ST. GEORGE — When officials of Dixie State College first asked Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints if they could name a new 170,000-square foot building in his honor, his answer was an emphatic "no."
"I refused and said, 'We are not going to do that,' " he recalled Friday during dedication services for the Jeffrey R. Holland Centennial Commons building.
In fact, Elder Holland — a 1963 graduate of Dixie College —called seeing his name on the state-of-the-art building in St. George "the most embarrassing" thing that ever happened to him.
But he eventually relented and allowed the building to bear his name because he realized the structure and the campus it stands on are for Dixie State College students.
"It is a commons building for a common student, with common dreams and a common life and maybe uncommon hope," he said. "I was humbled because no more common student from any more common background with any more common resources ever attended Dixie State than me. I thought the least I could do was lend a name to those thousands and thousands of students whose lives were blessed to change because they came here without a cent in their pocket, but with hope in their hearts."
Elder Holland added, "If it could just say Dixie student on the building, that was and is my preference."
But President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency of the LDS Church, said college administrators couldn't have chosen a better name.
"Jeffrey R. Holland — a deserving name and title for the Centennial Commons at Dixie State College," President Uchtdorf said.
Government officials, state educators, donors, community members and Dixie students attended services in which President Uchtdorf dedicated the Jeffrey R. Holland Centennial Commons building Friday. The $38 million building will serve as the centerpiece of the Dixie State campus, located in the heart of St. George's historic Encampment Mall.
During brief remarks, President Uchtdorf praised Elder Holland for his "unique blend of wit, warmth, selflessness and spirituality."
"Wherever he goes, whomever he meets, people feel that they are his very best friends," he said of Elder Holland. "And in many ways, they really are."
Elder Holland grew up in southern Utah. "Dixie is where it all started as Jeff headed out into an unknown world as a searching young man."
President Uchtdorf also paid tribute to Patricia Holland — "a perfect companion" for Elder Holland.
"Can anyone tell me why this wasn't named the Jeffrey R. and Patricia Holland building," President Uchtdorf said.
The couple's work and service includes education, service to God and service to mankind, he said. "They continuously encourage young people to love learning, to live high moral values, and to be a positive influence to the world," President Uchtdorf said. "This is their trademark — and it is a perfect formula for the world's challenges today."
During brief remarks, Elder Holland expressed gratitude for the "red rock foundation" in his life and said he was "touched beyond expression" that such a "generous, generous gesture has been made."
Elder Holland said one of the greatest blessings he ever received was to be born and raised in a wonderful family in Utah's Dixie.
Dixie President Stephen Nadauld said the building was constructed to be "filled with light;" 40 percent of the building's exterior is made of glass.
In addition, the exterior features the "red rock" prominent in southern Utah. He said the red rock of the area is a reminder of the "fortitude of predecessors that have made this day possible."
He also noted that the facility will help the college move into the future and serve a growing number of students.
Utah Lt. Gov. Greg Bell said naming a building after a person keeps the values alive the person cherishes. "We name buildings for people, I think, not enough," he said. "Today we are naming a building for a man because of his personality, his life and his values."
At a glance
Construction: 15 months
Cost: $38 million
Square feet: 170,000
Departments: library, information technology, students services, business services
26 group study rooms and 6 classrooms
40 percent glass exterior
179 miles of electrical wiring used in the building
5,482.25 yards of concrete
Exterior: Kanab stone from a stone quarry east of Kanab