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History written on walls at Logan Institute of Religion

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LOGAN - About a year ago, while making a routine exit from his office, Wayne Dymock came upon a scene that almost made him cry. The director of the Logan LDS Institute of Religion saw four children standing in a hallway with their mother, who appeared emotional. "This is where I saw your father for the first time," he heard the mother say. "She was almost in tears," Dymock said. "It about put me in tears. So many memories are in this building." It all began in 1928, when the church's fledgling institute program put down its first Utah roots in this agricultural valley. Since then, the Logan institute has held firm. And oh how it has grown. From the small building that offered two classes for 114 students to the expansive structure that today serves nearly 7,000, the Logan institute stands as a historic landmark that reflects the progress of the college educational program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But its influence extends well beyond these often-remodeled walls. For almost 80 years, the Logan LDS Institute of Religion has been cultivating a spirit of service — not only within the hearts of its students, but throughout the surrounding Cache Valley community as well. THE INSTITUTE BUILDING adjacent to Utah State University always has been a work in progress — and it's not difficult to distinguish the new from the old. Wide, windowed walkways full of natural light lead into narrow, poorly lit hallways covered with beige paint. The chairs and table in the faculty room look like 1800s antiques, while the student lounge is surrounded by brick walls that give the feel of a 1980s ward meetinghouse. Even the exterior is representative of different eras. The building-block approach is something the faculty and students are proud of. "It started with just a portion of this building, and then they added on and added on," said Corey Killpack, an instructor who came to Logan from the University of Michigan. "This is one of the great and traditional institute programs in the church." When the Logan institute celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2003, the theme was "Founded in Faith." A commemorative edition of the class schedule featured old photos, an extensive history compiled by John L. Fowles and a poem written by Thomas M. Cherrington, which described the institute as built "brick upon brick" and evolving into "something grand." Fowles and Cherrington are institute instructors. According to Fowles' account, Logan is home to the church's oldest functioning institute building. Since the original structure was dedicated on Easter Sunday in 1929 by LDS Church President Heber J. Grant, it has gone through six major additions and remodeling projects. Dymock jokes that students probably are more familiar with construction workers than faculty members. One hall, in particular, tells the story. With the building coming together in several phases, each wing has its own theme. "History Hall" is adorned with images of the past, beginning when USU zoology professor W.W. Henderson took a leave of absence from teaching and established the Logan institute. At the time, the only other LDS institute was in Moscow, Idaho. The hall features photos of past faculty members, images of the building in its various stages and portraits of the 13 individuals who have served as institute director. There is also a photo of the first graduating class in 1935, which featured 21 students. The building's library is the largest in the state for an institute and features a collection of rare books, in its own protective area. There is also a copy of an original Book of Mormon in a display case. Another distinguishing feature of the building is original artwork. Dymock said artists request to have their works showcased at the institute, and at various times there have been original paintings of high value. One hard-to-miss piece in the student lounge is a 10-by-26-foot mural of the Sacred Grove, painted by USU alumnus Kent Wallis. But the traditions established in Logan aren't all physical. According to Dymock, the institute once saw 18 teachers retire in a three-year span. He referred to those instructors, some who taught for as many as 28 years, as "great pillars." "There was just a real strong tradition of teaching excellence ... just some men who were just experts in their field," Dymock said. "We've got new teachers who are very strong as well and are kind of carrying on that tradition." Several general authorities have attended USU, including three current apostles, President Boyd K. Packer, Elder L. Tom Perry and Elder Quentin L. Cook. Elder Perry spoke at the institute's 50-year anniversary celebration. "Every time I enter its doors, my mind is flooded with rich memories," Elder Perry said during his address. "For 50 years what has happened within the walls of the institute has influenced lives for good." WHEN BILLY KAUFMAN first entered those doors, he had a different feeling. "I was lost," said Kaufman, who grew up in the small town of Driggs, Idaho. "I was literally lost walking around a building this big and overwhelmed by how many kids were LDS in the same spot." Just off a mission and unaccustomed to being around so many people, Kaufman said he "felt really small." But the senior majoring in landscape architecture quickly made friends out of most of those strangers. "Now I feel like I know everybody," said Kaufman, now enrollment vice president for the Latter-day Saint Student Association. "I've brought the small town back to me." For the thousands of LDS students who have left their families to live on this residential campus, the institute building is like home. According to Dymock, 40 percent of the enrolled students are freshmen. They study here, they nap here, they socialize here and, of course, they eat here. Each Friday afternoon following the weekly devotional, hundreds of students line up in the cultural hall to purchase lunch for a dollar. After the food is gone, the students remain to put away tables and chairs and clean