The Fire in the Bookstore…and What Came of It
While they’re getting seated, I just want to thank the choir. I always count it a blessing when I see them forming up there. I think this is going to be a particularly special day because, Brother Allen and the choir, your influence is always felt here. And I’m grateful, especially today, for it. And I’m grateful for the chance to speak with you for a few minutes today.
I wonder if you happen to know the significant, quiet milestone that occurred in the College’s history last Saturday. If you’re a faculty member, I’m going to ignore you Students, do you know? Last Saturday . . . Well, let me give you a hint. Last Saturday was the College’s birthday; November 15th is this College’s birthday. And I wonder if any of you know how old the College is. Yes? [Student gives answer, inaudible] That’s right; this College is 128 years old, as of last Saturday. And let me put that into a little bit of perspective for you. When Utah became a state in 1896, LDS Business College was already ten years old. That’s significant. And I want you to remember that because by then, obviously the College had some graduates, and I want you to be remembering that fact.
And now I’m going to ask the staff and faculty to be patient for a little while, because they’ve heard this story before; it’s called “The Fire in the Bookstore . . . and What Came of It.” And some of them have already heard it, but I think it’s worth hearing again. So in 1886, this man named William B. Dougall believed that the youth of Salt Lake City ought to have their own school, or an academy as it was called back then. And so he contacted several citizens of the day, and they made a plan to meet the following day in the bookstore owned by James Dwyer. And I think it’s appropriate that they chose a bookstore to hold that meeting in—it wasn’t the blacksmith shop, it wasn’t the mercantile—but they chose a place like a bookstore to discuss the construction of a college.
But the interesting part is that the night before the meeting, a fire sprang up in that bookstore, and by morning, the water that was used to put the fire out was still dripping down through the destroyed roof. Now, that might have been a good reason for them to call the meeting off, but these were tough people and they had great determination. So they just got some crates and barrels and sat down in that store, with the water still dripping on their necks, and talked about creating this College.
I’ve always thought it rather symbolic that they sat there with the ashes of books, which are the basic tools of learning, at their feet while they laid plans for the place of learning. And the phoenix that rose from those ashes is LDS Business College.
So the plan was pretty basic. Think about how you would start a college, right? They needed someone, a talented educator, to develop a college. And that man was Dr. Karl G. Maeser, who’d already developed other academies and happened to be helping to start one down in Provo just then, which became BYU. So he agreed to come to Salt Lake City and help establish this College. He brought with him the pick of the faculty: a fellow named Willard Done, and he served alongside of him and trained him how to become the president of the College from 1886–1888.
Now, the next fellow, Dr. James E. Talmage—any of you ever heard of him? I don’t know if you knew that he was the president of the College from 1888–1892, but he was. His contribution—and I pull this information out of the yearbooks and the histories of the College—his contribution to the College, as quoted in one of his books, was giving “its students a sense for scholarship that finds its roots in religion,” which is another way of saying that they were “learning even by study and also by faith” (D&C 109:7) even back in 1888. And of course, we know Dr. Talmage well.
Well, eventually Dr. 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 the U of U, and Willard Done came back to be the president of the College for 7 more years, from 1892 to 1899. And then, Dr. Joshua H. Paul served as president from 1899 to 1905, and he inherited a tough situation. The College was in financial trouble, and a lot of the faculty had left by then. And it looked for a while like the College would be doomed, but there were good citizens who still believed in the College, along with Church president Lorenzo Snow. So they vowed to put the money together, and they saved the College.
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).
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.” They and the College thrived.
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.
Feramorz Young Fox became the College’s seventh president in 1926, and he stayed for 22 years, until 1948. This means he carried the College through the Depression and through World War II. “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.
Those 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 sold apples and potatoes to keep their family farm from foreclosure. Those were tough times. 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. And I must tell you that as I studied the history of these good men who served as presidents during hard times, President Fox rises as my favorite because he carried the College through such a difficult time.
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. 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.
R. Ferris Kirkham served the longest term as president—25 years from 1961 to 1986. He was a CPA and a 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.
