to purchase the site would be applied to a new gymnasium. A fund-raising campaign committee was appointed with Nathan Ricks as chairman. The meeting was not without detractors. Some felt the city park where the college currently played football games could just be turned over to the college. Others suggested that the status quo was just fine. Despite those who cautioned against moving too fast, the meeting ended with great enthusiasm to get busy raising money.
Basketball season commenced on November 29 against Sugar City’s All-Stars. Ricks won the contest with little difficulty, prompting Coach Clyde Packer to speak optimistically about the season. Packer arranged for the basketball team to make a 1,200-mile swing through Utah, playing several college and independent teams. That was the longest road trip for any college team up to that time.
The college Board of Education met on January 2, 1928, having stake representatives from Fremont, Idaho Falls, Blackfoot, Rigby, Shelley, Yellowstone, Teton, Lost River, Boise, Minidoka, Oneida, and Bear Lake. The board determined expenses for the year, forwarding that estimate to the general board in Salt Lake City for approval. Plans for Leadership Week also were discussed, as well as plans for the $50,000 building drive. Fred Parkinson was drive leader. The Alumni Association loaned a hand to building drive efforts, boosting the amount to $100,000. The Chamber of Commerce also promoted the project. Enthusiasm was so great that subscriptions were received even while committees were being formed. The goal was to have the entire amount in hand by January 1, 1930. Even with only a few subscriptions, building plans were optimistically being considered.
At the new year’s opening assembly on January 4, 1928, President Romney reported on Idaho Education Association meetings he had attended in Boise during the holidays. The theme of the meetings was character building and making good citizens. Governor Baldridge gave the opening address, deploring the “lack of ethical education in the schools of the state.” He noted teachers had become so “afraid of violating the law prohibiting the teaching of religion that they left the whole field of morals out of consideration.” Other speakers tied escalation of criminal activity to lack of moral education. President Romney noted that religious education was the core of the curriculum at Ricks College and teachers were not hampered by laws requiring separation of church and state.
After quarterly conference sessions on Sunday, January 8, 1928, the oratorio The Holy City was presented to the largest audience yet assembled in the tabernacle. More than 2,200 people crowded inside while about 400 had to be turned away. Harry Dean directed the 120-voice choir. In his journal he wrote, “There was not a window open in the entire building and the house was very close. One person fainted [from the heat] and was carried out during ‘List the Cherubic Host.’ ” William H. Billiter from the college played the newly installed organ for the oratorio. He was accompanied by a fourteen-piece college student orchestra.
The college made facilities and staff available to assist the Teton Peaks Boy Scout Council for two weeks commencing on February 6. College cooperation meant that the Teton Peaks Council could offer its first advanced “Class A Scout School” that included thirty-two hours of instruction and participation in an overnight hike. For a few years the Scout program was billed as the University of Scouting. Use of college facilities and staff to assist the Boy Scouts of America program has continued to the present.
The Ricks College Board of Education approved a resolution adjusting the high school curriculum in March. Since Madison High School would be adding a third year of high school in the fall, Ricks would only offer fourth year high school courses. The change went into effect for the 1928-1929 school year. Football coach applicants also were discussed at the board meeting. The last football season was judged unsatisfactory, partially because Coach Merkley could not spend as much time as needed to coach. A full-time faculty member was considered.
President Romney did not take long in hiring a football coach. Robert Gibbons, an honorable mention All-American from the Agricultural College in Logan, Utah, had all the credentials: a standout collegiate football and basketball player, coaching training under the great Knute Rockne of Notre Dame, and a former missionary to England. In addition to football, Gibbons assisted Coach Packer in other athletic activities. Starting immediately, Gibbons arranged a spring practice session. The addition of a full-time football coach also gave Ricks students recruiting at Idaho Falls, Shelley, and Rigby high schools an additional point of discussion. High school students arriving at Ricks for the annual High School Day held on April 20 were able to meet the new coach.
