In an emotional farewell address, Ricks College president, Joe J. Christensen, newly called to the First Quorum of the Seventy, counseled students at commencement services to continue practicing the college's Code of Honor throughout their lives.
Elder Christensen, president of the Church-owned junior college for four years, addressed the students on April 27 for the last time as president. The next day, it was announced that Dr. Steven D. Bennion, former president of Snow College in Ephriam, Utah, would succeed Elder Christensen as Ricks College president.Elder Christensen's parting counsel added a personal touch to the school's Centennial Commencement ceremonies, which concluded the college's yearlong centennial celebration. In addition to Elder Christensen, another new General Authority, Elder F. Melvin Hammon of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, was bidding adieu to the college. Elder Hammond has been a member of the school's faculty.
A light snow fell during the graduation ceremonies, providing extra emphasis to the promise of commencement speaker, Barbara Winder, that the students could weather any storm as they journeyed through life. Sister Winder is general president of the Relief Society.
Other visiting dignitaries included C. Elliot Cameron, commissioner of the Church Educational System, and several state and local officials. On April 26, Barbara Perry, wife of Elder L. Tom Perry of the Council of the Twelve, took part in the traditional pinning ceremonies for 51 nursing graduates.
In his remarks, Elder Christensen told the 1,500 graduates that they'll be happier and more successful if they continue practicing the college's Code of Honor throughout their lives.
"Every standard of dress, grooming and conduct . . . is based on enduring principles," he said.
He reiterated his philosophy that a student who has done well at Ricks College will do well anywhere he goes. "You have become like our own sons and daughters. We love you like family, and we are very concerned about what you do with your lives."
Elder Christensen offered his predictions for the college's next 100 years, saying the educational programs will be strengthened and kept current; high standards of decency, modesty and high principles will be maintained; students will make their mark in a much more challenging era and affect the world for good; andthe principles taught at the college will never change.
Sister Winder focused her address on the students' trek to reach new summits.
"Yes, there is pain and hard work involved in the climb," she declared. "No one can travel your journey for you. And just as Ricks College has imposed certain requirements for your graduation, so will others do likewise as you commence now to continue your upward journey of eternal progression."
Along the path, help will be provided by support systems, such as parents, friends, teachers and leaders, she explained. The most reliable help, however, is the companionship of the Holy Ghost who is available at all times, especially when others cannot offer assistance.
Sister Winder offered the following suggestions as "signs" to aid the graduates on their journey:
- Learn to make wise decisions. "How essential it is to make decisions anchored in gospel principles! By seeking the guidance of the Spirit we can be assured of divine help," she said.
- Have a desire for a strong marriage and family. "These are not easily achieved in today's world where "siren sounds" of materialism, infidelity and carnal-mindedness pull us toward selfishness and pride. The family is in criticalcondition."
- Maintain integrity. "Integrity is far more than just being honest," she explained. "When temptations and challenges arise, we behave in accordance with the principles we have trained ourselves to live by."
- Do not fear the unknown. "Enjoy your journey. There is a lifetime of mountains to climb, summits yet to reach. . . . Tomorrow you graduates will begin a fresh start on another summit."