A summer repertory theater was added to the curriculum in 1981. Under the direction of Roger Sorensen, with Robert Nelson and Susan Whitfield assisting, the Academy Players performed A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Chapter Two, and Little Abner. The Academy Players joined with the community to perform Annie Get Your Gun. The theater provided an intensive educational program.
Several charter buses arrived on campus from Salt Lake City on May 1. The buses carried visitors participating in the Mormon History Association meetings May 1-3. The association is primarily composed of members of the LDS and Reorganized LDS churches, but includes representatives of most of the more than 100 "restoration" churches that trace their origin to Joseph Smith, as well as religious scholars from some of the major U.S. colleges and universities that study Mormon history as an American phenomenon. Most visitors stayed in the dormitories. More than fifty papers were delivered at Saturday sessions. Sunday morning was a devotional assembly. "The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning" is one of the few songs the LDS and RLDS churches have in common, so that song is sung at about every Mormon History Association devotional. The majority of more than 500 conference visitors had never been to Rexburg or Ricks College. They were especially impressed with the campus and the friendly, helpful people. Several toured the buildings rather than attending all the sessions. Many went away with a sense of wonder at what they had seen and felt on campus.
During the summer of 1981, Ricks representatives traveled all over the globe. Showtime Company toured Zimbabwe and much of South Africa. The Valhalla Dancers danced across much of western Europe. Students on the first Ricks study abroad program visited England, France, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Yugoslavia, and Bavaria. Larry Wickham was in charge of the study abroad curriculum. Ken Howell and Carolyn Roberts were guides for the twenty-one participants.
Sports dominated the publicity for fall semester of 1981. The football team opened with two impressive wins over Bismark Junior College from North Dakota and the BYU JVs. Then the team lost to four-year Carroll College by a touchdown. That was the last loss for the season. Ricks won the ICAC championship, creating the possibility of a bowl game. Announcement of a bowl bid was made at the boosters' luncheon on November 10. Sixth-ranked Ricks College accepted an invitation to play third-ranked Arizona Western of Yuma on Thanksgiving Day in Phoenix, Arizona.
The football team; coaches Ken Schmidt, Ron Haun, John Zirker, and David Crowder; manager Mike DuBois; and trainer Nathan Yearsley made the trip to Phoenix, accompanied by a large contingent of Ricks supporters including President Hafen and other administrators, cheerleaders, Homecoming Queen Deadre Jenson, Showtime Company, Vikadettes, pep band, some members of the Scroll staff, numerous students, and community fans.
A pregame Thanksgiving dinner in the motel cafeteria was attended by President Hafen and Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone. Elder Featherstone conveyed the best wishes of the General Authorities before the team left for the stadium. President Hafen and Elder Featherstone joined the rest of the Ricks supporters for a pregame rally and fireside in the college auditorium.
Ricks was clearly the underdog going into the game. Western's first play from scrimmage turned into an eighty-yard touchdown run. However, Ricks quickly scored, then converted a Western fumble into another score and went up 14-7. Western scored twice more to go in at half leading 21-14. The defenses of both teams dominated the third quarter with neither team scoring. But the fourth quarter was all Ricks. Brian Larson threw two touchdown passes to halfback Joe Fritsche. Larson also made a two-point conversion to end the game with Ricks winning by a score of 28-21. Everyone ran onto the field to congratulate the team and coaches, including the media (the game had been recorded and would be televised a few days later), and college and university scouts. Larson was honored as the Most Valuable Player. The announcer kept trying to get people to leave so he could go home, but none of the Ricks supporters wanted to get off the field. Finally, the lights were shut off in the stadium to get people to leave.
The Vikings, ranked number two in the nation in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) poll and number four in the J.C. Gridwire poll, got national coverage in the Church News and Sports Illustrated. Several players received ICAC honors, and tackle Rex Burningham received first-team JC All-American honors. Coach Schmidt was not around for the 1982 football season. He accepted a coaching position at Brigham Young University. He was succeeded by Ron Haun, who set about fashioning one of the all-time junior college winning records.
