Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson, center, laughs at a comment along with Sen. Orrin Hatch, left, and Greg Curtis, speaker of the Utah House, during Tuesday's dedication of Utah Valley University, formerly UVSC, in Orem.

OREM — With an enthusiastic eye to the future, Utah Valley University bid a formal farewell to its status as a state college Tuesday.

About 1,000 people gathered to listen as President Thomas S. Monson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offered a dedicatory prayer at the newly named school. Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, shared their thoughts about the school's advancement to university status, along with several other politicians.

"Literally thousands of students have benefited from this institution," President Monson said.

His remarks emphasized the importance of getting an education. During the dedicatory prayer, he blessed UVU students that they "might recognize the privilege they have to study and learn."

There is no room in this economy, President Monson said, for unskilled laborers.

"'The uneducated need not apply' is the unseen sign on every employment door," he said.

The dedication, which also celebrated the completion of the Digital Learning Center, reminded the church leader of another ceremony he was involved in at the Orem campus.

Thirty-three years ago he watched as the school's first president, Wilson Sorenson, turned the soil, marking the start of construction. At the time, the school was known as Utah Technical College at Provo. President Monson was a member of the State Board of Regents.

"I've been to a lot of dedications here and there," he said, with a half-smile. "Never one quite like this first groundbreaking, though."

Sorenson was tardy to that first groundbreaking and rode in on a horse at the last second. He hitched the horse to the bleachers that had been set up for the ceremony and grabbed the shovel, President Monson said.

"I call him a pioneer," he said. Sorenson and others who worked to bring the valley's humble vocational school up to university standards "have shown us the way to follow," he said.

Herbert agreed. He has been involved with UVU, he said, since he chased lizards through the sand hills of the historic Bunnell farm before it became the Orem campus. He took classes there as a high school student.

"These kinds of things happen because of the good works of many people coming together," he said. "We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before."

All of the school's past presidents were in attendance. President Monson took a moment to congratulate Wilson Sorenson, who was president for 37 years, before taking the stand. He playfully placed a UVU hat on his head.

"This marks the end of a long journey," said Sorenson, 92, after the ceremony. "I had a dream of what this school could be. It's very rewarding to see it grow in this way."

The school's promotion to university status may be the end of one journey, but it marks the beginning of a new one, said John Valentine, president of the Utah State Senate.

"Today is the first day of Utah Valley University," he said. "The chalkboards are blank. We have a clean slate, a slate upon which we can determine what time of university this will become."

Hatch expressed his faith that UVU will do the state proud.

"Utah is a state that stands for the opportunities that come through education," he said. "This great university is going to be one of the great pillars of our state education."

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