Ricks College Centennial

The Church’s Idaho junior college celebrates its 100th year.

The experimental gardens south of the Manwaring Center at Ricks College say a lot about the campus. A few feet below the surface, the hill on which they’re growing is solid basalt. But the soil on top of the rock is rich and fertile, and during the growing season flowers carpet the ground with color in those gardens and around campus buildings.

Ricks College was also built on a solid foundation and has blossomed into a nationally recognized institution. This year, the Church-owned school celebrates its centennial. Commemorative events will run into 1989, culminating with the college’s commencement on April 27. But on November 12 Ricks is marking Founders’ Day—the day classes were first held at the academy in 1888—with a gala centennial concert on campus. Singer Roberta Peters will join the Idaho Falls Symphony Orchestra in a salute to American musician Irving Berlin, who is one hundred years old.

Ricks, located in Rexburg, Idaho, is the largest privately owned two-year college in the United States. The 255-acre campus offers academic courses in more than 140 majors, from art to zoology, from engineering to music and theater.

A full-time faculty of 250 serves an average of about 7,000 students during the traditional fall-winter academic year; in addition, nearly a thousand students took advantage of summer school opportunities in 1987. Students come from all fifty of the United States and some thirty other countries.

The college was founded by Bannock Stake president and pioneer colonizer Thomas E. Ricks in 1888. First known as the Bannock Stake Academy, it had eighty-two students and three teachers and offered only elementary-school studies. Growth was slow during the first several decades of its existence, but more favorable economic and academic conditions have helped Ricks blossom during the past twenty-five years.

Despite the growth, classes are smaller than at many other schools, and students come to know their professors on a personal basis. Faculty members often find themselves serving as mentors to young people just starting out on a career path. Asked about his academic specialization, one popular biology teacher replies, “My specialty is freshmen.”

Ricks is widely known for its programs in the arts (the Eliza R. Snow Center for the Performing Arts is a showplace) and in biological and agricultural sciences. The school sponsors an all-student symphony orchestra and owns KRIC, a 75,000-watt FM radio station with a classical music format. Several Ricks faculty members have seen their research achieve the highest professional recognition—acceptance as the foundation for studies by others.

In recent years Ricks has also gained a reputation as a sports power. Viking football, basketball, wrestling, track, and volleyball teams have consistently been nationally ranked throughout the 1980s.

In addition to academic progress and sports prowess, Ricks offers students the opportunity to build on spiritual foundations. The college’s thirty-three wards and three stakes bring great spiritual growth to many students.

Ricks administrators and faculty members believe that the college offers students the chance to put down roots in fertile academic and spiritual soil. In the classroom, students can lay the foundation for high achievement in their chosen field of study—and through a broad range of experiences at the school, they can lay the foundation for righteous, productive living.

[photos] Photography by Michael McConkie; Mike Lewis and Rod Boam of Ricks College; and Ricks College Archives.

[photos] Ricks College students of 1988 enjoy fine modern facilities spread over a 255-acre campus. The Ricks Academy class of 1915–16 (below) posed for its portrait in front of the academy’s lone building. That building now houses communication and arts classes, as well as the studios of the college’s FM radio station.

[photos] Ricks has a student body of approximately seven thousand, coming from all fifty of the United States and many other countries. The school’s outstanding programs in the arts and music (inset, top left) are well known. Ricks students also have the benefit of fine facilities and faculty in such technical subjects as biological or physical sciences (inset, lower left) and engineering. KRIC, the college’s FM radio station (lower right), builds its format around classical music.

[photos] President Joe J. Christensen (inset, far left, with his wife, Barbara) heads a Ricks College administration and faculty devoted to serving students. Academic activities like the theater program (inset left) and opportunities like physical fitness classes (top right) support education in a broad sense on campus, but gospel scholarship (lower right) is basic to the purposes of the school.

[photos] Ricks students find opportunities to try their wings intellectually, socially, and physically. (Inset photos) College programs and individual students take advantage of nearby natural wonders and recreation facilities in both winter and summer. Wyoming’s Grand Tetons are a distant backdrop for Rexburg, Idaho (left), home of Ricks College, and Yellowstone National Park is about one and one-half hours away. Natural and man-made facilities aid the pursuit of excellence in many fields. During recent years, for example, the Ricks College Vikings have been nationally ranked in football (lower left) and several other sports.