REXBURG, Idaho — More than a year ago, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced that Ricks College would become a four-year university. Since then, gradual changes have taken place throughout the campus as new faculty has been hired and programs expanded or eliminated. On Aug. 10, another major milestone in the transition took place as Ricks College changed its name. After near 100 years, the school in southeastern Idaho is now Brigham Young University-Idaho in anticipation of fall semester beginning Sept. 4.
"All summer long, we've made gradual changes," said BYU-Idaho President David A. Bednar. "Most of our vehicles now have BYU-Idaho logos as opposed to Ricks logos. We're gradually implementing the new letterhead. Little by little, all summer long, we've been making the transition to BYU-Idaho. There comes a point where we have to say to our employees and the public we're really there now. We picked Aug. 10 as the day people would answer the phones and say, 'Hello, Brigham Young University-Idaho.' "
Even the college radio station KRIC-FM began using the new call letters KBYI on Aug. 10.
President Bednar credits the commitment and hard work of faculty and staff since the June 2000 announcement that the two-year junior college would become a four-year institution with bachelor's and associate's degrees. (Please see June 24, 2000, Church News.) "I can't think of a time I've worked harder," the new university president said. "People on campus have worked to make this happen. You have to work like it depends on you but recognize the Lord's part. As you walk around this campus and as you see what's taking place, there's clearly a sense of momentum in the transition."
That momentum will reach a crescendo Sept. 18-22 during a homecoming week that will include fireworks, a concert and the last homecoming football game. And not only are college officials busy preparing for that week, but so has Spencer Haacke, 22, student body president, who has been helping the Associated Students of Ricks College (ASRC) become the Associated Students of Brigham Young University-Idaho (ASBYU-I). "We have to change our whole constitution to fit ASBYU-I," he said during a recent interview at Ricks College before the name change. "My personal feeling is I can't believe how smoothly it's been going. It's been falling right into place."
Many students are excited about the transition to a four-year institution; many have even changed majors to stay here, the student body president said. The name change itself carries much weight, he added. "When people graduate from BYU-I, they'll have that name on the degree."
In fact, the impact of the new name was spoken of by President Hinckley during the June 2000 press conference. In making the announcement, he said the name change was designed to give the school immediate national and international recognition. Its larger sister school, BYU-Provo, has approximately 29,000 students, according to Don W. Sparhawk of what is now called the BYU-I media relations office.
President Hinckley also said during the announcement: "The school will have a unique role in and be distinctive from the other institutions of higher education within the Church Educational System. . . . BYU-Idaho will continue to be teaching oriented. Effective teaching and advising will be the primary responsibilities of its faculty, who are committed to academic excellence."
The private school, which was begun by the Church in 1888 as Bannock Stake Academy, became known as Ricks Academy in 1902 to honor Thomas E. Ricks, founder of Rexburg and president of the board of education when the academy was founded, Brother Sparhawk related. The educator had been invited by Church President John Taylor to settle the Upper Snake River Valley in the 1880s.
Approximately 50 baccalaureate programs are expected by 2004, along with 19 associate degrees. Beginning in the fall, BYU-Idaho will offer upper-division classes leading to integrated bachelor's degrees in accounting, English, history and recreation leadership, along with specialized degrees in business management, elementary education, interior design and nursing. It also will begin offering upper-division, secondary education programs in the areas of biology, earth science, English, family and consumer education, health, history, mathematics and social studies.
In addition to bachelor's degrees, BYU-Idaho will offer specialized associate degrees that prepare students to be employable after completing two years of schooling. The specialized associate degrees will include agricultural management, architectural drafting technology, automotive technology, beef production, CAD (computer-aided design) technology, computer systems technology, criminal justice, culinary arts, electronics engineering technology, floral design, general studies, landscape horticulture, nursing, paramedicine, photography, piano pedagogy, pre-school education and welding.
Other milestones during the past year as college officials have worked toward the transition have been the hiring of 37 new faculty members (25 due to the changes), groundbreaking for the new Spori and multi-use buildings, announcement of the Thomas E. Ricks Building and Gardens, and candidacy status for accreditation of the proposed bachelor's degree programs. (Please see June 2, 2001, Church News for article on faculty changes and student track program.)
Speaking with the Church News of the name change, President Bednar aptly said: "This is a gradual process with lots of markers along the way. Aug. 10 is another one of those signature markers along the way, but we're still on the journey. This is just the most amazing thing. We are really getting there."