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Behind the decision to rename LDS Business College as Ensign College

SHARE Behind the decision to rename LDS Business College as Ensign College
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Bruce Kusch, LDS Business College president, is photographed in his office in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — You might think it was obvious that LDS Business College announced Tuesday that it will change its name to Ensign College because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is dropping acronyms like “LDS.”

It was not.

President Russell M. Nelson, the church’s leader, announced in August 2018 that the church and its members should use the full name of the church rather than nicknames and acronyms, which led to changes, including for iconic brands like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, now the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.

Eighteen months later some thought LDS Business College was overdue. The school’s chief executive, President Bruce Kusch, said Tuesday that he initially thought the same thing.

“There was not a directive from the First Presidency that the name should change, actually, which was a little surprising,” he told the Deseret News. “We were told initially it was not necessary. I went back and I reread President Nelson’s closing comments in the October 2018 general conference where he talked about the appropriate use of the Savior’s name in his church and I thought, ‘Well, we’re not a church. We’re affiliated with the church, but we’re not a church.’ And so, I was at peace with that.”

There were different reasons that changing the school’s name has been an off-and-on proposition for at least the past four years, Kusch said.

“We were the catalyst for suggesting that our name should change, because there was some confusion about what we did as an institution,” he said. “It was not uncommon for someone to hear our name and say, ‘Well, I’m not interested in business, therefore I won’t consider LDS Business College,’ when there are other programs, other things that we do besides business.”

The discussions began in earnest six months ago, spurred by two developing changes at the school. First, the two-year LDS Business College would add several four-year degrees. Second, it would begin to provide much of its curriculum to students around the world via BYU-Pathway Worldwide.

“The First Presidency concurred that with these other adjustments, if there was to be a name change, that this was the right time to change the name, as a part of all these things that we were going to be doing,” Kusch said.

The committees involved never considered adding BYU to the name, as was done when Ricks College became BYU-Idaho and transitioned from a two-year school to a four-year school in 2000.

“We deliberately did not use BYU in the name,” Kusch said, “to remain separate and distinct and so we would not be confused with the four-year institutions the church has — BYU, BYU-Idaho and BYU-Hawaii.

“We settled on Ensign College because we felt that it symbolized so much of what we do, that it would be something that we would be able to use as an anchor and a rallying point for what we hope to achieve as an institution. We hope that wherever our students go, they are a standard of righteousness and goodness and everything that the gospel represents.”

Kusch said school leaders considered naming options and reviewed them with members of the school’s board of trustees, which consists of the First Presidency, members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and general authorities and general officers of the church.

The board approved the name change on Feb. 12.

Kusch said adding four-year degrees is not mission creep and will not interfere with any other schools in the Church Educational System or the state.

“The whole idea is to complement what is already happening,” he said.

The school’s recent emphasis has been to offer education and training in areas not covered by local universities but needed by local employers. The four-year degrees will continue to fulfill that mission.

For example, “No Utah school and no church school offers a program to train certified management accountants,” he said. “That will probably be the first business-related, four-year degree we’ll offer.”

The name Ensign College, then, gives the school the opportunity to rebrand, Kusch said.

“These changes will bless our students now, bless our students in the future and (because of the partnership with BYU-Pathway Worldwide) bless students we’ll never see here on campus.”