Dr. Bruce C. Hafen was on campus several times before he officially took office as president of the college. At a faculty meeting on March 30, 1978, he announced his administrative structure that would become effective on May 1. Rather than deans, Hafen appointed vice presidents. Dean Sorensen, Rex Bennion, and Mack Shirley would continued in their administrative positions: Sorensen as vice president of academics, Bennion as administrative vice president, and Shirley as student life vice president. Brent Kinghorn was appointed community services vice president. Next in the administrative chain were division chairmen, then department chairmen.
President-designate Hafen participated in commencement activities on April 27. He attended baccalaureate and listened to Elder Neal A. Maxwell counsel the graduates to be "watchmen on the towers of Zion." He added his congratulations to the Spori Scholars and graduating nurses. He joined acting president Harry Maxwell, Elder Maxwell, the soon-to-be vice presidents, and division chairmen on the stand for graduation. He also participated in groundbreaking ceremonies for the new fine arts building with Elder Maxwell and Rexburg Mayor John Porter.
Printed in the May 1978 Alumni Newsletter was part of an address given by President Hafen at the alumni banquet on April 26. What he said illustrates his good humor, his spirituality, and his eloquence:
"I would like to share with you [a special moment] I have experienced in the last few days. Because of some unavoidable difficulties in making our moving arrangements, I have needed to spend the last couple of weeks in Rexburg even though my family is still in Utah. The only available apartment on the campus was in a girls' dorm, which has meant that even though I am in private quarters with my own key to an outside entrance, I have felt obliged to be in by 11:00 on week nights and to avoid being so rowdy that the people next door are unable to study. . . .
"Last Wednesday, I was invited to the weekly dorm prayer at 10 p.m. This was the concluding dorm prayer for this academic year. We sat through a fun 30 minutes of songs, skits, and slides, all of which brought back poignant images of the year at Ricks to the girls in Dorm One. As I looked around the room at those young, beautiful, wonderful girls, one-by-one, I felt a whole flood of emotions as I pictured to myself their great variety, their innocence, their faith, their questions, their homes, their hearts, and their futures. Suddenly, I was roused from my silent thoughts by the request of the girl in charge to say the prayer. I was startled by the unexpected invitation, but as we all knelt together, the emotions that were already upon me poured from my heart. I told the Lord how valiant they all were and how much they wanted to serve him. I asked Him to stretch forth his mighty arm to protect them from wickedness and evil; to guide them into companionships with young priesthood holders who would nourish and cherish them; to buoy up and strengthen those who seek to bring greater faith into the lives of their parents; to respond to the yearnings of those who feel so uncertain whether to seek more school or work or marriage or missions. I asked Him to burn indelibly into their hearts the memories of how good it had felt during these fleeting special moments at Ricks to sense as they never had before God's closeness to them, the power of new directions in their lives, the goodness of good books, the miracle of repentance, the awakening of desires for education, and the maturity of emerging womanhood. . . .
"I have only one desire for us as students, parents, and Ricks College alumni. May we never forget those tender moments of spiritual power and insight that tell us why we have such a college in the church and what we learn when we come here. We are accountable to God, I believe, to remember those moments of learning. We must never let those who know not God persuade us from the memories or the convictions born in this special, special place. They will try. The enemies of civilization and the enemies of righteousness will try to make us believe that the experiences of a year or two at Ricks College are unreal; that life cannot possibly be lived with the idealism and hope that are nurtured here. We are especially vulnerable to that line of logic after we have fallen short at one time or another of what we felt here, of what we committed ourselves to here. Do not believe them. What you have experienced here, you have in fact experienced. That it has happened once is your eternal assurance that it can happen again. That you were better here than you may have been before is your promise that you can be better in the future than you may feel you are now. Perhaps it was a kind of Camelot, but perhaps, also, it was a glimpse of celestial life. And if in a few years it all seems unreal in your dimming memory, remember that it really did happen and that you can live this way always and forever if you so choose-just as you did because you chose to come to Ricks."
