“Having come from a rural town, it was perfect size,” said Debra McCarthy, a BYU-Idaho alumna. “Having the smaller feel all helped so that it wasn’t overwhelming.”
McCarthy is a mother of three, a wife and a Ricks College alumna who studied psychology in 1994. Now that her oldest child is attending BYU-I, McCarthy reflects on the changes made to the campus since she attended.
McCarthy shared what it was like back when she was a student and how the school has changed in her eyes.
“The excitement was on campus,” McCarthy said. “Dances were huge back then. You also had the sand dunes and the ice caves, but the excitement was on campus.”
Back when McCarthy was a student, there was a frozen yogurt shop down by the movie theater in the downtown area. She and her friends would go for the cheap movie nights. Most of their social nights were spent either in their apartment or attending a country dance on campus. They looked for fun on campus.
“The now-old Walmart was just barely built when I graduated,” McCarthy said. “When I was leaving, Broulim’s was also across the street from where it is now.”
According to McCarthy, this would mean that the Broulim’s was first located on the other side of Main Street which made it closer to students to walk for groceries and the new Walmart she was talking about is the old one that current students will never know existed.
“The biggest change, though, was where the street ended,” McCarthy said. “The old Walmart was located before earlier on Second East, and that’s where the end of the road was. That was where Rexburg ended.”
Debra McCarthy’s son Noah McCarthy, a freshman studying computer science, said that he chose to attend BYU-I because of the small-town feel. His decision was not necessarily based on his mother’s going to the same school, but it did have an impact on his application.
“I got into other schools but just felt that I needed to go here, like my mom,” Noah McCarthy said.
Noah McCarthy has not experienced a weekly devotional like his mother yet. Debra McCarthy explained how devotionals back in her day took place in the John W. Hart Building, since the BYU-Idaho Center had not been built yet.
“The Hart Building was always jam-packed for devotionals,” Debra McCarthy said. “It was a very key part of every week. But then again, there wasn’t much else to do.”
Debra McCarthy recalled one specific incident during one of the devotionals being broadcast from BYU. President Howard W. Hunter was speaking in the beginning of his speech when a man came up and yelled, “I’m the next prophet.”
“After the guy said that, the screen went black,” Debra McCarthy said. “But then, the coolest thing started to happen. Instead of everyone in the seats getting angry, they didn’t riot. We started singing, ‘We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.’ Everyone was united in there and we felt so close to the prophet.”
According to an informational page on the BYU-I website, the history of BYU-I started in November 1888 as Ricks College.
“The college has evolved,” Debra McCarthy said. “I am just glad that the University’s goal hasn’t changed, and that’s the best part — To see my son be good friends with the daughter of one of my old FHE brothers is a gratifying feeling. Noah chose BYU-Idaho because of the small student body, small-town feel and to be surrounded by the Church. And I think it’s awesome.”
Many have children who have chosen to go back to the place where their parents went, and it can be nostalgic for some. Students find themselves here for all kinds of decisions.
BYU-I is constantly changing, and so is Rexburg, but like Debra McCarthy said, it‘s evolving and growing. Maybe in 20 years it will become something even more different, or it will stay the same.