“BYU–Hawaii Celebrates Golden Anniversary,” Liahona, July 2005, N9–N10
On February 7, 1921, more than 34 years before ground was broken for the Church College of Hawaii (now known as Brigham Young University—Hawaii), President David O. McKay (1873–1970) attended flag-raising and devotional exercises at the Laie Mission School.
Upon seeing more than 100 children of different races singing and praying together, President McKay envisioned a Church-owned school of higher learning that would some day complement the recently finished Laie Hawaii Temple, making Laie the spiritual and educational center of the Church in the Pacific.
Fifty years after President McKay presided over the groundbreaking for the school, BYU–Hawaii is commemorating a half-century of educational and spiritual training that has been enjoyed by thousands of students.
In commemoration of the school’s 50th anniversary, BYU–Hawaii is holding a yearlong celebration that will honor the school’s rich tradition and look forward as the university enters its second half-century.
“It’s a time for us not only to look back,” said Robert Wakefield, BYU–Hawaii director of university communications, “but we’re also using this time to look forward to the future.”
While the celebration will continue throughout the year, the highlight of the school’s golden anniversary will be Jubilee Week, which will run from October 16 to 23. During the eight-day celebration, there will be visits from Church leaders, alumni speakers, special dances, a barbecue, a luau, a laser light show, and dozens of other activities.
One of the more significant activities will be a reenactment of the flag raising and devotional that evoked such strong feelings in President McKay’s heart and mind years ago.
In addition to the activities that will take place during Jubilee Week, the school has also scheduled events all year long that will have a “Golden Jubilee” theme to them. While the school has always had devotionals, concerts, and other activities, a special effort is being made this year to allow these events to center around the anniversary.
Brother Wakefield said the university is trying to make the celebration include not only current students and alumni, but also people who live near the university—particularly those who have been around since the school’s inception.
“We’re excited,” he said. “Some people have been around here for the whole 50 years. We started off with 20 faculty members and 70 to 80 students. These people have seen that evolve into a university with 2,400 students from 70 countries.”
While the school has blessed the surrounding community, the effects of the school go far beyond the state of Hawaii.
When President McKay broke ground for the school, he said the school was being built for two purposes: first, for things “pertaining to God and His Kingdom,” and second, to help people “develop manhood, character, and make noble men and women” (“Genuine Gold,” Internet, http://w2.byuh.edu/jubilee/genuine_ gold.php).
Brother Wakefield said the school’s significance can be seen in the leaders it produces around the world.
“The school has been mandated to prepare leaders for Asia and the Pacific,” he said.
Brother Wakefield said that at one time in Tonga there were 12 stakes, and each of the 12 stake presidents was a graduate of BYU–Hawaii.
Despite the success in educating and preparing leaders from Polynesian countries, Brother Wakefield said it is equally important for the school to educate students from Asia.
In many Japanese universities, young people who want to serve missions for the Church have to pay tuition to the university to hold their places at the school while they serve their missions, Brother Wakefield said.
At BYU–Hawaii, young men can serve missions, and a spot will be held for them. This allows them to serve missions with all their heart without having to worry about extra financial obligations or losing a spot at school.
While the school helps its students, the effects of the teaching done there are felt on a broader scale. In 1994 Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles echoed the words of President McKay, who said that the university would affect people in many places.
“There will be even wider radiating effects which pulsate outward from this place as the Lord makes His facilitating moves on the checkerboard of the nations,” Elder Maxwell said. “[Indeed] tens of thousands in the world who will never set foot on this campus will be blessed and served by the thousands who have been blessed to be here” (“Inauguration,” Internet, http://www.byuh.edu/about/president/inauguration/maxwell.jsp).
More information about BYU–Hawaii and a full listing of Golden Jubilee activities may be found on the school’s Web site, www.byuh.edu.