“President Hinckley Begins 96th Birthday Breaking Ground,” Ensign, Sept. 2006, 74–75
President Gordon B. Hinckley started off his 96th birthday celebration with a shovel and some dirt.
Hundreds of Brigham Young University alumni, faculty, family, friends, and students looked on as President Hinckley took his own shovel in hand to scoop dirt to kick off the construction of an 80,000-square-foot building that will bear his name at the school in Provo.
“You do me a great honor and a great kindness in what you do today,” President Hinckley told guests at the groundbreaking celebration for the new Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni and Visitors’ Center on June 23, 2006.
President Hinckley thanked guests and commented about how his wife, Marjorie Pay Hinckley, who died in 2004, had also been honored at BYU when the Social Work and Social Sciences chair was named in her honor in 2003.
“Maybe we could move her chair into my building, and we’d be together again,” he said.
President Thomas S. Monson, President James E. Faust, and President Hinckley’s son Clark also spoke at the groundbreaking. Family, counselors in the First Presidency, BYU Board of Trustees, friends of the university, and donors joined President Hinckley in ceremoniously turning the first dirt for the building. Afterward President Hinckley donated the shovel he used from his own tool collection. Construction commenced immediately after the ceremony.
The BYU Board of Trustees approved development of the new center in October 2005, and President Cecil O. Samuelson announced the new building the following month. The building is funded entirely from private donations. Brigham Young University has eight other buildings named after Presidents of the Church.
“This new building is singular in the fact that it has been built while the man whose name it bears is still alive,” President Hinckley said. “I suppose Brother Samuelson concluded I was only half dead and that we could go forward accordingly.”
The Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni and Visitors’ Center is scheduled to be finished by fall 2007. A building bearing the prophet’s name was also dedicated at Brigham Young University–Idaho in October 2002.
In addition to being a gateway to BYU and a campus home for alumni, the building is a tribute to President Hinckley and his life.
“Because of his unflagging efforts in the areas of education, public outreach, and international friendship, his name evokes the very purposes of this building,” the BYU Alumni Web site states. He is “an extraordinary ambassador” for the Church, and “his long life is characterized by openness, understanding, and love of the Savior.”
After the groundbreaking, family, invited guests, and university leaders hosted President Hinckley at a private luncheon.
His children paid tribute to their father, and President Samuelson presented him with a brick with his name on it to represent the new center that bears his name.
President Hinckley has served as the 15th President of the Church since 1995. Before that, he served 14 years as a counselor in the First Presidency and 20 years as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. President Hinckley has traveled around the world, dedicating many temples and visiting Church members, who now number more than 12.5 million worldwide. He has been interviewed by several major news organizations.
CBS newsman Mike Wallace paid tribute to President Hinckley at the “Celebration of Life” program for his 95th birthday last year.
“He is and has always been a builder,” Mr. Wallace said, “a builder of families, youth, missionaries. A builder of character and faith, and through it all, a builder of people. The pace has been tiring, but he has been tireless. But from his point of view, it’s been worth it to help build the organization he loves by building the people that he loves so much.”