Thomas E. Ricks, founder of BYUIdaho, was more than just the founder of Ricks College. The characteristics Rick’s possessed during his lifetime created a unique atmosphere which left its legacy for the students and faculty here to continue.

The “Spirit of Ricks” includes many traits that have been handed down, generation through generation. These include faith in Jesus Christ, consecration, sacrifice and diligence.

“You and I need to learn about and understand that Spirit so we might preserve it and enhance it” said Elder Kim B. Clark in a 2007 BYU-I devotional.

In 1848, 20-year-old Ricks joined with Elder Heber C. Kimball’s company to settle in Centerville, Utah. While crossing the plains, a group of Native Americans drove off the Saints cattle. Ricks and three others jumped on their horses in an attempt to save their cattle. Upon finding them, Ricks received three bullet wounds. Two bullets in his kidneys and one against his backbone. The doctor thought Ricks would not live longer than a few hours.

Elder Kimball administered to Ricks and promised him he should recover and see the Saints become a “mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains.”

Lying there alone, Ricks thought of the condition of his father and family. They badly needed his assistance in crossing the plains and making a home in a new land. He wondered if he was going to die.

Suddenly he heard a voice say audibly and clearly, “You will not die; you will live to go to the valley of the mountains and there you will do a great work in your day and generation.” He lived the rest of his life with those three bullets lodged in his body.

Even though Ricks was close to death, Elder Clark described him as having “…diligence; a capacity to work hard; a sense of responsibility.”

Thomas E. Rick was the founded of Ricks College (now known as BYU-Idaho) in 1888 wehn he was fifty-nine years-old.

Thomas E. Rick was the founder of Ricks College (now known as BYU-Idaho) in 1888 when he was 59 years-old. Photo credit: BYU Religious Studies Center & Church History Library

Ricks participated in four rescue missions (including a three year wagon train mission) during the great western migration of the Saints from Nauvoo to the Utah area. Before Ricks left to assist in one of the most famous pioneer rescues in church history, he wrote this to his first wife Tabitha days before coming home from his Las Vegas mission.

“I can say, as you have said, that I never tried harder to do what is right than I have on this mission,” 26-year-old, Thomas Ricks wrote to Tabitha. “It is but momentary concern but I do expect that from this time forth, my time will be spent in the work of the Lord, through time and all eternity. That is my desire and determination.

The call given by President Brigham Young to go and help was given just 10 days after Ricks had returned from his mission to Las Vegas in 1856. The distance to find the Martin handcart company and the wagon companies traveling close by — (about 380 miles — was the farthest that relief wagons had ever traveled so late in the season.

“If help had not come when it did, there would have been no one left to tell the tale,” ​wrote Mary Hurren.

When asked to leave Logan, Utah in 1883 by President John Taylor, to look after the saints in the Bannock ward along with scouting more areas available for settlement, Ricks left the following businesses behind: Threshing mill​, saw mill​, grist mill​, a ferry​, a business with the railroad​ and a canal company. Ricks owned everything west and north of the main street of Logan for miles​, several thousand acres​, land in present Cache Junction and a 160acre homestead.

“Before coming up here I was comfortably situated and had prepared to enjoy life in comfort,” Ricks said. “I was called here and expended my means for the benefit of the people. My means have been used up, and I am comparatively poor. But my faith has been increased in the Lord, and I acknowledge the blessings of the Lord.”

Ricks once again showed in acts of humility to the submission of the Lord’s commandments “…a willingness to sacrifice self-interest in order to serve and help others.”

President Alvin F. Meredith III, current BYU-I president, concluded his inaugural response with this promise:

“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.​”