Hafen's first commencement as president of Ricks was on June 1, 1978, when 117 graduates received diplomas. He conducted the ceremonies and spoke briefly. Lyle Anderson, chairman of the department of health sciences, was commencement speaker. Also speaking was Steven Flint, former student-body president.
President Hafen took charge when the building program was moving along. In addition to the fine arts building, the student union addition was being constructed. The agricultural program received a boost when the school bought a 113-acre farm six miles west of campus. Plans were being finalized to locate the new dairy and beef production programs there, as well as the horse production program. Excellent facilities were being drawn up to house those programs. Construction soon commenced on the new football stadium. The student development organization was asked to help raise money for a pipe organ in the fine arts building and to help fund the new stadium.
The school continued to receive national attention in athletic circles. Wes Christensen's wrestlers received a National Junior College Academic Award and Brian Ricks and J.L. Coon led the Vikings to a sixteenth-place standing in the national meet at Worthington, Minnesota. Mike Gardner, coached by Jed Gibson, captured the decathlon championship at the national meet in Champaign, Illinois.
President Hafen enjoyed fine arts (he was a creditable pianist), the give and take of academic debate (he was a recognized attorney, especially in the field of children's legal rights), humorous situations (he delighted in telling jokes to illustrate points), and athletics. He could be found during the noon hour playing basketball in the fieldhouse with faculty members. On one occasion he recounted how he was a better basketball player than he had realized. He could dribble circles around any of the faculty players, most of whom had had years of experience playing basketball. He could make fantastic shots. Then one day Coach Wade Anderson stuffed him as he went in for a shot. He said he then had two realizations. He realized he had been able to be such a good player because he was president. But now he said, with a catch in his voice, he realized he had been accepted.
President Hafen tried to become acquainted with each faculty member as quickly as possible. The college had purchased a new home for the president, and he invited small groups to his home for dinner. He also visited faculty in their offices and asked about personal goals. In a remarkably short period of time, he knew all the faculty and staff.
President Hafen had the privilege of meeting Elsie Rigby and thanking her for several significant contributions to the college. Her latest gift was $50,000 to establish the Elsie Rigby Lamanite Scholarship and Loan Program. The money would be used for scholarships for South American Indians to attend Ricks and for loans to North American Indians to allow them to attend Ricks while awaiting their governmental education funds. The fund helped many Indian young people attend Ricks.
An exhibit entitled "Snake River Country: One Hundred Years of Change" was on display in the library gallery from October 5-18, 1978. The exhibit was part of a broad program that included lectures on various facets of the Snake River country. Four lectures were presented on campus. Representing Ricks as lecturers were R. Lynn Speth and David L. Crowder. The exhibit-lecture program was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The opening activity of homecoming on October 20, 1978, was the inauguration of Dr. Bruce C. Hafen as eleventh president of Ricks College. Marion G. Romney, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, was the presiding authority. Jeffrey R. Holland, Church Educational System commissioner, conducted. Wilson Brown played the organ prelude music. The academic processional was to the music of William Walton's "Crown Imperial," played by the college symphony orchestra directed by LaMar Barrus. The college ROTC posted the colors. Elder Marion D. Hanks, a member of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy, offered the invocation. Dr. Holland then introduced the honored guests on the stand that included General Authorities, civic, political, academic representatives, and former President Eyring. Greetings were extended to President Hafen by Commissioner Holland; Scott Ferguson, student-body president; Robert Wilkes, Faculty Association president; and Richard "Dick" Davis, Alumni Association president. "The Church Education System has . . . seen fit to send a lawyer and I think it's great," Davis said. "Variety is the spice of life and lawyers are very much in vogue these days. I have known President Hafen long enough to tell you that he has a keen mind, boundless enthusiasm, and a great sense of humor." He concluded, "So, on behalf of roughly 50,000 past and present alumni and of countless thousands yet to come, I bid you welcome. I remind you that you will be judged and you will be remembered. The curtain is rising on your act. May your chapter in the history of Ricks College be a glorious one." Davis presented President Hafen with an academic robe and doctoral hood.
