REXBURG - Monday will mark the 10-year anniversary for Brigham Young University-Idaho.

On June 21, 2000, then-Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Gordon B. Hinckley called a press conference and announced the transition of Ricks College as a two-year institution to the four-year BYU-Idaho.

It was an announcement that would forever change the communities of the upper valley in both positive and negative ways.

When the announcement was made, then-Ricks College President David A. Bednar said, "I don't think it's over dramatic to suggest this is one of the biggest things to happen in the Church Education System in the last 50 years.

"I know I'm a college president, and should use proper English," said Bednar. "But I would never have thunk it. I would have been less surprised if they announced the school was closed."

During the last decade, the university has almost doubled in size, and Rexburg has grown alongside it - increasing local jobs, inviting new businesses and creating an unprecedented amount of residential development.

A multiplex theater and entertainment center opened in 2004, followed by an increase in restaurants and hotel chains. Rexburg has seen an increase in technology companies, which look for recent graduates.

Madison Memorial Hospital doubled its size, especially in its ever-expanding maternity wing just to accommodate the number of new married students. Incidentally, Madison County has the highest birth rate in Idaho, a direct correlation to married BYU-Idaho students.

"It's been a wonderful opportunity for our community to be the home of a four-year university," said Donna Benfield, executive director of the Rexburg Area Chamber of Commerce. "The additional businesses that have come to town have added another dimension to our community and the employment opportunities that have been offered are exceptional."

But there have been some negatives results, including a gradual increase in crime rates according to local law enforcement officials.

"When it was Ricks College you could notice a difference in crime rates when the students were back in school. Now you can't really notice except for the increase in traffic," said Rexburg Police Capt. Randy Lewis in a recent interview with the Scroll, BYU-Idaho's student newspaper.

The announcement also closed the door on Ricks College athletics, which had been a great source of pride for the community.

But perhaps the greatest change caused by Hinckley's announcement was the change in student achievement.

During a LDS General Conference in October 2000, Hinckley said of the transition, "This will enlarge the educational opportunities for many young men and women. It will make of what has been a great school an even greater one. It is an effort on the part of the church to extend the opportunity of secular education within the framework of a church school."

BYU-Idaho officials say that now 10 years later, people are beginning to see the fulfillment of Hinckley's predictions about the university.

One of Hinckley's predictions during the initial announcement was an increased emphasis on undergraduate degrees. Today BYU-Idaho offers 60 bachelor and 14 associate degrees. More than 13,000 students have received bachelor's degrees since 2002.

Hinckley also emphasized that the phasing out of intercollegiate sports and its replacement with intramural sports would "help meet the needs of a diverse student body."

Now each year, thousands of students participate in some sort physical activity program on campus - in fact, more than 16,000 students participated in sporting activities alone in 2009.

The university is also projecting a goal of more than 15,000 students attending the university each semester by 2015.

BYU-Idaho President Kim Clark declined a request for an interview about the anniversary, though University Communications released this statement:

"We are grateful for the wonderful blessings the Lord has bestowed upon this university during the past 10 years. When President Gordon B. Hinckley announced that Ricks College would become Brigham Young University-Idaho on June 21, 2000, he outlined what the school would become. Now, 10 years later, it is amazing to see the fulfillment of his words."

The actual change occurred Aug. 10, 2001, when Ricks College officially became BYU-Idaho.


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