An art exhibit opened at the college on April 16, 1928, in time for High School Day. The exhibit displayed several pieces of art created by LeConte Stewart. He had attended Ricks, coming to public attention while doing illustrations for Student Rays. He designed the windows for the Rexburg tabernacle and also had contributed to the artwork in the Hawaii Temple.
The eighteenth annual Brigham Young University invitational track meet was held on April 28, 1928, in Provo. Although Ricks was participating for only the third time, they were considered to have the best junior college team, and thus were the team to beat. Ricks had finished second in 1926 to University of Idaho Southern Branch at Pocatello by three points and finished first in 1927 leading second-place Dixie by 15 points. When the meet concluded, Ricks had won again. They competed against seven junior college teams. Their nearest rival was Southern Branch, which they beat by a score of 47-27. The team garnered five first-place, six second-place, and four third-place medals. Speedster Weldon Webster won both the 100- and 200-yard dashes, setting new conference records. George Briggs set a new record in the javelin, and team captain Guy Christensen placed first in the discus. The other first place was won by the 880-yard relay team.
Graduation week activities commenced on May 27, 1928, with baccalaureate held in the college auditorium. The featured sermon was delivered by George H. Brimhall, president emeritus of Brigham Young University. The class of 1908 was featured on reunion day, May 31. Graduation exercises were held Friday in the auditorium. Joseph F. Merrill, superintendent of Church schools, was featured speaker. John W. Hart, president of the Board of Education, handed out diplomas to thirty-two junior college, fifty-six high school, and fifteen seminary graduates.
Summer school commenced on June 4, 1928. Teachers, mostly from eastern Idaho, attended to upgrade their credentials. The summer school had developed into one of the most popular in the state and included trips to Yellowstone National Park and other sites. During a break from his teaching responsibilities of the summer, Oswald Christensen and his sons, Harold and Cornell, scaled the highest peak of the Tetons on August 8. They were acclaimed as the first from the Rexburg vicinity to climb to the top of the Grand Teton.
When returning faculty reported on September 17, 1928, for the school year, they greeted four new faculty members: Dr. Earl J. Soelberg, Nephi A. Christensen, Robert Gibbons, and Eva Davis. Despite the absence of a high school junior class, new members had been added in anticipation of an increased college enrollment. College programs and graduates were becoming well known and respected. The faculty found some changes in the physical plant. Buildings had been refurbished, and the mechanic arts building had been converted into a chemistry laboratory. Furthermore, as part of the new city lighting system, street lights lit the way up College Avenue to the front lawn of the college.
The optimistic prediction of increased enrollment for fall semester proved accurate. By the end of the first week of enrollment, the student body increased more than 10 percent above the previous year’s enrollment. In addition to four new faculty members, two part-time faculty members were hired to increase the variety of classes. These teachers, Arthur Porter, Jr., editor of The Rexburg Journal, taught French, and his son-in-law, Marriner D. Morrell, taught commercial English and typing. Both men would make lasting contributions to the college.
Robert Gibbons, the new football coach, assisted by Coach Packer, quickly impressed the local community with his coaching skill. He worked players hard. Ricks won four games in a row before facing Weber College of Ogden. The last league game against Ogden was to be for the league championship. The Ricks-Weber game was not even close, much to the disappointment of Coach Gibbons, the team, and Ricks fans. Ricks lost 32-7. Seth Parkinson scored his last touchdown for a Ricks College team, catching a pass early in the game. This remarkable athlete received all-conference first-team recognition, as did Wilbur Dixon, Elwin Reynolds, and Jess Walters. Although Ricks lost the championship, Gibbons ended his first season winning three, losing one, and tying one.
While attention may have been focused on football and the new coach, other college activities moved ahead. Harold Christensen was elected student-body president; Veda Tremelling was elected president of Amagus Girls; Benjamin Plastino was elected president of the newly organized Reporters Club; Inez Spori was chosen editor-in-chief for the school paper, Student Rays; and Ephraim Miller was elected moderator of the new Forum Club, a debating organization. Under the auspices of the college music department, Alexander Schreiner appeared in concert, playing the tabernacle organ for an appreciative audience; and Lavinna Norman won the Heber J. Grant oration contest, using the theme “Why Be Law Observing.”
