With the addition of President Alvin F. Meredith, 18 different men have lead BYU-Idaho through the centuries.

Jacob Spori (1888-1891)

Spori was the first principal of what was then called the Bannock Stake Academy. The academy began with just 85 students. As the academy faced a rough financial start, Spori used his own salary to help pay any debt and used his earnings from railroad work to help pay teachers.

He is well known for his prophetic insight about what would become BYU-Idaho, “The seeds we are planting today will grow and become mighty oaks and their branches will run all over the earth.”

Charles N. Watkins (1891-1894)

As a new school, the academy continued to struggle financially and depended on donations from local members. In addition to his duties as president, Watkins also served as one of only two teachers during his tenure. He continued to teach until he died

George Cole (1894-1899)

With the academy still steeped in financial trouble, the five-member faculty, including Cole, sacrificed their pay for half a term and accepted homegrown produce for tuition. Despite the hardship, the academy expanded to include seventh and eighth grade programs.

Douglas M. Todd (1899-1901)

During his tenure, the academy became the first Rexburg high school.

Todd is quoted as saying, “This school will yet grow and surprise the world with its great men and women because it was conceived in righteousness and dedicated to the service of God.”

Ezra C. Dalby (1901-1914)

Where the Jacob Spori Building stands today, Dalby oversaw the development of the first building on campus.

Dalby once said, “(The Bannock Academy) will shine as a beacon of light to the ends of the earth and add beauty and glory to Zion through all the coming years.”

Andrew B. Christenson (1914-1917)

Christenson led the academy’s transition to higher education. He also oversaw the completion of a new gymnasium where the Eliza R. Snow Building currently sits as well as state certification for graduates to become teachers.

George S. Romney (1917-1930)

Romney became the institution’s first president when the high school curriculum was phased out and it became Ricks Normal College in 1918. It was renamed Ricks College in 1923. Romney was instrumental in helping the college persist through the post-World War I depression.

The McKay Library in the 1960s.

The McKay Library in the 1960s. Photo credit: David O. McKay Library Special Collections

Hyrum Manwaring (1930-1944)

During the Great Depression, most church-owned schools were given to their respective states due to the difficulty of financing them, but the state of Idaho refused to take Ricks College. During President Manwaring’s tenure, the college not only survived the Great Depression, but it also became accredited.

John L. Clarke (1944-1971)

During President Clarke’s administration the college experienced massive expansion. In the 1960s, enrollment multiplied into the thousands while the number of major buildings rose from two to 18. For about eight years the college offered bachelor’s degrees.

Henry B. Eyring (1971-1977)

President Eyring’s administration continued to expand the college’s buildings and programs. He also added new technical and vocational programs. When the Teton Dam Flood occurred in 1976, President Eyring allowed those who lost their homes to shelter on campus, an area unscathed by the flood waters.

Bruce C. Hafen (1978-1985)

President Hafen’s tenure saw the completion of the Eliza R. Snow Building; the Livestock Center; the Outdoor Learning Center; Viking Stadium and Idaho’s first classical music station, KRIC-FM. As president, he taught at least one class each semester.

He’s quoted as saying, “May we never forget those tender moments of spiritual power and insight that tell us why we have such a college in the Church and what we learn when we come here.”

Joe J. Christensen (1985-1989)

Ricks College enrollment reached its contemporary limit at 7,500 during Christensen’s time there. He is remembered for having taught students that there were “summits yet to climb” and to never stop striving for excellence beyond present achievements.

Steven D. Bennion (1989-1997)

President Bennion’s administration gave birth to the track system that drove enrollment up to 8,250. The John Taylor Building was also constructed, and student computer access expanded.

Education week in June of 2000.

Education week in June of 2000. Photo credit: BYU-Idaho Alumni Twitter

David A. Bednar (1997-2004)

President Gordon B. Hinckley announced in 2000 that Ricks College would become a four-year university; President Bednar oversaw its transition to BYU-Idaho.

Kim B. Clark (2005-2015)

President Clark brought BYU-Idaho courses beyond Rexburg when Pathway was launched in 2009. When he left BYU-Idaho in 2015, there were over 16,000 Pathway students. BYU Pathway Worldwide now serves over 57,000 students in over 180 countries. President Clark also presided over the construction of the BYU-Idaho Center.

Clark G. Gilbert (2015-2017)

President Gilbert, who currently serves as Church Commissioner of Education, taught students to rise up to the calls in their lives and to seek for God’s power in magnifying their calls.

The John Taylor Building during Education Week in July of 2023.

The John Taylor Building during Education Week in July of 2023. Photo credit: BYU-Idaho

Henry J. Eyring (2017-2023)

President Eyring pushed forward innovations in curriculum and strengthened the university’s partnership with BYU Pathway Worldwide. He was noted for personally interviewing each candidate for hire during his tenure.

Alvin F. Meredith III (2023-present)

President Meredith is a General Authority Seventy and holds degrees from BYU and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Upon his call to serve as president of BYU-I he said, “I am inspired by the administration and faculty’s commitment to remain student-focused and singular in the emphasis on teaching, and I look forward to learning from these disciple leaders.”