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University President reflects on growth from Ricks College to BYU-Idaho

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IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - As Local News 8 anchor Jay Hildebrandt prepares to retire he has been doing a series of reports on things he has covered over the years -- showing old news video of big news stories.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes over those 35 years is the transformation of Ricks College as it became Brigham Young University - Idaho.

One person who has seen some of that growth first hand is current president Henry J. Eyring. When Eyring was in junior high he moved to Rexburg when his father became president of Ricks College.

 "Little did I know how much I would enjoy coming to Rexburg, Idaho where I got to spend almost all of my time with my father," Eyring said.

His father, Henry J. Eyring had been a professor at Stanford, and he was often away in Europe all summer teaching classes. In Rexburg, the two often ate lunch together and Eyring went to his father's office to do homework.

"For me it was a six year stint with my dad, and I don't know how much I learned about university administration, but I certainly learned to love this place and see the degree of consecration of the faculty and administrators and even the students," Eyring said.

"We at Ricks College are embarking on a journey that will be filled with high adventure," David A. Bednar said when he became president in 1997

Little did anyone know the extent of that adventure with the announcement three years later that the two year college would become a four year institution - Brigham Young University - Idaho.

President Eyring remembers his reaction upon hearing the news.

"I thought that's brilliant. You keep all the things that matter most to the average student, and you stay out of those things that could distract for that student, so intercollegiate athletics were eliminated."

There would be no professor tenure or pressure to publish so all their attention could be focused on the students. The announement was big.

"That changed everything except he wonderful sense of community," Eyring said.

A lot of attention was focused on on BYU - Idaho in 2008 when the head of the Harvard Business School, Kim Clark became president.

"Kim Clark -- It was just astounding the level of prestige that was associated with him," Eyring said.

In 2008 Eyring completed his assignment as mission president in Tokyo and needed a job. His brothers knew President Clark from Harvard so he asked their advice.

"And they said, both of them independently roughly the same thing, ‘If Kim Clark would give you a job you should take whatever he offers,’ and I did take an offer to head up the online learning group."

Over his lifetime President Eyring has seen explosive growth at the school. Between on campus and online programs they are serving 38-thousand students.

"It was four to five thousand when my father was here.” Eyring said. “We think the quality is even higher. The faculty are very committed to the students. These students are legendary. When I go into airports I meet employers
who say, ‘oh where do these students come from? They seem so well prepared, so qualified, but they don't bring big egos.’”

As far as the future is concerned, President Eyring expects continued growth largely through online learning and reaching out to the world.

Here's the full interview with President Eyring.

Idaho / Local News / News / Rexburg / Top Stories / Videos
Jay Hildebrant Headshot

Jay Hildebrandt

Jay is an anchor for Local News 8.

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