“Demands from a progressive public” were responsible for inauguration of night school classes beginning on December 10. Classes met from 7:30 to 9:30 each Monday and Wednesday night until March 16, 1929. Classes included child psychology, education, modern drama, business law, contracts, business English, dairy production, and irrigation and drainage. Teachers that first night school term were Hyrum Manwaring, Maralyn Morton, Earl Soelberg, and Marriner Morrell. “This is a very forward movement in education and the people in this and adjoining communities should welcome this added service as an opportunity to further their educational ambitions,” The Rexburg Journal noted. “This is really an age of adult education, and night schools are being established in every part of the country.” Enrollment did not meet expectations, although students could continue to enroll through the first few weeks. The administration felt that enrollment would increase after the Christmas holidays.
Word began circulating in the community early in 1929 that the college might be closed. J.W. Hart, president of the Board of Education, acted quickly to squelch the rumors. He inquired and received word from the superintendent of Church schools and General Authorities that the school would definitely not be closed at the end of the spring quarter. In fact, plans were proceeding for summer school, as well as for the 1929-1930 school year. President Hart urged that all “people take advantage of the exceptional opportunities extended . . . through the generosity of the church in maintaining such a splendid school as Ricks College.”
To underscore the continuation of Ricks College, Coach Packer’s track won the Brigham Young University invitational again. Packer announced that the next year’s team also could be expected to be successful considering the trackmen who expected to return to Ricks for another year.
Marie Waldram, a Ricks College freshman from Sugar City, brought academic honor to the school when her chemistry paper received third-place honors in a nationwide contest. One critic noted her paper entitled “Chemistry in Relation to Health and Disease” was a “brilliant climax along this line of work.” She received a $200 award as part of commencement week activities.
Summer school commenced the week of June 10, 1929. Many students were teachers working to improve their credentials. The “normal department” could prepare students for county and state elementary teacher certificates. In addition to teacher certification classes, some classes were held for regular students. When summer school ended, announcement was made that “Ricks College has the distinction of having had positions for every normal graduate of the school this year, which is considered a very remarkable record.” Apparently to buttress continuance of the college, announcement also was made that summer school in 1930 would include classes so students could receive arts and science diplomas, if desired, as well as teaching certificates.
Fall quarter commenced on September 23, 1929. Edna Ricks was the only addition to the faculty. Night school continued and grew. In fact, agricultural classes were added for the second quarter starting in mid-December. Despite elimination of most high school classes, a record enrollment was realized, both in day and night schools. Strong enrollment seemed to indicate that “prospects for the two year college at Ricks are very favorable.”
Although prospects for a successful football season seemed great, the college managed only a three-win, five-loss record. That disappointed Coach Robert Gibbons, team captain Gordon Dixon, the team, and fans. One Ricks victory was against Montana Normal College of Dillon. The 45-7 victory was memorable, not only because of the final score, but because of excitement on the sidelines. Bleachers filled with students collapsed. No one was injured but Mrs. J.J. Hunt’s automobile sustained damage when some of the plank seats hit the car.
After a disappointing football record, basketball season restored confidence in Ricks athletics. The basketball team, under the superb direction of Clyde Packer, finished with a thirteen-win, two-loss record and garnered winning banners of the Idaho Junior College League, Utah-Idaho League, and the Northern Division.
If excitement of athletics was not enough entertainment, Professor Billiter’s organ concerts at the tabernacle could be enjoyed. Attending the stage production of The Celebrity or going to the Rex Theater downtown to watch and listen to the “talkies” were other options.
Armistice Day and Founders Day were celebrated together on November 11. Faculty member M.D. Beal, who was also chaplain for the local American Legion post, had recommended combining the two events the previous year. Combining the two celebrations continued until 1942. Appropriate addresses given by well-known local and state orators included both patriotic and Founders Day themes.
