The Fire in the Bookstore…and What Came of It
I’m grateful for the chance to speak to you today. And thankful to my assistant, Moises Correa, for his help creating and running the technology side of what I want to share with you today.
A couple of months ago my son, who is about your age and a recent graduate of LDS Business College, made a comment that caught my interest. He said he wished he’d known more about the College while he was still a student here. He then added, “I know I would have appreciated being there more if I had realized what I had.”
I’ve thought several times about that comment, and because of it, choose to share with you today a few stories that will tell you how and why you are sitting in this room, on this campus. And by the end of our time together, I suspect you will have a greater understanding of, and appreciation for what you have here.
The College’s collection of yearbooks, journals, photo albums, and other materials are kept in my office, and those are the resources I’ve used for what I share today.
I’ll start with a couple of questions. First, do any of you know how old this College is? (Students only—faculty and staff, you can’t answer). Or, do any of you know when the College was founded, or organized?
Well, here’s a hint: Can someone tell me when Utah became a state? (I realize not all of you are from Utah, but give it a guess.)
Utah gained statehood in 1896. And here’s the interesting part: In 1896, LDS Business College was already 10 years old. By then, many students had already graduated from the College. Remember that.
The Fire in the Bookstore
Now, I’m going to ask the staff and faculty to be patient…I want to share with you a story about the very first meeting of those who founded LDS Business College. They’ve already heard it….but you probably haven’t.
In 1886, a man named William B. Dougall believed that the youth of Salt Lake City should have a school of their own—an Academy, as it was called back then. So he contacted several of the citizens of the city and they chose a day and a meeting place—a bookstore owned by James Dwyer.
How appropriate, don’t you think, that they held a meeting to plan a college of learning… in a bookstore. It wasn’t a harness shop or a mercantile or a blacksmith shop—it was a bookstore.
But here’s the interesting part: a fire sprang up in that bookstore during the night, and by morning, the water used to put it out was still dripping down from the destroyed roof.
That might have been a good reason to call the meeting off, don’t you think? But you have to remember these were tough people with great determination. So they met anyway, sitting on boxes and crates in the dampness and ashes. I’ve always thought it rather symbolic that they sat there with the ashes of books—the most basic tools of learning—at their feet—while they laid plans for a place of learning. And the Phoenix that rose from those ashes was LDS Business College.
1. & 2. Their plan was basic. They needed a talented educator to help develop the Academy. Dr. Karl G. Maeser—who had already developed other academies and was starting up a new one in Provo, Utah, which became BYU—agreed to come to Salt Lake City to help establish this College. He brought with him his pick of the faculty— Willard Done—and served alongside him as he trained Brother Done to become the College’s president, from 1886-1888.
3. Dr. James E. Talmage, a great scholar, served as the College’s president from 1888-1892. His contribution (as quoted in one of the yearbooks) was giving “its students a sense for scholarship that finds its roots in religion.” Which, when you think about it, is another way of saying even then the motto was “learning by study and by faith.” If his name is familiar to you, think of the books “Jesus the Christ,” and “The Articles of Faith,” to name a few.
President Talmage was called away to start another church academy, but then officials from the University of Utah asked Church leaders if he could help establish that school instead, so he became the president of U. of U., and Willard Done became LDS Business College’s president again for 7 more years, from 1892 to 1899. His contribution was emphasis on theological training and the introduction of business courses into the curriculum.
4. Dr. Joshua H. Paul served as president from 1899 to 1905, and he inherited a difficult situation. The College was in financial trouble, and most of the faculty had left. The College seemed doomed, but church leaders and businessmen collected enough money to pay the College’s debts. And Church President Lorenzo Snow promised funding as well.
A lot of changes happened during President Paul’s six years: the College’s name was changed again—(I’ll explain that a little later), the College moved again (I’ll also explain that a little later), and the College became famous for many reasons, including public speaking, dramatics, and athletics—especially basketball. (I’ll also explain that a little later).
5. Colonel Willard Young—a son of Brigham Young—served as president from 1905 to 1916. He was a military fellow, and brought a great deal of discipline and order to the College, as well as “exact scholarship.” In other words, he was tough. The yearbook says, “Under his administration, athletics became subordinate to studies, rules were rigidly enforced, and students learned to ‘toe the mark’ outside the institution as well as within.” And the college---and students—thrived under his leadership.
