Changes at BYU-Idaho: Continuing the “Steady Upward Course”

Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer

  • 12 February 2017

Clark G. Gilbert, current president of BYU-Idaho, and Brother Henry J. Eyring, who will succeed President Gilbert beginning April 10, answer questions at a press conference held at BYU-Idaho February 9.  Photo by Michael Lewis.

Two days after the creation of BYU-Pathway Worldwide was announced, President Clark G. Gilbert and Henry J. Eyring, met with media for a news conference held on the Brigham Young University-Idaho campus on February 9.

President Gilbert, who will take on a new role as president of BYU-Pathway Worldwide—a global higher-education organization—joined Brother Eyring, who will succeed President Gilbert as president of BYU-Idaho beginning April 10, to comment about their new assignments and answer questions.

“BYU-Idaho is a remarkable place,” President Gilbert said. “The announcement that happened yesterday was historic, but it is also not by accident. There is a reason BYU-Idaho is where it is, and there is a reason that BYU-Pathway Worldwide came from where it came.”

Recognizing BYU-Idaho as a place built on the culture, history and people who built the valley in which it resides, President Gilbert said it was the “pioneering, modest, prophetic direction-seeking people” that set the foundation for Ricks College, BYU-Idaho and now BYU-Pathway Worldwide. (See related story.)

“That has allowed remarkable things to happen here in the history of the school,” President Gilbert said. “And one of those was the creation of the Pathway program in 2009. I don’t know if it could have happened anywhere else.”

President Gilbert shared beginning plans for the new BYU-Pathway Worldwide organization, including bringing 35 employees from Rexburg to the organization’s new headquarters in Salt Lake City. He said their main focus will continue to be the 37,000 Pathway students—a larger enrollment than BYU or BYU-Idaho—living around the world.

BYU-Idaho President Clark G. Gilbert answers questions at a press conference on February 9. Photo by Michael Lewis.

Henry J. Eyring, recently announced as the next president of BYU-Idaho, answers questions at a press conference held in Rexburg, Idaho, on February 9. Photo by Michael Lewis.

Sister Kelly Eyring and Brother Henry J. Eyring answer questions at a press conference held at BYU-Idaho on February 9. Photo by Michael Lewis.

Pathway will continue to work in areas that are “centers of strength” for the Church. An important part of their plan will focus on retention and persistence in the program. President Gilbert spoke of creating a virtual mentoring program to help students from their second semester in the Pathway program through finishing their degree.

Brother Eyring follows In the footsteps of his father, President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency, who served as president of what was then Ricks College, and looks forward to “wonderful new opportunities for learning” as BYU-Idaho builds upon what has already been established. (See related story.)

“My father was called to be the president of Ricks College in 1971 and in many respects this place is unchanged in its spirit, in its mission, in its commitment in serving students … but it was different in those days,” he said.

Brother Eyring recalled his experience as a young boy moving from Atherton, California, to Rexburg, Idaho.

“I remember standing in front of my second grade class during show and tell and announcing Rexburg, Iowa,” he joked. “I was so excited about that.”

Brother Eyring “grew up” in Rexburg, and spent a lot of time on the college’s campus.

“In the mornings we would play basketball down there at the Hart gym,” Brother Eyring recalled. “And in the afternoons, I would come down from Lincoln Elementary or walk up from Madison Jr. High School.”

Recognizing his father faced challenges when he was serving as president on campus, Brother Eyring—with emotion—said his time in Rexburg growing up was “Shangri-La.”

“I am in a position where our challenge is not one of shrinkage but of growth,” he said. “We have been growing rapidly—[and] just by virtue of demographics in the Church we will continue to grow.”

Instead of worrying about filling the campus, Brother Eyring said leaders must focus on handling growth while continuing to create a very high quality education for as many students as possible for a good price.

“They’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out that it is not only a very good deal financially, but a wonderful, wonderful place to receive an education,” he said.

Brother Eyring expects the university will continue on a “steady upward course,” but anticipates changes in the future to accommodate growth.

“As important as it will be to keep things unchanged in the things that have been so well established, we will need to meet the change that is inevitably coming at the university and its students,” he said.

“We’ll do our best to enjoy the students and encourage them and make them part of our family,” added Sister Kelly Eyring, wife of Brother Eyring.

President Gilbert said of Brother Eyring, “We have worked together for the span of three decades. He was one of my first bosses out of my graduate program. He understands this place in a way that is very unique—that has prepared him for this time and season.”