The recent naming of the Ezra Taft Benson Agricultural and Biological Sciences Building at Ricks College was none too soon for Kim Black.
For more than two decades, the Landscape Horticulture faculty member has been behind the scenes as various presidents of the two-year, Church-owned college in Southeastern Idaho proposed to Church leaders naming the building after President Benson. To Brother Black, not only did the former Church president serve as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1953 to 1961 during the Eisenhower administration, but also he was "Idaho born, Idaho raised and Idaho buried." (President Benson was born in Whitney, Idaho, near the Idaho/Utah border, and is buried there.)"He had his roots here. I think it's fitting that we honor him at an Idaho Church school," Brother Black added.
His wish has come true. On Sept. 17, what was formerly known as the Life Science Agriculture Building officially became the Ezra Taft Benson Agricultural and Biological Sciences Building. Typically, Church buildings are named after Church leaders after their deaths; President Benson died in 1994.
Attending the renaming ceremonies for the two-story brick building, located on the south end of campus, were Ricks Pres. David A. Bednar and members of President Benson's family, including son, Reed, and daughter, Beverly Parker. Also present were a sister, Margaret Keller of Burley, Idaho; a grandson, Scott Parker; a granddaughter, Stacey Reeder; and Leon Parson of the Ricks art faculty, who painted a commissioned portrait of the Church president which now hangs in the north foyer.
The building, which was constructed in three phases from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, houses the biology and landscape horticulture departments and offices of the agriculture department.
"It's most appropriate on the Ricks College campus that our agriculture and biological sciences building would be named after President Benson," Pres. Bednar told the Church News during a telephone interview. "He showed a keen interest in these programs during his ministry. He was a frequent visitor to Ricks College, and his example and legacy will set a standard for our students to which they should aspire."
During the renaming ceremonies, Pres. Bednar also called the former Church president "a defender of the faith."
In his comments during the event, Reed Benson said his father would be pleased to have his name linked to the agricultural program at Ricks. "Here is a plowboy made prophet. I reckon if my noble father were here, he would say, `Good job.' "