6. From 1916 to 1926, Guy C. Wilson served as president. During his ten years, he focused on teaching self-government to the students. Students made the laws, enforced the laws, and judged the law breakers (with faculty keeping an eye on the process). The school also changed. The four-year high school course was reduced to two years, and a two-year college course was added. A business college also began to grow around this time. The College was finally a college.
7. Feramorz Young Fox became the College’s seventh president in 1926, and stayed for 22 years, until 1948. This means he carried the College through the Depression, and through the war. “Carried” is a good descriptive word. Those were difficult years of little money and great need, but his strong faith in the College and its’ purpose in the Lord’s kingdom helped him sustain it.
Lean years meant students couldn’t afford an education and enrollments dropped. In 1931, the high school and junior college programs were closed, and the business college alone remained. Along with his administrative duties at the College, President Fox and his son were selling apples and potatoes to keep their family farm from foreclosing. But due to his determination, the College eventually recovered, enrollments started climbing again, and by the time President Fox’s years of service completed, the College was in great condition, with high enrollments.
8. From 1948 to 1961, Kenneth S. Bennion served as the College’s 8th president. He was a former student —and later a teacher for 20 years—of the College. His strong connection to the business community kept the College connected too. He had very high standards for the College and its students. And although he kept a strict business attitude, he was well known for helping discouraged students stay in school.
9. R. Ferris Kirkham served the longest term as president—25 years from 1961 to 1986. He was a CPA and a talented businessman, and his years as president were marked by progress; he basically took the college from the typewriter age to the computer age. He developed new programs, expanded the campus, added student dorms and a library, increased enrollments, and made the College self-supporting. He truly modernized the College.
10. The tenth president, Kenneth H. Beesley, served from 1986 to 1991. His appointment coincided with the College’s 100-year anniversary, and they did have parties that year. During his time here he brought the College closer into the mainstream of Church education. Curriculum was revised, the student-to-computer ratio was improved, and the campus, which was the one just before this one, was renovated and restored.
11. A few employees here at the college can still remember President Beesley. Most remember the next president, Stephen K. Woodhouse, who served from 1992 until 2008. President Woodhouse was a successful businessman who advanced the College’s technology. He had a college history published, introduced service learning into the curriculum, and was in charge of the College’s move to this campus in 2006. As you can imagine, that was not an easy task.
I’m curious: Are there any students here today who went to the Mansion Campus before this campus?
Watch this: How many others in this room came from the Mansion Campus to this campus? That’s how recent that piece of history is. A lot of us have memories of our Mansion Campus. It was a beautiful campus with beautiful woodwork, tapestries, and fireplaces where students sometimes roasted marshmallows. True story.
So now we have our 12th president, J. Lawrence—Larry—Richards. Most of you know him, some of you probably know him really well. He started here as a faculty member (after growing tired of being the president of a lot of banks), and after a while, he became the assistant to President Woodhouse. Then, on January 1, 2009, he became the College’s 12th president.
In the past year and a half, President Richards has placed emphasis on a number of developments: a new learning model; a revised mission statement; a vision statement; strategic initiatives, and the creation of more skills-based programs, to name a few.
He’s also placed emphasis on knowing each of you. I’d challenge any of you to find another college president who hangs out in the cafeteria every Wednesday so students can have lunch with him. And he’s in the halls, addressing you by name and asking how your mom is doing. You might not appreciate how uncommon that is…but you should.
Now, here’s an interesting historical fact. Remember Dr. Karl G. Maeser, the man who established this College? His name is spelled K-A-R-L M-A-E-S-E-R. Google him some time and read the story of his conversion to the Gospel. That man who taught him about the Gospel and baptized him was Franklin D. Richards, President Richard’s great-great-grandfather. So President Richards’ great-great grandfather taught and baptized the man who established the college where President Richards now serves as the president. And President Richards’ grandfather went to this College as well. Those are some pretty amazing connections, don’t you think?
Here’s another interesting historical connection: At the turn of the century, in the early 1900s, the president of the business college part of the whole college was Bryant S. Hinckley. President Hinckley had moved here from back east where he’d resided with his family. Not too long after moving here, President Hinckley’s wife became ill and eventually died, leaving him with their four small children.
Meanwhile, a young woman named Ada Bitner was a faculty member at the College. She was an unusual female for the time. She’d gone back east to study Gregg Shorthand, and then returned here to teach it.