Excitement over the Valley of the Sun Bowl win apparently caused a question to be raised as to whether too much attention was being paid to athletics at the expense of academics. "I realize that a great football team does not automatically produce a great college, but in a country that places such a high premium on football, as Americans do," commented President Hafen in an Alumni Newsletter interview, "the reality is that people notice that kind of success, perhaps more than they should." However, "once we get their attention and show them that we can compete at a national level in a field that is such a popular favorite," he explained, "they can take more seriously the proposition that we compete just as favorably in academics."
Brent Kinghorn commented that "when the media reports on Ricks athletic achievements, it is in essence reporting on Ricks in general. As people become aware of Ricks athletics, they may have a desire to look into what else we are doing. If we have quality in one thing," he continued, "why won't that raise the question about our quality in other things?"
One problem surfacing attendant to national attention that athletic teams received was a curiosity to know who "Rick" is, or was. That prompted some discussion about whether less confusion would result if the name of the college were changed. That discussion had already taken place several times over the last fifty years. As M.D. Beal noted when he had suggested changing the name in the late 1940s, "It was an idea whose time never came!"
The winter of 1981-1982 was the worst in several years. When school commenced for spring semester, the temperature was about 15 degrees below zero and most of the east-west roads in Madison County were drifted shut. Even though cold weather and blowing snow lasted through January and into February, a series of interesting people arrived on campus to participate in a variety of activities. On January 14, 1982, Douglas Tobler, a Brigham Young University historian, was the forum speaker. He talked about Nazi Germany and how that political philosophy affected German Church members. In February, MaryFrancis SturlaugsonEyer, author of A Soul So Rebellious and He Restoreth My Soul, was a forum speaker during Black History Month. She was the first black woman to serve a Church mission. She expressed her feelings about being black, a woman, and a Latter-day Saint. The Beach Boys appeared in concert on February 19. Also during that week the college production of Dracula was performed.
The Family Living Fair opened Women's Week on March 29. Marsha McDaniel was named Woman of the Year, and Clendon and Erma Gee, college alumni, were presented the Distinguished Family Living Award at the afternoon assembly. Lethe ColemanTatge, an eighty-eight-year-old Latter-day Saint actress, was keynote speaker at the assembly. "Keep interested in life, be kind, respect yourself," she counseled the young women, "and just keep on being progressive. . . . There are always things to learn to do, keep on doing and don't give up." Marie Hafen, wife of President Hafen, was the Women's Week devotional assembly speaker.
President Hafen initiated a staff Exemplary Service Award. He presented a certificate and cash award to the first recipients at a special luncheon attended by Elder Paul H. Dunn prior to a devotional assembly. Nikki Nelson, Artella Schneiter, and Colleen Roundy were the first honored.
The president formally established the Athletic Hall of Fame on April 16, 1982. "Why do we lavish such praise on athletic accomplishment?" he questioned. "As I have sat and listened to words of praise about lives so wholesome and balanced, I thought of the movie 'Chariots of Fire,' so commendable as a tribute to what we believe in, which is, of course, personal integrity. Prayers work best when players are big," he quipped, "but players work best when prayers are big. Honor these men, they are role models." The inductees in the inaugural Hall of Fame were Clyde Packer, Marion G. Romney, Lowell Biddulph, Conley Watts, Berkley "Brick" Parkinson, Preston Brimhall, and Glenn Dalling. Each received a plaque and a beautiful cedar wood clock, and had their name inscribed on a plaque that would be on permanent display in the Hart Building. Six more were to be inducted the second year, and each succeeding year three more were to be inducted.
Two faculty members received special recognition in 1982. Larry E. Hibbert of the biology department completed classes at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. He qualified as a certified diagnostic parasitologist, becoming the only person in the state of Idaho to hold such certification. Leon Parson of the art department faculty had his extraordinary wildlife artwork grace the cover of several issues of Outdoor Life magazine.
