Since taking the helm in 2017, LDS Business College President Bruce C. Kusch and his administrators have steered the school through many ups and downs. Most recently, not only have they navigated the difficulties of an institutional name change and expansion of the college’s educational opportunities and reach, but they’ve done it during a pandemic.
But today is definitely a high point. Today, the 134-year-old school officially becomes Ensign College.
This transition is particularly meaningful for President Kusch. Church leaders announced the changes to the two-year school on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at a campus devotional for students and faculty in the Assembly Hall at Temple Square in Salt Lake City. In addition to the name change, it was announced that the college will begin to offer a limited number of Bachelor of Applied Science degrees and that it would also be offering more of its curriculum online through an agreement with BYU-Pathway Worldwide.
On that day, as President Kusch stood in the Assembly Hall and said the words “Ensign College” for the first time over the pulpit, “I just had an overwhelming feeling of confirmation and approbation from the Spirit that this was the right name for the school, and it was the right time,” he said recently during a Church News interview.
More than a name
In the last few months, President Kusch has sensed that the name change is bigger and more significant than simply changing the school’s name. For one thing, the new name is riddled with meaning.
When he made the announcement close to six months ago, Elder Paul V. Johnson, a General Authority Seventy and Commissioner of the Church Educational System, spoke of Brigham Young hiking to the top of a mountain on July 26, 1847, two days after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley. From his 1,000-foot vantage point, the latter-day prophet described the vision he had seen of the valley prior to beginning the pioneer trek West.
That spot, Ensign Peak, rises within close view of where the college is now located. It was in that spirit, Elder Johnson said, that they were announcing the school’s new moniker.
President Kusch explained during that same devotional in February that the scriptures use the word “ensign” to describe the new and everlasting covenant, a symbol of peace, a guide to the gathering of Israel and a light as a standard to the nations. As students come to the college to learn and study and then go forth as disciples of Christ, they become standard-bearers for His gospel. They become an ensign everywhere they go.
Just a couple of weeks ago, as the college president was walking down a hall on campus and contemplating the name change, “I just had a very, very sweet and profound experience,” he said, “in recognizing and feeling that there are many on the other side of the veil that had a little something to do with this school during its 134-year history that are very aware of what’s going on and cheering us on from the other side. That was very meaningful for me.”
Seeing the hand of the Lord
Although the process has not been without obstacles, “Up to this point, we haven’t had a challenge where we thought ‘we just don’t have any idea how to work through that,’” President Kusch said.
In fact, in many ways they have seen how the Lord has prepared the way. Quoting Alma 57:26, President Kusch said, “We do justly ascribe it to the miraculous power of God.”
For example, one of the challenges of the name change was making sure they could use it. As they performed legal searches and domain name searches, they approached Ensign magazine to ask if there were some domain names the college might have access to that the magazine had purchased previously. “They were very gracious with us in telling us we could have every domain name that they had ever reserved,” President Kusch recalled.
They had no idea that within a few months, the magazine would retire its claim to the Ensign name. “It just sort of fell into place,” President Kusch said.
This and other such experiences helped school officials feel some divine approbation.
“When you are in alignment with the Lord’s will and in alignment with the Lord’s prophets and you do it according to the Lord’s timing, then it’s almost as if you can see that the Lord was going before to prepare the path and to open the way,” President Kusch said.
An exciting future
Shortly before he was inaugurated, President Kusch expressed to the Church News his hopefulness and excitement in the outlook for then-LDS Business College.
“You can see the hand of the Lord in the way things evolve and the way things happen,” he said. “Technology that makes it possible to gain an education that even 10 years or so ago may not have been possible the way it is today — it is all very much part of the miracle of the Restoration. We have great people, great students and I am very optimistic about the future.”
With the recent changes, he can feel that same optimism even more keenly. “Over time, in the not too distant future, Ensign College will be providing education to many more students on a global basis than will ever come to our campus in Salt Lake City,” President Kusch said of the school’s trajectory.
School administration projects that BYU-Pathway students enrolled in Ensign College courses for the fall will be 2,500 to 2,600 students. “Several years from now, that could be 10,000 students on a semesterly basis. The reach of the school will be much more global in the years to come, as more and more members of the Church around the world are participating in online education.
“It is very exciting,” he said.
As the college continues to grow and fulfill its mission to produce spiritually well-grounded and professionally prepared disciples of Christ, President Kusch said they proceed with gratitude.
“This was a great display of trust to grant approval for these adjustments. We move forward with a great sense of responsibility.”