As the organ rang, students stood reverently while President Alvin F. Meredith III, accompanied by several church and university leaders, walked into the BYU-Idaho Center squeezing his wife’s hand.
Two months following his first day in office, President Meredith was officially inaugurated as the 18th President of Brigham Young University-Idaho.
General Authority Seventy, Elder Clark G. Gilbert conducted the inauguration and Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles presided.
Representing the faculty, Brother Eric d’Evengnée compared the small but revelatory experience of the first meeting of the Church in Fayette, New York to Rexburg, Idaho, a small, farming land community that, “can yield an eternal vision when we collaborate with love.”
He described the things that make Rexburg special, especially the faculty who teach.
d’Evengnée then addressed President Meredith personally, reminding him of President Meredith’s request to focus on listening for the first 100 days of his presidency. This period of listening inspired d’Evengnée who believes it “will help us to ‘gaze upon the eternal world’ as we accomplish daily, sanctified work both inside and outside of the classroom.”
d’Evengnée concluded with giving gratitude to the Merediths.
Kate Timmerman, the Student Leadership Council director, reminded the audience of the devotional on Feb. 8 of this year, when the Merediths visited and gave an address entitled, “Receiving Revelation for Life Decisions”.
“President and Sister Meredith, your experiences here will be life changing,” Timmerman said. “You have already changed so many of ours. We have felt your love and have been inspired by your desire to lead as Christ led … We welcome you. And we love you!”
Amy R. LaBaugh
Quoting Jacob Spori, the first principal of Ricks College, Student Life Vice President Amy R. LaBaugh, recognized the alumni of BYU-Idaho as the branches that have grown and continue to grow from BYU-I. She testified of the impact of alumni in homes, the Church and communities across the globe.
“We thank you and Sister Meredith for leading exemplary lives worthy of emulation,” LaBaugh said. “We feel your love for BYU-I, your dedication to the Spirit of Ricks and most importantly your devotion to the Savior.”
Elder Ronald A. Rasband
Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and vice chairman of the Board of Trustees, acknowledged the many past presidents of BYU-Idaho, including Elder Bruce C. Hafen, President Steven D. Bennion, Elder Kim B. Clark, Elder Clark G. Gilbert and President Henry J. Eyring. He was asked to send the love of the past BYU-I presidents Elder David A. Bednar and Elder Henry B. Eyring as well.
Elder Rasband then taught what a presidential inauguration is, explaining that BYU-I and Brigham Young University share the same Board of Trustees. The Chairman of the board is President Russell M. Nelson and many other leaders of the Church fill other seats on the Board. He said that on the Executive Board of Trustees, assigned by President Nelson, Elder D. Todd Christofferson and Elder Rasband sit as the Chairman and Vice Chairman. As the heads of the Executive Board of Trustees, Elder Rasband and Elder Christofferson would install President Meredith as the President of BYU-I.
“This prophetic charge and governance structure creates a tremendous advantage for BYU–Idaho, its president, the work of its faculty and staff, and the spiritual development of its students,” Elder Rasband said. “The distinctive characteristics of being student-centered and teaching-focused, coupled with its innovative roots will continue to direct this institution in accomplishing its designed destiny and purpose.”
Elder D. Todd Christofferson – Presidential Charge
The audience of students, faculty and alumni sat silently as Elder D. Todd Christofferson asked President and Sister Meredith to stand to Elder Christofferson’s right.
Elder Christofferson charged President Meredith to commit his time and talents in preserving the Spirit of Ricks at BYU-I and to be the chief moral and spiritual officer of the university. He charged him to align BYU-I with its prophetically inspired direction. He charged him to help the students and employees as children of God and disciples of Jesus Christ.
He then conferred all the blessings and spiritual gifts necessary to fulfill his office.
Sister Jennifer Meredith then placed the medallion on President Meredith’s neck, where they shared one of their well-known kisses, surprising Elder Christofferson.
“That wasn’t in the notes,” Elder Christofferson said.
President Alvin F. Meredith III
Newly inducted as the president of BYU-Idaho, President Meredith stood and reminded the audience of the transition from Ricks College to BYU-Idaho by President Gordon B. Hinckley.
He spoke of the uniqueness of BYU-I as President Hinckley stated with the change. President Meredith pleaded to continue this charge, by continuing to be, “a university with a distinctive, student-focused mission with the primary purpose to develop deeply converted disciples of Jesus Christ.”
President Meredith thanked former BYU-I President Henry J. Eyring for his work in preserving the Spirit of Ricks. The audience stood and applauded Eyring.
President Meredith taught four ways to preserve our sacred birthright and to continue on a steady, upward course that BYU-I was set on with prophetic guidance.
1. Remain a Christ-centered, prophetically directed university
President Meredith stated that the Board of Trustees sets the direction for this university and that students should stay obedient to their guidance.
He quoted President Henry B. Eyring who said that graduates of BYU-I “will become legendary for their capacity to build the people around them and to add value where they serve.”
President Meredith wants to continue the goal of developing disciple leaders.
2. Continuing to strengthen BYU–Idaho’s core teaching mission through
President Meredith continued by emphasizing the importance of teaching in the Savior’s way.
“Everyone at BYU-Idaho is a teacher,” President Meredith said.
He gave gratitude to the faculty for putting much effort and love in their work with students.
3. Preserve BYU–Idaho’s unique culture and the Spirit of Ricks
President Meredith reminded listeners of the Spirit of Ricks that BYU-I is known for. He emphasized that that Spirit of Ricks is the spirit of the Lord that dwells here.
He warned of the loss of that spirit and that the students and faculty are in charge of inviting and keeping that spirit.
4. Teach and amplify BYU-Idaho’s message
Just as he stated earlier, President Meredith taught that everyone on campus is a teacher and invited students to seek eternal truth.
“As we hold up our proverbial candles to shine, we can find ways to help more students learn in a student-centered university enveloped in the Spirit,” President Meredith said.
He concluded by testifying of his dedication to this university as he works alongside all of the students and faculty in allowing this to be a university of the Lord.
“By remaining Christ-centered and prophetically directed, continuing to strengthen our teaching focus, preserving the Spirit of Ricks, and amplifying our message and extending our reach, we will preserve our birthright and continue on the steady, upward course that the Lord established for this university,” President Meredith said. “I pledge my deepest commitment to that effort.”
Elder D. Todd Christofferson
Elder Christofferson spoke of the past of BYU-I and of its future with President Meredith at its helm.
He recalled his first visit to campus in the 1970s. Apart from how cold it was, he quipped, he was struck by the maturity and friendliness of the students.
Elder Christofferson began to speak on President Meredith, calling him an effective leader and stating that his goodness extends to his family.
“It is the Lord that has put Elder Meredith where he is in this moment,” Elder Christofferson said.
Elder Christofferson encouraged for BYU-I students to attend school for more than a diploma, but to allow the university to enhance a student’s capacity to serve and bless others.
“Your degree is important, but it isn’t your identity or purpose in life,” Elder Christofferson said.
As Elder Christofferson concluded, he gave gratitude to the students and employees. He called for all to find true and lasting conversion to Jesus Christ while at BYU-I.