No longer just a small two-year college in Rexburg, Idaho, BYU Idaho has exploded in size since its days as Ricks College.

Many of you are probably tiring of repressing envy when you look at photos of your friends’ January vacations: sheltered Hawaiian harbors; exotic blooming plants in Columbia; engineering marvels in Panama; and maybe redrock mesas against cobalt skies in the Arizona dessert. My January junket took me to Rexburg Idaho. While it was a pleasant and very enjoyable trip, it wasn’t a place to wear short sleeves and bask in the sun, and you can hear about it without that familiar rising surge of warm-weather envy. 

The opening photo and the one above shows the Welcome Center, where scheduled tours organize, and visitors receive an orientation in the glassed-in room behind the reception desk. The spaces I will be showing you are in the Hyrum Manwaring Center, which was constructed just following the transition from the two-year Ricks Junior College to four-year BYU Idaho in 2001. Okland Construction recently executed the tenant improvements to modernize and handle the growth of the student body to approximately 25,000 students each term.

The waiting area features a collection of year books extending through the history of Ricks College—first as the Bannock Stake Academy elementary school in 1888, its transition to include high school students and renaming it as Ricks Academy in 1903, the introduction of college-level courses in 1915, and phasing out high school classes and becoming Ricks College in 1923. 

The Manwaring Center resembles an enclosed mall with a central walkway. Comprised of three levels, student services are located within a climate-protected space. Rexburg has a harsher winter climate than the Wasatch Front. Last week, temperatures dropped to minus 27 degrees, and data shows that temperatures fall below freezing over 170 days per year. The space above is a lounging area and anchor space for Student Activities. 

In another image of the Student Activities area, a perforated dropped ceiling sets off one of the lounge seating areas. Behind the round settee is a basketball arcade game.

Wooden ceiling slats mark the entry to the Mentor Hub and lead inside from the central walkway. 

The storefront presentation of the Advising Center is engaging in a manner similar to a computer store with stools around a waterfall-edged table for studying while waiting to be called for appointments.

Stepping into the Advising Center, one can appreciate the size of the facility and the number of personnel who staff it. On the opposite side of the glass wall behind the rounded benches on right is a conference room.

This campus has truly grown from the 7,500 students from its days as Ricks College. It is now the largest university (by student enrollment) in Idaho: 32,000 students are enrolled annually; it  additionally serves the BYU Pathway program; the campus comprises 430 acres and 40 buildings. The Manwaring Center is so busy, I photographed it after 4:00 pm and before 8:00 am for less congestion in the pictures. 

As far as the vacation experience, there is nothing like being surrounded by young people eagerly embracing their college experience and the earnest, kind adults supporting them. Many were curious about how I was approaching the photographs and cheered me on. 

I didn’t get out to enjoy them, but on offering on campus are a planetarium, an arboretum, and geology and wildlife museums. I don’t know the area well, and I know I should be more familiar with it. 

My great-grandparents homesteaded near Rexburg and the grandfather I was named after grew up there. Their homes and farms were wiped out by frequent Snake River floods so I couldn’t track them down. It’s always good to be reminded of your forebearers and their not-so-easy lives and to appreciate the ease and comfort we now enjoy.  

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