In addition to usual summer school offerings on campus, the outdoor classes at the Badger Creek facility, geology field trips, and the Discovery program, the Repertory Theatre prepared and performed South Pacific, Fiddler on the Roof, and See How They Run. By this time, there was an annual summer migration of Sunbirds from Arizona and other parts of the country to Rexburg. These retirees lived in off-campus housing, but participated in many campus activities. They especially enjoyed the theater productions.
When students came to campus for fall semester of 1982, they immediately noticed two things. An electronic message center was located near the Administration Building and another was in the Manwaring Center by the bookstore. The other change that students noticed, especially those living off-campus, was that the ban on cable television channels showing R-rated movies in effect for campus housing was now in effect for off-campus housing. Off-campus housing units would not be sanctioned for student housing if cable was installed that showed R-rated movies.
Lowell and Ruth Biddulph were honored as grand marshals of the homecoming parade on October 9, 1982. Something new was added to homecoming. Queen Elaine Pack arrived in a helicopter, which landed in the middle of the football field. That caused quite a stir. Ricks defeated College of Eastern Utah.
Early in 1983, the Alumni Council announced the Forever Fund centennial scholarship drive, hoping to raise $100,000 by 1988. Alumni were encouraged to make a pledge for any amount to the centennial fund and renew that amount for five years to the college's centennial in 1988. Of course, the plan was to continue the fund beyond 1988. Alumni Emeritus Club members, those who attended Ricks over 50 years ago, added their backing to the project.
There were several alumni in the news in 1983. Joanie Nyborg was chosen Mrs. Idaho 1982-1983. She was the wife of Bruce Nyborg and daughter-in-law of alumnus Keith Nyborg, United States ambassador to Finland. In April 1983, she represented Idaho-and Ricks College-at the Mrs. U.S.A. Pageant in Las Vegas, Nevada. Lillian T. Rich, a well-known Idaho poet, was named Idaho Poet of the Year by the Idaho Writers League. Elaine Pack, the homecoming queen for 1982, won the Miss Idaho Pageant and represented Idaho in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Miss America Pageant. Craig Moore graduated from Ricks in 1983 at age 68. As a sophomore he carried sixteen credits, and he finished what he had started when he attended Ricks in 1933. Terry Whittier, class of 1973, spent his life getting around on crutches. Still noted for his sunny disposition ten years after graduation, he commented, "I am cheerful because it doesn't help to be any other way." After all, "everyone has some handicap in life; the important thing is to just keep going and that is what I intend to do!" Rebecca Dalling, 1982 Betty Hatch Ideal Woman Athlete Award recipient, was making news on the basketball court at BYU as she had at Ricks.
Rexburg's centennial was celebrated in 1983. The Fourth of July parade was the largest ever with floats depicting the 100-year history of the city. Business, civic, and religious leaders from the city were in attendance July 5 at a special ceremony in the Manwaring Center. An historical display depicting four stages in Ricks' history was unveiled. Four Richard Bird paintings depicted the founding of the school, early growth with the two rock buildings, troublesome time of the 1930s, and modern expansion. Under each painting were several pictures further interpreting each era. "This display will serve as Ricks College's contribution to the centennial celebration now going on in Rexburg," President Hafen commented. "It will also be the starting point for our own centennial celebration, when Ricks will become 100 years old in 1988."
A defining moment in the history of Ricks College occurred during the first week in November 1983. The culmination of more than four years of planning, working, fund-raising, and fervent prayer came when Darwin Wolford, before a capacity audience in the Ruth Barrus Concert Hall, gave new definition to the masterpieces of George Frederick Handel, J.S. Bach, and others on the magnificent Ruffatti organ. The newly installed organ, the second largest in the Church, was the result of focused, unremitting effort by Darwin and Julie Wolford. They determined early on that a Ruffatti organ was the instrument for which the Barrus Concert Hall was built. The Wolfords contacted hundreds of persons, made telephone calls, and wrote letters encouraging donations. Hundreds of people donated. When the Wolfords contacted George and Lila Stefan of Redondo Beach, California, they found listening ears and humble hearts, and willingness to make a substantial donation as a memorial to their son, Keith Martindale Stefan, who had died of Hodgkin's disease.
