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Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
BYU landscape architect Bruce Maw lays out plants as work continues on Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni and Visitors Center.

PROVO — LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley will celebrate his 97th birthday Saturday at the dedication of a new Brigham Young University building named for him.

A year ago, President Hinckley celebrated his 96th birthday by turning the first dirt at the groundbreaking for the $35 million Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni and Visitors Center.

Saturday's dedication is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. in the Hinckley Center. President Hinckley's son, Elder Richard G. Hinckley of the First Quorum of the Seventy, will offer the dedicatory prayer. A brief time-capsule ceremony and tours of the new building will follow the dedication.

The event will be broadcast live on KBYU-TV, BYU Radio and KBYU-FM. Seating in the Hinckley Center will be limited, but the ceremony will be broadcast on campus in the Varsity Theater and the Joseph Smith Building Auditorium.

"Like its namesake, this building will be a blessing to this university," BYU President Cecil Samuelson said in a prepared statement. "It is proper that this particular building be named for him as a token of love, respect and appreciation for all he has done, does and will do for BYU."

On Tuesday, workers swarmed the building, laying sod and otherwise preparing for Saturday's festivities, putting the finishing touches on the lightning-quick, 12-month project.

Okland Construction and Span Construction and Engineering built the center.

The massive building now dominates the BYU skyline for visitors who look toward the crest of the hill as they drive up 1230 North to campus after passing the famous "Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve" sign.

That's what university officials intended when they proposed a new "front gate" to the campus that would draw visitors and alumni — and honor President Hinckley, who has presided over The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for a dozen years.

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More than 70,000 people donated money for the construction of the monument to President Hinckley, according to byu.edu. More than 8,000 students are among the donors, as are 49,000 BYU alumni.

BYU boosters Ira and Mary Lou Fulton matched student donations five-to-one, and faculty and staff donations one-to-one. The BYU President's Leadership Council matched alumni donations one-to-one.

The university quietly began to raise funds for the building in October 2005. The BYU Board of Trustees approved the building in November 2005.

The building's 83,000 square feet cover the land where the former Alumni House had stood since 1961.


E-mail: twalch@desnews.com