On Nov. 12, BYU-Idaho celebrates 130 years of gospel-centered education. In those years, the school has grown into a large university offering dozens of different degrees to over 15,000 students.
BYU-I was not always the booming university seen today. Before it became BYU-I, or even Ricks College, it started as the Bannock Stake Academy with three teachers, 85 students and tuition as low as $4 a term. Teachers were paid as low as $1 a day.
This modest school was not founded on financial principles, but gospel principles.
During the dedicatory prayer, the school founder, Thomas E. Ricks, said the academy’s goal “was to give spirituality precedence over worldliness; the principles of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ were to be taught side by side with arithmetic, geography, reading and other mundane subjects.”
Joe J. Christensen was the President of Ricks College from 1985 to 1989 and is an emeritus member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. During his time as president, he saw much of the change Ricks College went through to eventually become BYU-I, including an increase in student attendance.
“When we got there and recognized what a remarkable place Ricks College was, we felt a real need to promote the idea that it’s a great place to go to school,” Christensen said.
Christensen said when he started at the school, many of the buildings now standing on campus were yet to be built and there were only six campus computers available for student use. He oversaw the expansion of many college programs and the introduction of hundreds of computers for students.
What impressed him more than the financial and educational growth of the school was the spiritual growth of the students and teachers.
“The spirit of Ricks would have to be one of the very top experiences that we had while we were there,” Christensen said.
It is for this reason that Christensen believes this campus and those who teach and attend here to be the best in the nation.
“There are a lot of good colleges, but there’s only one number one, and that’s BYU-Idaho,” he said.
Rick Davis, a faculty member in the Humanities Department, grew up in Rexburg and has seen Ricks College grow from a small, impoverished campus to the university it is today.
“Growing up as a kid, there were only two buildings, the Spori Building and the other one was called B-2, as in building number two,” Davis said.
He said the growth of the school has exploded over the years and that it has influenced much of the growth in Rexburg and the surrounding area.
Like Christensen, Davis remarked on the intense spiritual growth of the school.
“We strive for the Spirit first and foremost, and everything becomes secondary after that,” Davis said. “And I think we’ve achieved that goal. I’m very happy with the feel that’s on campus.”