The two of them—Bryant S. Hinckley and Ada Bitner—eventually fell in love, and were married. The first child of this new union was Gordon Bitner Hinckley. So President’ Hinckley’s parents met at LDS Business College. Which is why, when it was time to dedicate this new campus, President Hinckley said he’d like to do that himself, because of his particular affinity to this college.
The College’s name has changed a few times throughout its 124 years. It started out as the Salt Lake Academy, then became LDS College, then LDS University, then went back to LDS College, and since 1931, has been known as LDS Business College.
Campus Address Changes
The College’s campus address has also changed—EIGHT times, usually because the student population was growing, and the College needed more space. Yet all of the College’s campuses have never been more than a few blocks from Temple Square.
Started in Social Hall on 39 South State - 1886
(Outgrew Social Hall quickly, so some students met in Brigham Young Schoolhouse)
Ellerbeck Building on 200 West 200 South - 1891
The 17th Ward Chapel on 150 West 200 North - 1895
Templeton Building on South Temple and Main - 1897
Lion House on 63 East South Temple - 1900
(Every few years the College moved. Leaders finally decided a campus was needed where the College could stay and grow, so then they built...)
A growing campus of large buildings constructed at
70 North Main - 1902
(This campus remained for the longest span: 60 years. But eventually the Church needed this site for construction of the Church Office Building…)
Wall Mansion on 400 East South Temple - 1962
(The College was there for 44 years. And then in 2006, we hugged that campus good-bye and moved to…)
The Triad Campus, here at 300 West North Temple - 2006
The College also used other buildings at different times for different programs. At one time it used a large mansion on the hill for its music program, the old tithing barn for a biology lab, and the Deseret Gym in downtown Salt Lake City for gym classes.
Speaking of gym classes, the College also had a school song, called “The Gold and Blue,” written by a student, James W. Welch, in 1901. The song was the kind that students could sing during sports games. You probably didn’t know that the College has, at different times in its past, had some pretty amazing (and successful) sports teams.
The men’s teams included football , basketball, baseball, tennis, swimming, golf, and track. Do you notice the “S” on the front of their jerseys? The College’s teams were called the “Saints,” (have to wonder what the mascot was). Over the years, the Saints crushed their opponents as they won an impressive collection of state and even national titles and awards.
Meanwhile, the women, not to be outdone, also had their own teams, among them tennis, hockey, baseball, and a Glee Club Basketball Team.
College Life has evolved throughout the years. The College sponsored many kinds of clubs, some of them rather interesting, such as the “Seagull Club,” dedicated to doing good deeds, the “Block ‘S’ Club,” which promoted “good morals, clean living, sportsmanship, good fellowship, and high scholarship,” and the “Art Club,” created to “develop aesthetic interest.”
The College also had bands and orchestras, choruses, theatrical productions, and a lot of dances.
Of course, the College also taught classes. Lots of them. For instance, what started out as Bookkeeping courses in the 1880’s are today’s Accounting courses.
At one time, stenography or shorthand was taught.
And so were classes in what was called Office Training, which has evolved into Business Administrative Support.
And typing classes—this College has taught typing since typewriters were invented. In fact, during wartime in the 1940’s, LDS Business College even taught typing to soldier clerks.
Students have also learned English since the College began, and at times throughout the College’s history, other languages taught here included Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew, Latin, German, and French.
Of course, all kinds of math classes have always been taught here.
The fact is, the College has continued to develop courses as market and students’ needs change.
There. I’ve condensed LDS Business College’s history into about 20 minutes. If you’ve written any of this down, you’ll remember that the College is 124 years old, has had 12 presidents, 5 name changes, 8 addresses, some awesome sports teams, some interesting clubs, and a wide variety of classes. Hopefully you also noticed the Lord’s hand has guided this College all along.
But there’s more to the story. Because now it’s time to talk about the “Why” of this College:
Why was it founded in the first place?
Why has it been preserved for 124 years?
Why is it here today?
And most importantly….why are YOU here today?
Here are some ideas on that from people you’ll recognize and respect:
See if you can figure out a common idea or two in what they’ve said:
Remember Dr. Karl G. Maeser? He said,
“Here, at the headquarters of the Church, (he meant Salt Lake City when he said that) Israel will naturally look for an institution patronized by multitudes of students, conducted by faithful teachers, supported by the liberality of the people, approved in its labors by the authorities and above all, sustained by the blessings of Almighty God.”
Dr. James E. Talmage said:
“Theological teaching and religious training are essential to a well-balanced curriculum. For this symmetrical development of body, mind, and spirit—I commend our Latter-day Saint schools.”