Leadership Week was a notable success February 11-14, 1930. About 2,000 people attended the opening session at the tabernacle. Rexburg Mayor Arthur Porter, Jr., in his welcoming speech included an assessment of Ricks College:
"I embrace this opportunity to refer to the work of Ricks College. Whatever may be the future of the noble institution that has fostered these leadership programs amongst us, it is safe to say that the influence of Ricks College for uplift in this part of Idaho has been far beyond measure and it has implanted amongst us energizing principles of progress and growth that will bear fruit for generations. It is a worthwhile investment and it is endeared beyond price in the hearts of those who appreciate its work and love it for its continuing blessing.
"After all it is not the fact that mathematics or English or science were so well taught—but that a character was built and placed in the world that did not use tobacco or intoxicating drink—or one with a knowledge of and faith in the gospel of Christ."
At the conclusion of the mayor’s address, Governor Baldridge also extolled virtues of the college and the Leadership Week program.
Rumors were again being widely repeated that the Church Board of Education was going to close Ricks College. National, state, and Church financial pictures were becoming more and more gloomy. One effort to dispel rumors came from the Brigham Young College Alumni Idaho Club. At its March 16 meeting in Idaho Falls, a resolution read by H.S. Alvord had been adopted “relative to the continuance of Ricks College.” That resolution was repeated at a special program at Ricks College on March 28, 1930. Mayor Arthur Porter, Jr., gave a welcoming address. He was especially pleased to note that “alumni of the B.Y.C. residing in Idaho at their meeting recently at Idaho Falls decided to adopt the Ricks College to foster and transfer their spirit and loyalty to the building up and permanent maintenance of this church school.” The alumni’s visit “and their enthusiasm, was a great encouragement and stimulation to Ricks College students and supporters. They were given a hearty welcome and applause.” But, BYC alumni certainly would not be making the decision about keeping Ricks open.
Rumors of closing persisted. Elsewhere Church schools were being closed. To get direct information, a large contingent of men from the community representing the local Board of Education, Madison County Chamber of Commerce, and BYC alumni traveled to Salt Lake City for an arranged meeting with President Heber J. Grant in his office on April 8, 1930. Also present were President Grant’s counselors and Joseph F. Merrill, commissioner of Church education.
President John W. Hart of the Ricks College Board of Education explained how “persistent rumors that Ricks College was to be closed—the uncertainty and propaganda” were having a “detrimental effect on attendance at the college.” In his remarks, President Hart made five specific points in favor of continuing Ricks College: (1) the college taught those principles that developed good character, (2) the school was part of the history of the community and included the ideals of the founding fathers, (3) the college provided a “desirable background to other church organizations,” (4) Ricks was the only Church institution in Idaho that attracted wide public attention, affiliated with other educational institutions, and had been granted authority by the State Legislature to grant teaching certification, as was the case with state institutions, and (5) Ricks was well advertised throughout the state and well received. Hart asked that information concerning Ricks College be communicated directly from the Church board to the college board. Thus, he hoped that rumors circulating that quoted sources other than the Church board could be effectively squelched. He assured President Grant that the college board would cooperate in all matters of the Church board.
President Hart’s presentation was followed by pleas from other members of the college board. Stake Presidents Berkley Larsen, Albert Choules, and Leonard Ball endorsed President Hart’s views. Next Delbert Taylor, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, spoke, followed by W. Lloyd Adams of the chamber. Adams put Commissioner Merrill on the spot by referring to the recent Ricks Leadership Week at which Merrill had asked for a vote on the question of retaining Ricks College. Adams reminded Merrill that he had been greeted with a “vigorous affirmative vote.” Adams said Merrill “had always been taught that the Lord helps those who help themselves” and for this reason the committee was in Salt Lake City. “We have wondered how we may best cooperate . . . to assure the permanence of Ricks College.” Adams concluded with references to development, struggles, and triumphs of Ricks.