up the gymnasium. It's an activity that reflects two prominent ideals of the program; socializing and service. "Over here, it's all about making people feel welcome," said Tycee Brown, a junior from Orem majoring in elementary education. Brown, who is the institute's student council secretary, said the student leadership recently made the decision to serve those already attending institute rather than focus exclusively on recruiting efforts. So one morning, they baked cinnamon rolls and handed one to each person who entered the building. According to students, the instructors help set that standard. Amy Stoddard, a senior from Orem majoring in nursing, said faculty members make a genuine effort to help students feel accepted. "Within the first couple of weeks most of the teachers would know me by name," Stoddard said. LDSSA president Cam Lee said he notices a "huge difference" in the students who are willing to get involved in institute and sacrifice of their time. "If you give that free time to serving, your life is so much more enriched," Lee said. "That's what life's all about. "I've always felt that since I walked into the institute. People are here for you.... You feel that from the faculty and students. They're looking for a way to serve." IT'S A SPIRIT of service and unity that extends throughout the valley, a place that, according to Dymock, has a way of drawing people in. Growing up on a farm in the small town of Clover, Tooele County, Dymock fell in love with the university while attending a Future Farmers of America event in Logan as a high school student. He attended USU and eventually left the state to pursue his career, but Dymock and his wife determined that if they ever were to return to Utah, they wanted to settle in Cache Valley. In Dymock's view, the mountains surrounding the valley create an enclosed community where the towns and university are inseparable. "It creates a feeling of oneness in the valley, and the valley is very proud of their university," Dymock said. "They love Utah State. They have a long tradition of being very supportive of the university." The predominantly LDS community is also "behind the institute," said Curtis Jacobs, an instructor in Logan for the past 16 years. "This particular valley is extremely conservative, and I don't mean just politically," said Jacobs, who like Dymock attended school at USU. "The traditional Mormon influence hasn't been really lost." One avenue through which the community lends a helping hand is priesthood leadership, which Dymock describes as "tremendous." For example, the presidents of the university stakes take the time to meet regularly with institute leaders and coordinate activities to assure there are no conflicts. "They're sold on this program, and it's just a great blessing," Dymock said. Several educational and service opportunities are products of the relationship between the community and the Logan institute. According to Lee, a USU student who also attended high school in Cache Valley, it's a mutually beneficial arrangement. "When they're thinking of volunteers, when they're thinking of service ... institute pops up in their minds as a resource for the community," said Lee, whose LDSSA organization is active in projects such as blood drives and sub-for-Santa. Singing is another means by which the program's voice is heard outside the institute. In 1957, the Delta Phi Chorus, started by a returned-missionary fraternity, served as "ambassadors of good will for the institute," according to Fowles' account. Today, there are two choirs that serve the same purpose. One is open to any interested student and consists of 200 to 300 members. The other, an elite choir called "Latter-day Voices," has 56 members and represents the institute throughout the community and country by giving firesides. The choir annually embarks on a tour to locations such as Montana, Florida and Texas. But last year, the group elected to stay in Cache Valley and visit local LDS seminaries to promote the institute program. Corey Keate, a USU student from Centerville who has been president of Latter-day Voices for the past two years, calls it a "missionary choir." "It gets them excited about joining institute," Keate said. The community involvement isn't limited to outreach programs. Each institute class usually includes one or two adults who aren't university students. Although they're allowed on a limited basis, Dymock said, the institute appreciates the contributions of these community members. "It brings a good flavor to have just a few adults," Dymock said. "We have a lot of retired couples who will come and study." At the end of each academic year, high school seniors are invited to attend an activity at the institute that includes dancing and food. And when the campus conducts its annual orientation week for freshmen, the institute booth is always "a main attraction," Killpack said. In his view, the students at the Logan institute are nothing short of phenomenal. Killpack, who grew up in Salt Lake City and attended BYU before eventually working in Ann Arbor, Mich., speaks highly of the Logan institute and its surrounding area. He's only in his second year as an instructor in Logan but suggests the positive impact of the community has a discernible effect. "Cache Valley's a great place," Killpack said. "It's just a faithful community, and I find that with the students on campus." LOGAN INSTITUTE HISTORICAL FACTS - The Logan LDS Institute of Religion was the first institute established in Utah. The first institute in the church was formed in 1926 in Moscow, Idaho, under the direction of J. Wyley Sessions. - Utah State University alumni include President Ezra Taft Benson, Elder David B. Haight, President Boyd K. Packer, Elder L. Tom Perry and Elder Quentin L. Cook. - Utah State University was home to the first LDSSA, with Richard Eyre as its first president, in 1966. - Bible Literature and Moral Philosophy were the first classes offered when the institute began in 1928. - Future general authority Milton R. Hunter was hired in 1936. Before then, the only instructor at the institute was its director, Thomas C. Romney. Source: Logan LDS Institute of Religion