Students’ and faculty’s personal experiences, mixed with historical accounts of BYU-Idaho, explain the lineage and development of the school’s campus.
The campus started as Bannock Stake Academy in November 1888, according to the BYU-I history Web page.
Brett Johnson, a faculty member of the University Operations, said the school was built in harsh conditions when the settlers first established the area.
He said Bannock Stake Academy started because of counsel that came from The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to have a school in every community in and around Rexburg.
“It wasn’t just a school,” Johnson said. “It was our school.”
In 1955, President David O. McKay made a proposal to move the school to Idaho Falls because he felt it would be a more advantageous area for the students, according to The Spirit of Ricks, written by David L. Crowder.
“The people of Rexburg fought that,” Johnson said.
He said the citizens of Rexburg considered Ricks a part of the fabric of the community.
President John Taylor, a stake president for the Church in the Rexburg community, petitioned for President McKay to allow him and the people of Rexburg an opportunity to present an argument to keep Ricks College in Rexburg, according to The Spirit of Ricks.
“You will understand that the institution, which, in the minds of many people seems in jeopardy, is regarded among us as an almost living presence,” said the Rexburg Stake Presidency in 1955 in their petition to The First Presidency of the Church. “We cannot help but feel that the community pride in Ricks College is one with the pride in the Church.”
President McKay visited the Rexburg community, where he announced the school would expand with four new buildings: the David O. McKay Library, George S. Romney Building, Virginia H. Perkins Residence Hall and Annie S. Kerr Hall, Johnson said.
“That’s when we knew Ricks was going to stay here,” Johnson said.
Isom White, a junior studying animal science, said learning about the history of BYU-I changed his perspective and his feelings towards the campus.
Johnson said the sacrifice of the community has contributed to the building and development of BYU-I and the enrichment of the Spirit of Ricks.
“We are providing education to more people for less money,” Johnson said.
He said BYU-I now hosts more of the LDS community than any other church school, having more than 40,000 students currently enrolled on campus or online.
“BYU-I is a unique institution,” Johnson said. “I feel like this is a blessed place.”
White said there is a tangible feeling a person can experience as they are on the campus that is not on other campuses.
“The feeling is normal,” White said. “But when I go to other campuses, I feel different.”
Johnson said the feeling people receive when they attend BYU-I is a manifestation of the Holy Ghost that many refer to as the Spirit of Ricks.
Elsy Lopez, a freshman studying biology, said she was grateful that she came to BYU-I.
Lopez said there are many things that are done at BYU-I she was not used to.
“At the beginning of every class, we say a prayer,” Lopez said.
Lopez said that since she is not a member of the Church, she was nervous to come here because she was worried she would not fit in.
She said that feeling went away after a couple of weeks of being in Rexburg because of roommates and events like devotional.
She said she enjoys going to the BYU-Idaho Center every week for devotional because of the comforting feelings she experiences.
“Every time I go, I pray, and my questions are answered somehow,” Lopez said.
Johnson said he has been around long enough to watch the entire campus develop into BYU-I.
“The Spirit of Ricks is alive and well if you are looking for it,” Johnson said.