The 10th president, Kenneth H. Beesley, served from 1986 to 1991. His appointment coincided with the College’s 100-year anniversary, and the College had parties that year. During his time here curriculum was revised, the student-to-computer ratio was improved, and the campus was renovated and restored. A few employees here at the College can still remember President Beesley.
Many more also remember the next president, Stephen K. Woodhouse, who served from 1992 until 2008. President Woodhouse was a 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 from the mansion campus to our present campus in 2006. As you can imagine, that was not an easy task.
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 the president. Then, on January 1, 2009, he became the College’s 12th president.
In the last five years, President Richards has placed emphasis on a number of developments: a new learning model, a vision statement; strategic initiatives, preservation of the College’s spiritual roots, and a reaffirmation of the College’s mission to provide a skills-based education that leads to employment, to name a few. He’s also placed emphasis on knowing you.
Now, here’s an interesting historical fact: remember Dr. Karl G. Maeser, the man who established this College? The man who 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.
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. Brother Hinckley had moved here from back East where he’d resided with his family. Not too long after moving here, his wife became ill and died, leaving him with 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 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. See? It works. Which is why, when it was time to dedicate the new campus, President Hinckley said he’d like to do that himself, because of his fondness for the College.
I’m just giving you lots of information. The College’s name has changed a few times throughout its 128 years. It started out as the Salt Lake Academy, then became LDS College, then LDS University, then back to LDS College, and since 1931 has been known as LDS Business College.
The College’s campus has also changed—eight times. We’re in our 8th home, if you can imagine. Here’s the list of the College’s different campuses:
1. Started in Social Hall on 39 South State 1886
It’s an interesting fact that all of these sites that the College has been at have never been more than just a block or two from Temple Square. I think that’s significant. So in 1886 it started out here in Social Hall.
(Outgrew Social Hall quickly, so some students met in Brigham Young Schoolhouse)
2. Ellerbeck Building on 200 West 200 South 1891
3. The 17th Ward Chapel on 150 West 200 North 1895
4. Templeton Building on South Temple and Main 1897
5. 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 . . . )
6. 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.)
7. 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 . . . )
8. The Triad Campus, at 300 West North Temple 2006
In a way, our sitting here in this Assembly Hall means that we’ve gone full circle because for at least 100 years, the College held its commencement exercises in this very building. Only four years ago did we grow large enough to start holding commencement in the Tabernacle.
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 for gym classes. Speaking of gym classes, the College also had a school fight song, called “The Gold and Blue,” written in 1901 by a student, James W. Welch. 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. I’m going to tell you about them a little bit. The men’s teams included football, basketball, baseball, tennis, swimming, golf, and track. They had a letter “S” on the front of their jerseys? Anyone want to guess what that stood for? The College’s teams were called the “Saints.” (You have to wonder what the mascot was.) I’m sure it would have been hard to lead a cheer saying, “Go Saints! Crush them!” But I’m sure that’s exactly what they did. 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—I don’t even know what that is. But they won a trophy, so they must have been good, right?
College life also 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 many dances.
Of course, the College also taught classes. That’s what colleges do. For instance, what started out as bookkeeping courses in the 1880s are today’s accounting courses. At one time, stenography or shorthand was taught. And so were classes in what was called office training, which evolved into business administrative support. And typing classes—this College has taught typing since typewriters were invented. In fact, during wartime in the 1940s, 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 continues to develop courses as the employment 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 128 years old, has had 12 presidents, 5 name changes, 8 addresses, some interesting sports teams, 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 128 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 about this College:
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” (The Deseret News, Feb. 2, 1887).
Dr. James E. Talmage said, and this is a deep thought, “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.”
Bishop Keith B. McMullin: “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” (“Judge Righteously,” LDS Business College devotional, Sep. 15, 2009).
Elder Robert F. Orton: “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” (“Living a Balanced Life Brings Happiness,” LDS Business College devotional, Mar. 1, 2006).
President Gordon B. Hinckley: “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” (Dedication of Triad Campus, Sep. 2006).