Numerous letters, petitions, and resolutions from a wide variety of citizens and organizations extolling the college and desiring permanence would be taken into consideration along with statements of those attending the meeting. However, the Church Presidency could give no definitive statement before discussing the matter with the complete Church Board of Education. Nevertheless, the committee departed for Idaho with assurance that “rumors circulated to the effect that Ricks College would close were unauthorized, that they would continue the Church schools as long as sufficient money was available, and that in case more [Church] schools were closed Ricks College would be among the last.” Anything further effecting Ricks College would be communicated directly to the board and “no attention should be given to any other reports and rumors.” Each committee member felt “high optimism for the success of their mission.”
At the Ricks College board meeting on May 12, 1930, President Hart reported that the college budget had been set. He authorized President Romney to contract with teachers for another school year, including a new football coach as Coach Gibbons had resigned. Campus improvements, new laboratory equipment, and new library books were authorized. A vigorous recruiting campaign for students was formulated. “It is gratifying to hear the rejoicing on all sides from all quarters at the glad work that the dear old Ricks is to remain,” a newspaper account noted. “From every part of the Upper Snake River Valley the sounds of joy are heard.” The future looked secure indeed.
President Romney gave his Ricks College report at a special Board of Education meeting on July 21 since he had requested, and had been granted, a leave of absence to study at University of Chicago. During thirteen years as president of the college, he reported the school was transformed from a high school into a state-accredited junior college. Two students graduated from the first college class in 1919. The current graduating class included ninety-seven receiving college diplomas. The first college class had eleven students; there were 275 in 1930. He expressed appreciation for the faculty, all of whom except Ray J. Davis would be returning for the next school year. “Under their splendid tuition, the spiritual atmosphere and religious training, which is characteristic of the institution, has been maintained and enhanced,” he noted. Furthermore, for the first time in a number of years, he could announce that the college had no indebtedness. In fact, when all bills were paid, the college would have a $150 cash balance. President Romney concluded that only two improvements needed to be considered for the college. The original steam pipes, laid in cement, in the gymnasium were being destroyed by rust and corrosion. Part of the building already had new pipes laid over the cement. The rest of the building needed to have new pipes laid. A safe to secure college records also needed to be installed in the main building. Otherwise, the physical plant was in good condition.
President Hart expressed appreciation for the services of President Romney. He then announced that Hyrum Manwaring, a faculty member currently on leave at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., had accepted the offer to become acting president of the college, commencing on September 1, 1930, concurrent with President Romney’s leave. Manwaring was not sure he wanted to be acting president of Ricks College. (He had sold his home and farm and cut all ties to Ricks and Rexburg. He did not expect to return.) But, he noted in his memoirs, the “prospect was that this would be a permanent position as president of the college.” Still, “this was a hard decision to make, as none of the family cared to return to Rexburg and I felt that under the new policy of the church there was little chance for Ricks College to live, much less grow and develop. Finally, after long consideration, I accepted the proposition to return.” He had been told by President Hart that the “board thought I would give a real service to the school in the difficult and dangerous days ahead.”
President Hart presided over a public meeting on August 31 to which members of Teton, Yellowstone, and Fremont stakes were especially invited. Concern was expressed about the number of college-age students who were being sent by parents to colleges other than Ricks. Hart pointed out that this hurt the local economy at a time when the economy needed help. Even more importantly, because of continuing economic difficulty nationally, the notion that Ricks College was secure was being debated. Hart exhorted those in attendance to support Ricks “more energetically than ever before.” He said that “every citizen of this section should cooperate by seeing that our own sons and daughters attend this school.”
Hart’s theme was expanded in The Rexburg Journal. Arthur Porter, Jr., noted that a large number of the men and women of southeastern Idaho had been educated at Ricks. “They in turn should send their children here to become filled with the same ideals” they learned at Ricks. “Every young man and woman of junior college age should be here” when the term commences September 22. “Ricks’ future is assured to us only if we show by our support and attendance that we appreciate the need we have of her.” Porter concluded by a stirring call to rally to the words of Ricks’ theme song:
We’ll never let old Ricksie fall,
For we love her the best of all.
To fight for the right with all our might,
Our motto true is Right, Right, Right!
We’ll follow Ricksie on to fame,
Do every honor to her name,
We’ll fight for the same in every game—
We’ll never let old Ricksie fall!