Dallin H. Oaks, president of Brigham Young University, gave the inaugural address. "I predict that Bruce C. Hafen will be a superb president of Ricks College," he said. "He has all the qualifications we take for granted: doctor's degree, superior teaching skills demonstrated at the college and university level, good record of scholarship, experience in university administration, winning way with people, Church leadership experience at the ward and stake level, full-time missionary service, an exemplary family, deep faith, and vision." In addition, he "has that unique gift of good judgment."
Following Oaks' address, "Thy Glory Manifest," musical selection written specifically for the occasion with words by Norman Gage and music by Darwin Wolford, was sung by the combined choirs directed by Clyde Luke. Then President Romney formally installed President Hafen and gave the "Charge to the President":
"I would like to give a charge to President Hafen so far as his presidency of this college is concerned. We expect him to use his appreciation of history to appreciate the history of this institution, the sacrifices, hopes and dreams that founded it, preserved it, and brought it to this point. Yet we expect him to also take the lead in charting the future of this college within the Church Educational System in order to make history here. That will be part of his stewardship as he works with all the interested parties-students, faculty, staff, administrators, and the Ricks College Board of Trustees."
President Hafen used his appreciation of history and spiritual literacy to craft his response, the conclusion of which was an invocation for blessings:
"May God bless us to cultivate the soil of our souls, that the abundant life for which the pioneers came to these valleys may, in fact, spring forth in the hearts and minds of all who come here. Our predecessors at Ricks, thank God for them, brought us a long way toward that goal. But we are far from finished. And so I say, where there is still intellectual sagebrush, let us clear the land and plant more fruitful seeds; where there is moral drought, let us clean out the furrows and spread the living water of the Gospel; where there is the frost of unbelief, let us pray for the warmth of heavenly inspiration; and where there is the infertility of poor discipline, let us invigorate our minds and our spirits. But above all let us live in such a way that in all we do we may merit the companionship of Him who came to bring us life more abundantly, that Ricks College may be worthy of its association with His name."
Victor L. Brown, Presiding Bishop of the Church, pronounced the benediction. The recessional was to the music of the orchestra playing "Coronation March" from The Prophet by Meyerbeer. The eleventh president of Ricks College was official.
The rest of homecoming was anticlimactic. Even the fact that the football team, behind the running of fullback Dale Halgren and the defensive play of safety Alan Wong, defeated Dixie College 26-16 did little to divert attention from President Hafen and his family. The fight after the game, involving most of both teams, did come close, however.
The First Presidency announced that the blessing of holding the priesthood was extended to all worthy male members of the Church on June 9, 1978. Charles Turner, one of the first four black members of the Church, spoke at Ricks on October 26. His testimony added certification to the announcement of the First Presidency.
Word was received in December that Siotame Uluave, a Viking middle linebacker, had received first-team All-American honors by the National Junior College Athletic Association. The women's volleyball team also brought recognition to Ricks by placing eleventh out of twenty teams at the national tournament. Tami Austin was nominated for All-American honors by Coach JoAnn Reeve. National recognition also came to Ricks when Konnie Weatherston, the 1978 homecoming queen, was invited to represent Idaho at the Orange Bowl Festival from December 26, 1978, to January 4, 1979, in Miami, Florida.
President Hafen was very busy during the spring semester of 1979. He gave the opening devotional address of the semester, and subsequently welcomed and introduced several General Authorities as devotional speakers. He also introduced Melvin Hammond, who needed little introduction as he was on the religion faculty and a state legislator. Hammond was the Associated Men Students' Man of the Year and spoke at a devotional in February.
Along with the faculty, the president gave special recognition to Norman Ricks, who recently had been appointed assistant academic vice president. Ricks was chosen to deliver the 1979 honors lecture. Ricks talked about his illustrious ancestry and about how that ancestry was associated with, and largely responsible for, establishment of Ricks College.