In more recent years, in graduation speeches and at devotionals, other leaders have also taught us:
Bishop Keith B. McMullin: (Devo 2009)
“…The curriculum of the LDS Business College has not focused on training and ‘book learning’ alone. From the beginning, the aim has been to school the entire person, the spirit as well as the mind.”
Elder L. Whitney Clayton: (Devo 2007)
“I’m mindful that the purpose of LDS Business College is to teach business skills in a spiritual setting. Thus, it seeks to provide opportunity for balance in one’s life.”
Elder Kenneth Johnson: (Devo 2009)
“You have to learn fundamental skills in order to progress with the greater opportunities of life. Don’t look at simple things and say, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Recognize that in those simple things, you gain a capacity that will be so essential as you progress through life and in your career.”
President Gordon B. Hinckley: (at the dedication of this new Triad Campus in September, 2006):
“Nothing could be better than what we have here…. Enjoy it, be grateful for the opportunity you have of attending school here. Pray to the Lord for His blessings and guidance as you pursue your academic course.”
President Deiter F. Uchtdorf: (Presidency of the Seventy….Commencement 2004)
“You, my dear friends...of this wonderful LDS Business College, are privileged to study and learn in an environment where your testimony of Jesus Christ is growing as part of your educational process.”
President Henry B. Eyring: (An Apostle …. Commencement 1996)
“The Lord talks about putting a light on a hill…. He will make you a light, a beacon, and the world will then have the value of knowing what education can be like when it is done the Lord’s way.”
President Thomas S. Monson: (A Counselor in the First Presidency…. Spoke at the inauguration Pres. Woodhouse ’92)
“This institution is one of the few bastions where truth can be taught, aided by testimony.”
Our leaders know why this College is here. And they know why you are here. But do you know why you are here?
Ask yourselves this: We have this college here, dedicated by a Prophet of God, staffed by faculty and staff and administrators who are all temple worthy. And through the doors come worthy students who’ve pledged to live in a way that will preserve this environment. All of us have come here—maybe been brought here—for what?
In my work here, I interview students and write your stories. In these stories, I’ve noticed an interesting pattern. Many—maybe most—of you come here a little unsure. Some of you are unsure of your abilities, some of you are unsure of the College, some of you are unsure of your future. But you come here anyway—from all 50 states and more than 60 countries worldwide—you come here… because you felt you were guided here. Why?
You probably think you chose to come here to learn a skill and get on with your life. You did. But that’s only part of it. The rest of the reason is this:
You are being prepared for the rest of your life’s work, and that doesn’t just mean your career. That’s an important part, and you will need your skills and your careers to help you raise your families and be useful in your communities.
But the spiritual side of you, the disciple part of you, is also being taught here, nurtured here, and cultivated here, so that when you move on, you move on as a complete person, ready to help build the kingdom of our Heavenly Father on this earth in these latter days.
Amos 8:11-13 describes these latter days:
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord:
And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to see the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.
In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst.
You young women and young men will not be among those fainting for thirst of the word of the Lord. Here at this college you are learning by study and by faith how to lead and serve others, prepare for temple blessings, and gain wisdom and knowledge that will enable you to teach and lift.
You will influence the world with what you learn—and become—here.
You will take your spark into a dark world and lighten it with love, subdue it with service, and improve it with knowledge, knowing that as long as one light exists, the dark can never be absolute.
Remember when I told you that LDS Business College was already ten years old when Utah became a state? Well, think about those young people who had graduated from the College by then.
What kind of influence do you think they had on that brand new state in 1886?
What kind of contributions do you think they made with the knowledge and spiritual strength they developed during their years at the College?
What kind of service did they know how to render?
Most importantly, what kind of leadership did they give?
Those LDS Business College graduates made the same kind of contributions 124 years ago that you will make during your lifetime in this world today.
My young friends… None of this has happened by chance—it’s all part of a grand design. You are here to gain an education in so much more than just a career. You are here to gain the word of the Lord, to become a beacon of light… and a disciple of Christ.
More than one kind of fire was lit in that Bookstore so many years ago. Kindled that day was a flame that has glowed continually, and never been extinguished.
For 124 years LDS Business College has been preparing—for you.
Be grateful for your legacy—and build on it.
May God bless you as you strive to make the most of your experience here, and continue the amazing legacy you’ve inherited is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.