Wolford was joined in that first concert by the combined A Cappella and Concert Chorale choirs directed by Clyde Luke. The performance was spellbinding. The next night Ted Alan Worth, artistic director for Organ Arts, Inc., the American agent for Fratelli Ruffatti, performed the inaugural concert. "With this organ your students will have everything available to them," Worth exclaimed. "Every artist will get a different sound. You can get magic out of this organ." The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, with Jerald Ottley conducting and John Longhurst at the Ruffatti organ, performed two concerts on November 5, 1983. The Tabernacle Choir's 2,829th broadcast came from the Barrus Concert Hall on November 6. At the conclusion of the concert, President Hafen conducted the dedication ceremony of the KeithMartindale Stefan Memorial Organ. Elder L. Tom Perry gave the dedicatory address and prayer. He spoke of Keith Stefan as a "young man who had done everything the Lord wanted him to do as he developed his eternal talents." In his dedicatory prayer, Elder Perry prayed that the organ be "played to increase our talents as sons and daughters of God. . . . May the sounds of this organ touch hearts and souls . . . may it lift up and . . . bring culture and understanding to our young people to enjoy the finer things of life, . . . to know these finer things will endure, . . . that they are the threads of eternal life."
The Wolfords were recognized for their efforts as part of graduation in April. At the graduation banquet, President Hafen presented them with the Presidential Service Award for outstanding service to the college. Elder Marvin J. Ashton commented to graduates at commencement that "achievements are attained by involvement, not dreaming."
While attention was being focused on the Ruffatti organ, national publicity was being generated by the college's volleyball team. At the national tournament in Catonsville, Maryland, under interim coach Sheri Wakefield and behind the playing of two-time First Team All-American Krishna Carpenter, the team placed sixth. They ended up eighth nationally with a season record of thirty-four wins and nine losses.
In January 1984, Ricks received some national and international attention through articles in the Church News and Ensign magazine. "There are a lot of places that are striving to become as good as their image," President Hafen commented in the January 1984 Ensign article. "I think at Ricks we have just the reverse problem. We need to have some way to make the public image come up to the level of what's here." Mack Shirley was asked, "What makes Ricks distinctive?" He replied, "The religious atmosphere." Dean Sorensen expanded by saying, "In my judgment, we're well in the top 5 percent among quality junior colleges in the United States in terms of facilities, faculty, and the quality of our programs. All the data we get shows that we are a superior institution." President Hafen concurred with both Shirley and Sorensen, and added,
"This place is tremendously reassuring for anyone who wonders about how the youth of the Church are doing these days. If they will come here and visit with these kids, they'll go away feeling very secure about the future of the Church. These are the future mothers and fathers and bishops and stake presidents who are really the heart and soul of the Church. They come here with a devotion to the Church, a testimony, and a desire to make the gospel the foundation of everything in their lives."
In the Church News article, President Hafen responded to several questions about Ricks including, "What is the mission of Ricks College?" He noted three parts to the mission. First, "our primary concern is that students build their faith, prepare for missions and temple marriage and prepare to live a life based on the gospel foundation." Second, "as a two-year school, Ricks gives students the opportunity to participate in activities that are a very important part of the college learning experience," he explained. "I don't regard activities like working on the school newspaper, the debate team or an athletic team as extracurricular. Many of the activities are really an extension of the classroom experience." He continued, "The third part of our mission involves the term 'college.' The large amounts of money provided by the Church simply could not be justified to operate a year-long youth conference. This is a fine college," he concluded. "We have found that when our students transfer to four-year colleges, they do better than students from most other two-year schools."
