To a campus-wide audience and with the entire First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seated on the stand behind him, former Harvard Business School dean Kim B. Clark pledged his full commitment to the mission of Brigham Young University-Idaho during the inauguration ceremony this Tuesday. The formal inauguration took place as President Gordon B. Hinckley invited President Clark to join him at the stand and officially installed him as president of BYU-Idaho, “with all the authority and privileges that come with this sacred office.” He challenged Clark to lead the university to new heights of honor and recognition.
President Hinckley reflected on the pioneer heritage of BYU-Idaho. The early settlers of the area founded Bannock State Academy, a one-building campus that has now become a thriving center for higher learning. He presented President Clark with a small bronze statue in recognition of this pioneer heritage.
In his response, President Clark also referred to his personal heritage, from which came a love of learning and teaching. “I come from a long line of teachers on both sides of my family, and I cherish that heritage,” he said.
President Clark outlined the unique mission of BYU-Idaho and explained what makes the school different, summarizing the mission in two words: disciple and leadership.
“Our mission, our very purpose, is to educate, develop, and prepare disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. This purpose is deeply rooted in this university. The Lord watches over this university in a powerful way. Our purpose is to help them become His true followers, His true disciples, a light to the world,” he said.
Leadership, he explained, has a small “L”. “We want our students to provide the kind of leadership that serves and inspires — first and foremost in their families and in the Church, in their communities, and in their work.” He quoted the words of Elder Henry B. Eyring from a devotional address in 2001: “Those graduates of BYU-Idaho will become legendary for their capacity to build the people around them and to add value wherever they serve.”
By focusing on three great imperatives, President Clark illustrated how the institution will accomplish its mission.
“The first is that we must raise substantially the quality of every aspect of the experience our students have,” he said. This increase in quality will require inspiration and change.
As an example, President Clark talked about learning by faith, a process that requires great spiritual and mental effort on the part of both learners and educators, and it begins with faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement. “This faith moves the student to action: to obey, to bend, to search, to call up, to link. That is learning by faith.”
An increased activities program, new teaching methods, and increased student classroom experience will play a role in this change. “It will require new learning experiences based on the creative development of new materials and new courses. I see ahead a season of creativity and innovation, a season of powerful new ideas and new curricula all across this campus.”
The second imperative is to open up the possibility of a BYU-Idaho education to more young Church members. This imperative represents a challenge, he said, because it must be done within the restraints of square footage and enrollment allotted by the Board. The three-track admission system is currently part of the effort to expand, but more new and creative scheduling and organizing will be essential in accomplishing this purpose.
“I am convinced that we will find new ways to use information technology to reach more students and to deepen the learning experience of those we touch … we will be able to break down the barriers of time and space and connect our students on internships or between semesters to the university and to each other and create outstanding, interactive educational experiences,” he said.
The third imperative involves lowering the relative cost of education. This is in spite of BYU-Idaho’s already relatively low costs. This change is not to come by cutting corners, nor by squeezing the organization.
“When I think of this third imperative, I see little girls and boys sitting in Primary classes in this country, and indeed, all over the world. These children will make and keep sacred covenants with the Lord. I believe the Lord desires to bless them, and, like the army of Helaman, raise them up as a righteous generation of disciple leaders all across the earth … I realize that most … will never come to BYU-Idaho, but they will be blessed by what we learn here about learning by faith and delivering a high-quality education at relatively low cost,” said President Clark.
New programs and technology uses developed at BYU-Idaho should be able to be applied throughout the Church and the world, he said.
These goals often come at the expense of one another, President Clark said, but “we are not bound by tradition, nor are we limited to our own understanding or to the wisdom of men. In short, this is a very unusual university.”
He concluded, “I know that with all of us working as one, with the inspired guidance of the Board, this university will move forward on the steady, upward course the Lord has set. It will be Brigham Young University-Idaho; a university true to its heritage, true to its mission, everything the Lord wants it to be.”
The event drew a massive crowd. The Hart Auditorium was filled, along with nine other buildings across campus.
Distinguished guests included Elders Richard G. Scott, Robert D. Hales, Henry B. Eyring and David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Church Educational System commissioner Elder W. Rolfe Kerr and other members of the Board of Trustees, Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne, Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers, representatives of several regional universities, along with various Utah and Idaho state senators and representatives and local dignitaries.
President Clark was first welcomed by student body president Ammon Fife, who expressed willingness on the part of the students to learn and adapt to change. Fife was followed by Joe Marsden, President of the BYU-Idaho/Ricks College Alumni Association. David Ward, Faculty Association president then welcomed President Clark. “We look forward to your inspired innovation,” Ward said.
Governor Dirk Kempthorne then greeted President Clark, saying that Rexburg was a community that exemplified Idaho’s progressive growth. “Students here will be able to compete anywhere in the world,” he said. He said that at BYU-Idaho, education can also focus on the more important purpose of building the strong, positive families that are essential to a good community and nation.
Lawrence Summers, President of Harvard, then shared his insight into President Clark’s personality and qualifications. “With him, the school conceived itself as less of a school about business per se than as a school devoted to the art and craft of leadership,” Summers said. “And in him, the school found not only an exponent of strong, principled, creative, and humane leadership but its embodiment.”
Summers acknowledged that this was a “bittersweet” moment for Harvard, but that as BYU-Idaho stands at a crossroads of transformation, President Clark’s leadership is good news for those involved. “You could not ask for a better leader and partner in charting your future together,” he said.
“Much has been made of [the Clarks] coming to BYU-Idaho,” said Elder W. Rolfe Kerr in his remarks. “Many have wondered why; many others know why. They have a faith and a spiritual sensitivity which have directed their lives through the years, and this is no exception. When the phone call came they were prepared.”
“It has been a perfect fit for his entrepreneurial interests and creative spirit. The future of BYU-Idaho is bright, and uniquely so, under the capable leadership of President and Sister Clark,” Kerr said.
The ceremonies concluded with the remarks of President Gordon B. Hinckley, who also highlighted the unusual place BYU-Idaho holds in the academic world. “We’re trying an experiment here,” he said. This experiment has included the cutting of intercollegiate athletics, the building of the activities program, the three-track system, which has allowed the school to establish year-round internships, and a faculty that has given up rank in order to focus on teaching.
The Church educates some 45,000 students on all of its campuses, President Hinckley said. These schools “have demonstrated that a secular education can be taught with values and spiritual truth and knowledge. The world needs people of high ideals and of integrity,” Such people, he concluded, will be the product of BYU-Idaho.