President Hafen participated in groundbreaking for the new agriculture complex. He drove a team of Belgian draft horses pulling a scraper as part of the ceremony. Jerry Halterman, chairman of the Division of Agriculture, assisted. The president also participated in setting the cornerstone for the fine arts building on April 24, 1979. The cornerstone was the one retrieved from the razed old gym. Artifacts went in and the cornerstone was sealed by President Hafen, assisted by Gary Olsen of the public relations department. In an unusual move, the building was named while under construction. The building was to be known as the Eliza R. Snow Center for the Performing Arts. That was a fitting tribute to a Church historical figure whose love of the gospel is evident in her poetry. The building was dedicated by Elder James E. Faust in late November 1980.
President Hafen put his legal training to good use as a newly elected member of the board of directors of the American Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. He was surprised at the election, but willing to serve. His election illustrated the esteem with which he was held and reflected favorably on Ricks. The American Association was closely scrutinizing Title IX of the Education Act of 1972 to see how federal mandates for sexual equality fit private institutions. Parts of Title IX were being challenged in court. During the next few years, Ricks successfully filed for seven exemptions, all based on the premise that federal mandates cannot supersede established religious premises.
Early in 1979, the college purchased 200 acres of land on Badger Creek a few miles north of Tetonia. President Hafen agreed that the purchase would further an outdoor education program, as well as provide a good location for outdoor family programs. A lodge was built and dedicated on July 8. In the late fall, the Idaho National Guard built a road and bridge leading to the lodge as part of their training and community service. Governor John D. Evans became involved in a dispute over the Idaho National Guard providing assistance to a private entity. General James Brooks, commander of the Idaho National Guard, assured Governor Evans that legal counsel had indicated that there was no violation of the constitutional separation of church and state. Brooks was quoted in an article in the BYU Daily Universe on November 7, 1979, as saying, "My job is to train the national guard and this is the best training we can get." Governor Evans said the controversy had been "blown out of proportion," and he refused to interfere. Part of the controversy was the purported $40,000 cost to build the bridge. General Brooks said the cost was nowhere near $40,000, and there was no reason to stop the project. Richard Clark, outdoor education coordinator for the college, explained that the work of the National Guard was the only way the bridge could be built since the college did not have funds to do it. "We didn't know how else we could have handled it," Clark said. "It just wasn't possible for the school to build the bridge at that time."
Elder Marion D. Hanks of the First Quorum of Seventy was the featured speaker at baccalaureate on April 24, 1979. Graduation was April 25. President Hafen gave a report on the class of 1979 and handed out diplomas. Former Alumni Council President Richard "Dick" Davis and his wife instituted a unique gift for each graduate. As graduates came off the stage after receiving their diploma, he greeted them and gave them a little packet that contained a silver dollar and a statement:
"This silver dollar is presented to you on the occasion of your graduation, as a reminder that you have been richly blessed. We challenge you to put it to work immediately, and then return the increase to those you come in contact with. If you do, your life will reflect a spiritual richness that will not only encompass your family, your Church, and your nation, but may grow to encircle the world with love."
He also gave a silver dollar to each of the May graduates. The gift was unique and significant.
President Hafen appointed Charles"Tiny" Grant as athletic director effective in August of 1979. Grant would succeed Berkley"Brick" Parkinson. "I think President Hafen's administration and their desire to make athletics a full part of the school and school development, will cause us to have some new heights to reach and achieve," Grant commented. "This is an ideal time to increase our athletic tempo, and I feel keenly that Ricks College should keep a quality program in all sports that keep in mind the standards that apply to Ricks College, and thus promote educational growth for the athletes as well as help them develop spiritually." Grant was in office when the new stadium was constructed and a new addition was planned and completed for the Hart Building. Grant relinquished his position on July 1, 1981, when he was called to preside over the California Anaheim Mission. He was succeeded by Glenn Dalling, whose acceptance of the position necessitated a search for a new head basketball coach. Gary Gardner, the basketball coach at Utah Technical College, became the new Ricks coach. He chose Wade Anderson as his assistant.
