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Elder Ballard rededicates BYU's McDonald Building

Church apostle hails technology — also offers advice

PROVO — A building constructed when telephones were just starting to become commonplace in American homes has been rebuilt to help maintain Brigham Young University's high-tech global connections.

An updated version of the 46-year-old Howard S. McDonald Building, which will be used mostly by BYU's Office of Information Technology, was rededicated Tuesday by officials at the school owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"It is amazing to contemplate what has happened with technology," said Elder M. Russell Ballard, the church apostle who gave the dedicatory address and prayer after speaking to students at the weekly BYU devotional.

While praising technology — which the church heartily uses to spread its religious message — he cautioned against being "captured by technology" to the point of forgetting traditional means.

The 19,200-square-foot building on the south edge of campus is named after the university's eighth president, who oversaw explosive growth at BYU when ex-soldiers returned to school after World War II.

In the spring of 1945, enrollment at the university totaled 2,200. But the student body swelled to 4,500 students when fall semester started.

McDonald responded to the enrollment surge by installing temporary buildings — many of them Army surplus — throughout campus. Some are still standing.

He had stepped down as president by the time the McDonald Building was constructed. It was originally built to house the ROTC program and the student health clinic.

"At one time, it was used for complete clinical and hospital in-patient care but later became an outpatient facility," said Gene Libutti of BYU's planning office. With the completion of the new BYU health center near the church's Missionary Training Center, the McDonald Building was remodeled to house the customer service division of Information Technology Services, said Libutti.

The two-story structure has undergone a major mechanical-electrical-seismic upgrade. Work started in July 1999 and was completed last semester. The information-technology office is made up of about 700 full- and part-time employees. The department is responsible for campus computer and telecommunications services.