Thirty-three years ago, an LDS apostle named Thomas S. Monson stood on 185 empty Orem acres for the groundbreaking of a new campus for Utah Technical College, which provided critical training for workers at Geneva Steel.
Over the ensuing decades, he beamed with pride every time he drove by the campus as it grew larger and larger, first becoming Utah Valley Community College, then Utah Valley State College.
His responsibilities advanced, too, as he joined the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This year, the two reached new milestones. President Monson, upon the death of President Gordon B. Hinckley, became the church's president. In nine days, UVSC will reach the highest rung of Utah higher education and become Utah Valley University.
Sources say they'll celebrate together again. President Monson is scheduled to join the grand celebration as UVSC becomes UVU on June 30 in a series of events dubbed UVUphoria.
The school and the church declined to confirm President Monson's plans, but multiple sources reported that he has accepted UVU's invitation.
"He has been invited and we would be honored if he would come," said Val Hale, the school's vice president for marketing and community relations. "He was here for the groundbreaking in 1975 and he was here last year when Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. signed the bill that authorized university status.
"We'd love to have him here for the official celebration."
Hale learned of President Monson's soft spot for Utah Valley Tech/C.C./State/University a couple of years ago when he accompanied school President William Sederburg to Salt Lake City to visit with the First Presidency about the proposed change to university status.
President Monson related the story of his days on the Utah Board of Regents in the 1970s when the board approved the purchase of the new campus.
Last year, when UVSC invited the church to send a representative for the bill signing, President Monson came.
President Monson is scheduled to appear at the 10 a.m. official celebration of the name change, which will double as a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new UVU library, one more addition to a sprawling campus now bursting at the seams of those original 185 acres.
UVU has altered one part of the schedule for UVUphoria. The Orem Owlz minor league baseball team was scheduled to play a special 11:30 a.m. game on June 30 as part of the festivities, but the game has been moved up a day to June 29 at 4 p.m. as part of a doubleheader.
The move provides more time for sound and stage crews to set up for UVUphoria's main act, the 8 p.m. concert featuring country music stars Collin Raye, Joe Nichols and Josh Gracin at Brent Brown Ballpark.
The concert will be followed by fireworks at the ballpark and a dance on the adjacent tennis courts. Tickets are available at the McKay Events Center on campus and all Smith's Tix locations.For more information, visit www.uvu.edu.
Utah County Bureau Chief Tad Walch lives with his wife and five children in Provo, their home for the past 21 years. E-mail [email protected]