Elder Sterling W. Sill was on campus for the homecoming devotional on September 25, 1979. He spent the morning giving autographs and signing copies of his books outside the new bookstore in the Manwaring Center. He spoke to about 5,000 people at the devotional, using examples from a life filled with faith-promoting experiences to teach lessons. President Hafen and SoonHeng Lim, the student-body president, performed the ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the new addition on the Manwaring Center on September 27.
Ken Schmidt was named head football coach in February 1980. Schmidt brought impressive credentials from sixteen years of coaching high school football at Skyline High School in Salt Lake City. Schmidt met early in the spring with the Booster Club, impressing the membership with his goal oriented program. His first season as head coach ended with an eight-win, two-loss record, the ICAC championship, and a ranking of fifteenth nationally. The team broke seventeen school records during the season.
Wes Christensen received a national honor on March 8, 1980, when he was inducted into the national Junior College Wrestling Hall of Fame. Christensen was one of the most successful wrestling coaches in the nation. His wrestlers consistently won the ICAC conference championship and placed high at national meets with several individual champions, including Henry Williams, a national heavyweight champion. Christensen retired from coaching after the 1981 season.
By 1980, the Equal Rights Amendment was being hotly debated at Ricks and elsewhere. A leading opponent of the ERA was in Rexburg to address the April 1 forum assembly during Women's Week. Barbara Smith, the Church Relief Society president, told some 2,000 assembled that "the Mormon Church is 100 percent in favor of equal rights for women, though it opposes the Equal Rights Amendment. The ERA is too broad, too vague and receives too many different interpretations to be workable." President Smith had appeared on the nationally syndicated "Donahue" television show. Reasons for Church opposition to the ERA got national coverage. She told the young women and their mothers about that experience and concluded her address by reminding them that "the Lord cares about us. He loves us all equally. He loves you as much as he does me. He wants us to accomplish and bring to pass His purpose on the earth." She testified, "We are led by a prophet of God, who lives according to the teachings of the Lord every waking moment and [who] loves us as women and [who] is doing all he can to help solve and resolve these problems."
For the first time, baccalaureate and graduation were held on the same day in 1980. Elder A. Theodore Tuttle, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and president of the Provo Temple, was baccalaureate speaker. In the afternoon division convocations, each with a complete program, provided the forum for graduation. The convocation method greatly sped up and personalized the process.
The first part of a Community Recognition Program was held in the Hart Auditorium on May 18, 1980, to again thank volunteers who had helped in the aftermath of the Teton Dam disaster. The principal speaker was Hartman Rector, Jr., a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. His address was patriotic in nature and complimentary to those who loved their land and neighbor enough to help in time of need. The second part of the commemoration began at 9 a.m. the next morning on the tabernacle lawn. A commemorative plaque was unveiled and Dell Klingler, a Ricks alumnus, offered the dedicatory prayer. The ceremony was made more memorable as ash from the Mount St. Helens volcano, which had erupted the day before in Washington state, drifted down on those assembled. By 1980, a person had to look hard to find vestiges of the flood in Rexburg. But the flood would never be forgotten by the people involved. Neither would they forget the part Ricks College played in sheltering, caring for victims, and other assistance given.
During the summer of 1980, Robert Oliphant took the Valhalla Dancers on a tour of Bulgaria and Romania where they performed in several settings. They also performed in Austria and other European cities, but the highlight performance was behind the Iron Curtain. According to Oliphant, "many times the dancers were asked, 'How does it feel to be free?' " While the Valhalla Dancers were performing in Europe, Ricks College Showtime Company, directed by Harry Shultz and Wilson Brown, was performing in Canada and the eastern United States. Relatively new on campus, Showtime Company already had established a reputation for outstanding music and dance performances.
Brent Kinghorn, vice president of community services, presided over the dedication of the humanities halls in the Snow Center named for Andrew B. Christenson, college principal from 1914-1917. Four generations of Christensons were on hand for the dedication on August 8, 1980. A portrait of A.B. Christenson was presented to the college.
