Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, seemed like it was going to be another great day at BYU-Idaho, in the words of President Kim B. Clark, 15th president of BYU-I. Students were going to attend devotional, where President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles would be speaking.
However, President Nelson had a surprise for the BYU-I students and faculty.
“We are pleased to announce the selection of Dr. Clark G. Gilbert as the 16th president of Brigham Young University-Idaho,” President Nelson said, according to the “Meet the Gilberts” video.
Now, one year later, President Gilbert shares experiences he has had since the announcement.
“When we left BYU-Idaho the first time, we were so sad,” President Gilbert said. “It was the right thing to do and we knew that’s where the Lord wanted us to serve for the last six years, but when we got the call from President Uchtdorf to come learn about our new assignment, we didn’t know what it was or that it was in Church education.”
President Gilbert said he and Sister Gilbert lit up when President Uchtdorf said their new calling was related to Church education.
“I just knew in my heart immediately it was going to be tied to BYU-Idaho,” President Gilbert said.
President Gilbert said he and his family had fallen in love with Rexburg and BYU-I when they lived here while he served as the associate academic vice president of academic development.
“To come back and be part of the university again has been probably one of the great blessings and opportunities we’ve ever had in our lives,” President Gilbert said.
President Gilbert said he did not want to show how excited he was that he would be returning to BYU-I after President Uchtdorf issued the call to be the president.
“I think there’s a number of things about BYU-Idaho that are so exciting,” President Gilbert said. “First of all, it is one of the most innovative universities anywhere in the world.”
President Gilbert also said the students of BYU-I are amazing, and he referenced President Eyring’s talk where he stated that the students of BYU-I would be natural leaders when they left the campus.
“You feel that every day, and so to be back around those students and working with them and feeling their spirit was so exciting,” President Gilbert said.
President Gilbert said that during this past year, Sister Gilbert has been his biggest support.
“She’s just remarkable,” President Gilbert said. “It’s like she’s had a lifetime training for this, and she hasn’t, and she’s naturally walked into this role.”
President Gilbert said that while Sister Gilbert has been a great support to him, her first responsibility is still being a mother to their eight children.
“Sometimes that can be a tricky thing because sometimes she has to be on campus or speaking multiple times during a week, and not let anything slip up at home with her family, and she’s just done that with so much grace and poise and I felt incredible support from her,” President Gilbert said.
President Gilbert said involving the children has been an important aspect to his assignment as president.
“We feel it’s really important to teach the principles of the family here at BYU-Idaho,” President Gilbert said.
Rhett West, a junior studying business management, said he was at the devotional when it was announced that President Clark would no longer be the president of BYU-I.
“I thought it was going to be another old guy,” West said. “And then I just see these little girls’ hair bopping down as they’re going up to the stand, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a family man.’”
Anica Baff, a sophomore majoring in international studies, said she feels President Gilbert is emphasizing the need to be focused on families.
“I think that’s a huge thing, and I think that is a big influence on students because if they see that the president of the school is focusing on that, then it will become more of a focus for students,” Baff said.
President Gilbert said some students say they will never get married, and some students say they want to wait until they are perfect before getting married.
“We’re like, ‘Hey, a family is where you grow together, and you don’t come into it perfect. You grow together in a marriage and in a family,’” President Gibert said. “So we’ve tried to make our family a real part of our service here at BYU-Idaho.”
President Gilbert said a highlight of the past year was hosting the first “Date Night with the Gilberts.” He said he came up with the idea for it after having received two separate letters from students’ parents saying their children were not going on any dates.
“I looked at these two letters, and I said, ‘Something’s off here, and we’ve got to do something to build a culture of students getting out and getting to know each other, going on dates and having a good time,” President Gilbert said.
Jake Thomas, a junior studying communication, said he felt connected to President Gilbert after attending “Date Night.”
“Going to that and seeing him talk about his story with his wife and how important dating was, I really felt connected with him much more than I ever felt connected with a president on a personal level,” Thomas said.
President Gilbert said another highlight of the past year was speaking in the devotional with Sister Gilbert at the beginning of Winter Semester 2016.
“I had impressions (…) almost from the moment we were called, we knew we had to teach about the family,” President Gilbert said.
President Gilbert said that devotional was the first time he had been able to properly express the feelings he had been having about what he should teach the campus since the first devotional he spoke at was about rising to the calls received in life, and the second devotional was his inauguration.
President Gilbert said overall he wants BYU-I students to know that he has great confidence in them. He said he received an impression to go off-script at the end of his and Sister Gilbert’s devotional about the family to tell the students of his confidence in them.
“In that moment, it was confidence that they will be great fathers and mothers, that they will find the right person in their life,” President Gilbert said.
Dallan Richey, a freshman majoring in university studies, said he feels like President Gilbert is trying to help the students focus on the attributes of Christ.
“If we apply those attributes into what we’re doing in school, this will also influence the family that we’ll have and the character that we’ll really have inside of ourselves,” Richey said.
President Gilbert also said he has confidence in the students in regards to their academic endeavors.
“Our students, as they work in the Learning Model, have great potential, and we believe in them here,” President Gilbert said. “I want our students to know I have confidence in their ability to grow and develop academically.”
President Gilbert said the experiences he has had in his life so far have been great, but that they did not come easy. He said he sees great opportunities ahead for the students of BYU-I.
“We expect a lot from our students, but we also have great confidence in their potential in their future,” President Gilbert said.