The basketball team, under Coach Gardner, was helping certify that Ricks was a "superior institution." They won the right to compete in the National Junior College Tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas, in March by winning the regional tournament, beating North Idaho College and the College of Southern Idaho. Stephen Moser, sports information director, wrote:
"Appearing for the first time in the National Junior College Basketball Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., the Vikings were "adopted" by the crowds that thronged into the Sports Arena for five days of excellent competition.
"Responding to the cheers the Vikings settled for a respectable sixth-place finish, winning two and losing two.
"Supported by a contingent of fans that included members of the Hoop Shooting Wind Band, it must have been a combination of factors that caused the crowd to take a team from Idaho to its heart.
". . . For one, throughout its four games, the Vikings displayed a style of team play that the capacity crowds took a delight in watching. . . . And . . . probably the enthusiasm displayed by Ricks' cheerleaders and students . . . affected the mostly middle-aged crowd.
Brian Fink was named to the all-tournament team and garnered Second Team All-American status.
The year saw other outstanding athletic performances. At the national track and field tournament in San Angelo, Texas, Ricks' women took second in the nation behind All-American distance runner Liz Lynch (who had won the national cross-country title the previous fall) and a record-setting, 3,200-meter relay team. With Goran Bergquist repeating as national discus champion and Peter Ljung setting a national record in the javelin while winning the decathlon, the men finished third in the nation. Only Ricks, out of 126 competing colleges, placed both teams in the top ten. And that was accomplished by only eleven men and eight women who had responded to the fine coaching of Jed Gibson and Dave Walker.
Even the baseball team gathered some honors, despite the usual fifteen games canceled because of inclement weather. Kris Cenatiempo finished the season with a .564 batting average to lead all junior college players in the nation. As a team, the Vikings finished third nationally in batting average. Behind the coaching of Val Dalling, a Viking baseball team earned a spot in regional playoffs for the first time in ten years.
Before the year was over, the Viking football team's undefeated record was put on the line in another Valley of the Sun Bowl appearance. The team was honored at the devotional assembly on November 20. Especially appropriate was that the devotional speaker was Dale Murphy, a major league baseball player. The next morning the team flew to Phoenix.
Game day was on November 23, the day after Thanksgiving. The game was televised live over KID-TV of Idaho Falls with Mel Richardson, the "Voice of the Vikings," making the play-by-play commentary. The game also was televised by KBYU-TV throughout the country to stake centers with satellite dishes. Elder Robert D. Hales of the First Quorum of the Seventy and President Hafen spoke to the team during the pregame meal.
Ricks trailed Phoenix College 12-7 at halftime. With four seconds remaining in the game, Ricks was ahead 16-15 and in possession of the ball on the Ricks four-yard line. Ricks had to punt the ball. The Phoenix College nose guard came up the middle untouched, blocked the kick out of the end zone for a safety, and Phoenix College won the game 17-16. Ricks ended the season ranked sixth nationally. Jason Buck, a defensive end, received first-team All-American honors. Buck continued his playing career at Brigham Young University. He received the Outland Trophy for the best interior lineman in collegiate football and was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals. He remembered the 1984 football team as "the greatest team ever."
Elder Neal A. Maxwell was commencement speaker on April 19, 1984. At the conclusion of his address he made the experience memorable indeed. He pronounced an apostolic blessing. Blessings had been bestowed by apostles before, but not announced specifically as an apostolic blessing.
At age 58, Dr. Harry Maxwell, former interim president of Ricks, died of a heart attack on June 20, 1984. "He was so steady, so serene, so deeply rooted," President Hafen eulogized, "something like a mighty tree in the forest, so straight and so firmly planted that you would think it would be the last tree to fall, after wind, lightning, insects and other ravages of nature had taken all the rest." As well as being an educator, administrator, and ecclesiastical leader, Maxwell was attuned to fine arts and with his family blessed many with their musical ability.