The first meeting of the recently appointed Centennial Pre-Planning Committee was held on September 8. President Hafen had appointed Gary Brock, the Alumni Association director; Blaine Bake, the college archivist; and David Crowder, a faculty member and historian, to begin preliminary work for the college's centennial in 1988. The committee solicited ideas for the commemoration, as well as documents to help interpret 100 years of the institution's history.
Another dedication took place on campus on September 16. Elder Ezra Taft Benson spoke at the devotional assembly and dedicated three buildings. During the morning, Elder Benson was given a tour of the buildings. When he was taken to the farming complex west of town, he was presented with a pair of riding boots as a memento of his visit. In his dedicatory address, Elder Benson counseled the "rising generation, to not falter. . . . You were valiant spirits reserved for this exceptional time. You have but one choice: to rise to the task of history's most significant hour." At the conclusion of his address, Elder Benson, in humble prayer, dedicated the plant science building, agricultural mechanics building, and the livestock arena building for the service of mankind and God.
The Hallelujah homecoming assembly on September 26, 1980, was designed to get everyone ready for the big game against the defending ICAC champs, Dixie College. The A Cappella Choir performed, as did the men's chorus that was preparing to sing at October conference in Salt Lake City. Several other performers displayed their talents at the assembly. The parade on Saturday was spectacular. President Hafen and his family, dressed in turn-of-the-century costumes, rode on a vintage fire truck and threw candy to spectators. Although President Hafen was raised in St. George and attended Dixie College, he had no divided loyalties. When the football contest was over, Ricks had decisively defeated the Dixie Rebels 44-7.
The first Ricks College Family History Convention, with the theme "Family Heritage," brought several hundred people to the Snow Center for the Performing Arts on November 8, 1980. The event was co-sponsored by the Upper Snake River Valley Branch Genealogy Library housed on campus.
The semester ended with the usual flurry of activities. Several students were involved in athletics, drama, and debate. Showtime Company performed a Christmas concert. All the fun at the end of the semester was moderated a bit by the news that a tuition increase would be in effect fall semester 1981. By 1980, the nation was in a period of rapid inflation. The rising costs for almost everything prompted the increase in tuition amounting to 10.9 percent for Church members and 11.5 percent for students of other faiths. President Hafen explained that the percentage increase was within guidelines of the government's anti-inflation program.
The Utah Symphony performed in the Snow Center on January 16, 1981. Members of the symphony gave workshops and attended classes the following day. Ricks College was unique in having a student symphony orchestra and an in-house concert pianist, Del Parkinson. The Utah Symphony's visit was a fine opportunity to be taught by professional musicians.
Wilson C. Walker gave the faculty honors lecture on March 13, 1981. "Our challenge in this day is to find human technologies which will allow us to use our abundance of material technologies to change man's attitudes, his beliefs, and his actions so that he can improve himself," he said. "As I perceive matters, no human being can feel good about himself until he has personally made an impact for good in the life of another." Often that includes giving a second and a third chance. "I shall be forever grateful to Ricks for its open door policy, not just for me, but for numerous others who needed a second and even a third chance. One fact in the helping relation stands out in my mind-if there were no second chances, few, if any, would make it." Walker's perception was attained through years of studying and teaching psychology and counseling young people.
About 2,200 attended the graduation banquet sponsored by the Alumni Association on April 22, 1981. MaryGarner Shirley and AlmaMay Hendrickson received Distinguished Alumna awards. Preston Brimhall received the Distinguished Alumnus Award. The Outstanding Teacher Award was presented to Helen Lamprecht of the home economics department. "For your love of what you have termed 'the greatest young people in the world,' " the citation read, and "for your influence in the lives and homes of thousands of homemakers." President Hafen presented the Presidential Service Award to Ray W. Rigby. "Your enthusiasm and encouragement have assisted Ricks College to develop a wonderful tradition of excellence and service," the citation noted.
Elder Boyd K. Packer addressed graduates at baccalaureate the morning of April 23. He expressed his love for the students, Ricks College, and President Hafen. He challenged graduates to use their Ricks experiences to spread the gospel. Dean Sorensen presented the graduates, and President Hafen conferred the degrees. Diplomas were awarded during afternoon convocations.