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf: “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” (Commencement 2004).
President Henry B. Eyring:“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” (Commencement 1996).
President Thomas S. Monson: “This institution is one of the few bastions where truth can be taught, aided by testimony” (Inauguration of President Woodhouse, Nov. 14, 1992)
Evidently, 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? You probably think you chose to come here to learn a skill and get on with your life. You did. You will need your skills and your careers to help you raise your families and be a significant contributor in the Church and in your communities.
But that’s only part of it. And President Richards in his remarks about me today said that I speak a lot about the spiritual side of it, and I’m telling you about it now. The spiritual side of you, the disciple part of you, is also being taught 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. And these latter days are a challenging time.
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.
Remember, “faint for thirst of knowledge.” But that’s the point.
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 others.
The point is that you will be able to influence the world with what you learn—and become—here. You will be able to 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.
I want you to think about this: 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 in those ten years.
· 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 leaders do you think they became?
We can actually pick out some of the faces that are in that group, and it’s amazing. There are a number of amazing leaders in that small group right there that went on to help build the Church, and the state. Those LDS Business College graduates made the same kind of contributions 128 years ago that you will make during your lifetime in this world today.
My young friends, none of this has happened by chance—I don’t believe a single one of you here today is in this College by chance. I believe that it’s 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 128 years, LDS Business College has been preparing—for you. I hope that as you go away today that you will think on that, and that you will recognize the grand heritage that you have, and that you will build on it.
I want to bear you my testimony that I know our Father in Heaven loves you. The fact that you are here tells me that. You are in an incredible place. I know that it is not easy. I know that because it is not easy, we grow through the challenges that are in our lives. But I know that here, in this College, are the answers to your problems. There are things to learn and people to know, and I know that your testimony can be strengthened here. I know that our Father in Heaven loves us. I know that Jesus Christ atoned for our sins. I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet, and I know that the Church has been restored on this earth today. And I’ll leave this with you in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, amen.
Introduction: President Lawrence Richards
Sister Louise Brown has worked at the College for fourteen years, first as a media writer, and currently as the Director of Public Affairs. That means she is responsible for the College’s communication efforts. She enjoyed a successful career as a journalist. She has written for a number of Utah newspapers for more than 30 years, and this is the 31st year of publishing a bi-monthly column that appears in the Ogden’s Standard-Examiner, which is the newspaper in the northern part of the state. She has been a book editor, a proofreader, and an editor in the Church’s curriculum department. She has used her talents to help author the College’s Anthem and many College publications, including the BC Magazine that we have. She has published articles in LDS Living, the New Era, the Ensign, Latter-day Woman, and Desert Saints. She has been recognized for her writing by the Utah League of Writers and the Utah Press Association.
She and her husband, John, who’s come in late and is sitting in the back—I said, “Why isn’t John sitting on the stand?” And Louise said, “Because I want to look at him while I talk.” They’ve been married for 39 years. They’re the parents of four children. They have eight grandchildren. In the 14 years that Louise has been at the College, she has played a major role in moving this institution forward. She is seen on campus among her peers as a skilled writer and editor, and a consummate professional. She also has great compassion for people. Those that she has figuratively taken under her wing find her to be a great advocate.
Now, let me add to you two little things that aren’t written here: number one is there is something to be said for quiet competency. You, in your careers, will find people who are very verbose about how good they are. They will tell you how good they are. They will want to be the center of the stage. Then there will be others like Sister Brown who have quiet competency. They don’t need to speak in loud voices, and they don’t need to show off their wares or their talents. They just are very effective at what they do. Point number two: Sister Louise Brown anchors me. Here’s what I mean by that: As we now take the advice of the Brethren that we received on May 14th to focus on skills-based education, it would be easy for us to lose focus on our first mission, which is to provide opportunities for you to strengthen your testimony and to deepen your conversion. Sister Brown keeps me anchored on that first mission. Why does she do that? She does it because she knows that what is most important to you is what happens in your life here, even more than the skills that you develop. I am personally grateful for her counsel and for her anchoring.