The college Board of Education executive committee met pursuant to a call of President Hart on September 1, 1930. President Manwaring met with the board for the first time as an ex officio member. The board expected a banner year based on the number of out-of-town inquiries for housing. Approval was given to purchase “a plot of ground west of the college for an athletic field and a committee was appointed to make negotiations immediately with a view of acquiring this property.” Proceeding with expansion of the college should send a signal of permanence.
The college opened for its forty-third year on September 22, 1930. Faculty and students assembled to hear Arthur Porter, Jr., of the Board of Education give “an enthusiastic address. He complimented the students present on their attendance at this fine Idaho institution.” He complimented “President Hyrum Manwaring and his corps of able teachers. He was very optimistic in his assurance to the students that Ricks College would be permanently maintained, and continue to wield a mighty influence for good among the people of the great Snake River Valley.” That prophetic message was sorely tried several times in ensuing years. Manwaring also talked of the “fine fraternal spirit and high ideals of Ricks College and assured the new students that they would soon be touched and inspired by its influence.” He must have been disappointed that the number of students enrolled so far did not augur well for the school.
Wylie Goodsell was elected student-body president. Other student-body officers and several club officers were also elected. A larger number of students than usual were working at part-time jobs to finance their education. This was considered commendable. The number of assemblies was reduced to allow more time for students to work if they desired. Reduction in the number of meetings and assemblies was a noted difference between President Romney and President Manwaring. Under President Romney, a faculty meeting was held each morning at 7:45. At 10 a.m., a general assembly was held for a fifteen-minute devotional just prior to theology classes. Each Friday, an hour-long devotional was held. President Manwaring knew some faculty resented the amount of time spent in assembly rather than in the classroom, so he only held occasional faculty meetings and general assemblies twice a week—devotionals on Wednesdays and forums on Fridays.
To reach eastern Idaho young people who had not been enrolled during fall quarter, several letters were sent extolling the value of a Ricks College education and inviting each person to enroll for winter quarter. Those letters were followed by another letter from President Manwaring. He wrote, “Every young person at some time or other must stand at the educational cross roads, and ask himself whether he shall go on with his educational work, or whether he shall discontinue.” There was no question that “a right choice must be made at this point, as success or failure in life may depend upon it.” President Manwaring felt that a person should just as well be enrolled in school during the cold winter months as sit at home “letting the winter months slip by.” Furthermore, “time well spent in school is money, prestige, and happiness cached away.” Finally, “this is just the time when little else can be done anywhere, so we hope you will spend it pleasantly and profitably with us in college. Just drop everything else and come.” Recruiting efforts paid off. Many new students enrolled for winter quarter and even more were expected to enroll after Christmas.
President Manwaring concluded the year with a lengthy message entitled “Ricks College—The Outlook for 1931.” His message responded to numerous inquiries about the status of the college—some even asking if the college would continue to operate. Pioneer people in “their poverty and distress” had nurtured the pioneer institution and “their heart throbs and benedictions are built into the mortar and stone of the massive buildings.” For forty-three years Ricks “has been training and turning over to society its hundreds of well-prepared young men and women” where they can be found as prominent citizens in their communities. He said, “Ricks College has certainly always been one of those fundamental factors in the development of all that is sacred and good in Idaho education. . . . The boys and girls coming fresh from the presence of faithful and devoted teachers, carried forward the sacred testimony of the Master’s mission and purpose, and brought hope and faith to replace discouragement and despair.” Concerning the present crisis, he said, “My best answer to the question constantly put to me is the commission given me by the Board of Ricks College and the Church commissioner of education. Each said to go ahead and build a good school and build permanently. Every statement made to me had been forward-looking and progressive.”
President Manwaring listed several projects that he considered necessary to develop the college into an institution that would receive, as well as require, educational and political support from the local community and all of Idaho. That support included financial and volunteer work, as well as sending local youth to the college. He concluded, “If the offering is right . . . no one need worry about the future patronage and progress of this great school.”
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