Historical marker unveiled at BYU-Hawaii 60 years after groundbreaking

Credit: Photo courtesy BYU-Hawaii
Credit: Photo courtesy BYU-Hawaii
Credit: Mike Foley
Credit: Lee Cantwell, Provided by BYU-Hawaii

Sixty years after President David O. McKay participated in the groundbreaking for Brigham Young University-Hawaii, community members and students gathered on Oct. 24 for the unveiling of a new historical marker on the Laie, Hawaii, campus.

The marker — which has been in the works for several years — is placed so that those who stop to read the plaque will be overlooking the actual site of the groundbreaking, which took place on Feb. 12, 1955. The marker is made from locally secured lava rock and is built at the north end of the campus stake center. The site was determined from historical photos and accounts of community members who were present.

The unveiling event is part of the 60-year anniversary celebration of BYU–Hawaii, and the 150-year anniversary celebration of the LDS Church in Laie. For a schedule of all events, visit

Mark James, president of the Mormon Pacific Historical Society, located the approximate location of the groundbreaking. In his speech at the unveiling, he recounted the story of then-Elder McKay and Hugh J. Cannon, son of George Q. Cannon, who traveled the world visiting all of the Church’s missions.

Upon visiting the Hawaii mission, Elder McKay witnessed a flag raising ceremony at the local school. “[Elder McKay] was inspired by the sight of so many people from so many places coming together to learn. It was at that time that he envisioned that there would be further schooling for many people from many lands,” said Brother James.

Brother James also recognized those in attendance who were present at the groundbreaking ceremony, as well as any of the labor missionaries who helped build the university who had gathered to see the new historical marker.

In recognizing them for their service, he said, “We stand upon the shoulders of those who have gone before us. We appreciate those who have sacrificed so much in preparing this place, where students would come from many lands, and would be able to further their education.”

Packard “Pupi” Toelupe, one of the original labor missionaries, recounted his own story of meeting the prophet, President David O. McKay, at the groundbreaking ceremony and some of the miracles surrounding the event.

“We all gathered around here. It was raining, but when his car pulled in, the rain quit. We could see the rain around, but we were not wet,” said Brother Toelupe. Brother Toelupe was later called as a labor missionary in Laie, where he learned and worked on a variety of projects during the construction of the campus.

BYU–Hawaii President John S. Tanner spoke about the significance of the university, indicating the significance of the school being built in the shadow of a temple. “I believe that is one of the reasons why President McKay wanted to build the school in the special town of Laie,” he said.

Later in his remarks, President Tanner also called BYU–Hawaii a “living laboratory for intercultural learning, where nations would come together in peace, and learn to be able to associate together, bound in the gospel.”

“May this memorial, which resembles an altar, become our grateful ‘monument to the ages,’ memorializing a sacred spot where God’s voice was heard as He spoke through His servant, David O. McKay,” said President Tanner. “Let us ever remember and treasure in our hearts the inspired words spoken here.”

For more information on the 2015 Mormon Pacific Historical Society conference presentations, visit (see “Recent Posts”).

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