Thursday, June 23, 2016

Ricks College (Brigham Young University-Idaho) President Hyrum Manwaring [otd 06/23]

President Manwaring.
BYU-Idaho archives.
Hyrum Manwaring, President of Ricks College (now Brigham Young University - Idaho) was born June 23, 1877, southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah.

In 1890, the family moved to near Provo, where Hyrum began working as a railroad section hand. He eventually advanced to a foreman’s position. However, he felt the need for more education and attended the preparatory school at Brigham Young University.

In 1899, Manwaring started a three-year mission in Australia. He then mixed personal education and teaching for several years until, in 1911, he received his B.A. degree from Brigham Young University in Provo. After teaching English at Provo for three years, he joined the Ricks College faculty in Rexburg, Idaho, as Head of the English Department.

Manwaring’s very first views of the campus and the town depressed him. He later wrote, “I stood lonely and very depressed and silently shed tears to think I was bringing my dear wife and children to this place.” But then, somehow, “I suddenly seemed to catch the spirit of the pioneers, and to dream of the great potentials that lay before me.”

Next, he met the “vigorous” student body, who “looked energetic and eager to work at any task that was hard and challenging.” In the end, he wrote, “I left Rexburg happy and enthusiastic with the potentials I saw and experienced.”

When Ricks became a junior college in 1923, Manwaring served as Head of the Department of Psychology and Education. That same year he received his Master’s degree from BYU-Provo. He also acted as Summer School Director while then-President Romney attended graduate school, and later taught some of the first night classes provided at Ricks.

In 1929, the Ricks Board of Education offered Manwaring the job of Acting President. At the time, the family had sold their Idaho property and moved to Washington, D. C., where Hyrum planned to attend George Washington University. Manwaring took some time to consider his options before accepting the position. His tenure was soon made permanent.

Over the next decade, Manwaring's faith and natural optimism must have been sorely tried. Budgets had always been tight, and even before he assumed the Presidency rumors abounded that the school would be closed. This being the depths of the Great Depression, the LDS Church found it couldn't give the school away. The state of Idaho said they couldn't afford to run it.

To survive at all, as a church or state institution, Ricks needed full accreditation. With that, earned credits could be transferred wherever a student might want to go. Hyrum pushed hard to upgrade programs, and to convince the accrediting body that they provided a quality education. Finally, despite its uncertain future, the college received the coveted certification in April 1936.

The following year, the school began to receive better funding from Church authorities. Even so, rumors about a possible closure continued to surface whenever finances were particularly tight. Finally, in the spring of 1940, school officials received word that there would be no further attempts to give the school away.
Student Center. BYU-Idaho photo.

As with most colleges and universities, Ricks had to substantially step up recruitment during World War II. Even so, male enrollment for the fall of 1943 showed a dramatic decline.

In 1944, Manwaring made his last commencement address as College President. He continued teaching at Ricks for almost a decade, and then taught part-time until he passed away in 1956. Today, his memory is honored at BYU-Idaho in the Manwaring Student Center.
                                                                                 
References: [Defen]
David L. Crowder, The Spirit of Ricks: A History of Ricks College, Ricks College Press, Rexburg, Idaho (1997).
“Hyrum and Bessie Manwaring,” The Presidents and First Ladies, Brigham Young University – Idaho.
Jerry C. Roundy, Ricks College: A Struggle for Survival, Ricks College Press, Rexburg (1976).

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