Religion teacher Melvin Hammond announced early in 1984 that he would end a sixteen-year career as a Democratic member of the Idaho House of Representatives. He resigned at the end of the session. He had accepted a call to serve as a mission president and that superseded his political career.
In the fall of 1984 Richard Stallings, a history faculty member, ran against Congressman George Hansen for the Second District congressional seat. This was the second time Democrat Stallings had run for the seat. He was narrowly defeated by Hansen in 1982. This time Stallings defeated the conservative Republican, by what he called a "landslide" 170 votes. Stallings served in the U.S. House of Representatives for eight years.
A welcomed announcement by President Hafen affecting students for the fall semester of 1985 was that tuition would be reduced. The last time tuition had been reduced was probably during the Depression years. There were two objectives for lowering tuition-to "keep the cost of a Ricks College education within reach for average family income levels" and "attract more students." Campus facilities could accommodate about 7,000 students, but only some 6,000 were attending.
The A Cappella Choir was invited to participate in the American Choral Directors Association national convention in Salt Lake City on March 7. Their performance, under the direction of Clyde Luke, was superb. Another musical treat was when President Hafen joined the Serenata String Trio (composed of faculty members LaMar Barrus, R. Kevin Call, and Joseph Romney) for an "Evening of Chamber Music." Demonstrating his virtuosity, he played the piano in a four-movement work by Brahms.
Ardeth G. Kapp, the Young Women general president, spoke to the 1,284 graduates on April 18. This was the first time a woman was the featured speaker at commencement. Also speaking were Governor John D. Evans and President Hafen. "Your faith will become stronger when you take education seriously," Hafen counseled. "You do not have to choose at Ricks between educating your heart and educating your mind. I don't believe that in order to have God lead you, you have to forsake education."
A transition for the college took place just before commencement. President Hafen had accepted the appointment as dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University. His commencement address was his valedictory. Faculty members were appraised of the change during a special meeting the day before commencement and were told that a search for a successor was under way.
Melinda Rock, writing in the June 1985 Ricks Tradition, summarized President Hafen's tenure.
"He's a man for all seasons. If he isn't playing the piano at a recital, he is teaching a class in western intellectual heritage [or honors religion]. If he isn't on the phone to a lawyer in Washington, D.C., discussing Civil Rights legislation, he is serving as a Regional Representative for the LDS Church, speaking at stake conferences. If he isn't cheering at a Viking football game, he is joining some of the school's faculty and staff during his lunch hour for a spirited game of basketball. Few men can accomplish as much as he did. Now after seven years as president of Ricks College, Bruce Hafen is leaving."
Dean Sorensen commented that President Hafen overhauled the general education program, strengthened the honors program, established the Learning Assistance Lab, and "convinced us that we were a first-rate college." LaRae Clarke echoed that sentiment: "He has given us great confidence in ourselves. He gave us an opportunity to see that we amounted to something." Mack Shirley commented that President Hafen increased awareness in cultural arts and humanities. In addition, "he is known as a leader nationally as well as locally. His extensive background in the legal fields has aided us as a college." Rex Bennion commented on President Hafen's ability to listen carefully to every side of an issue then "tactfully and wisely make the necessary decision. . . . He had the ability to realize how any decision here would affect others. That is an unusual trait for a president. He spends a lot of time agonizing over the feelings of other people. He's the ideal model for any president." Brent Kinghorn said, "He raised the image of Ricks College several notches. We are now perceived as a major junior college where things are happening."
President Hafen brought to fruition the agricultural program envisioned by Henry B. Eyring. He also established Idaho's first classical music station, KRIC-FM, and engineered the purchase of land along Badger Creek for outdoor education. "Meaning is derived from experiences," President Hafen concluded, "and so our lives have taken on rich new shades of meaning because of the experience we had here." Although the Hafen family soon left Rexburg and Ricks, President Hafen did not assume his position at BYU until September 1, 1985. By that time, a successor had been named.