November 18, 2014
Five years ago, when BYU-Pathway was still more revelation than reality, a newly consolidated Online Learning team met together at Rigby Hall on the BYU-Idaho campus to oversee the beginning of something new and inspired. They shared lunch, enjoyed art, and hung a large map that would keep track of all the PathwayConnect sites that they hoped would soon cover the world.
They also planted a tree.
It was a very modest specimen, thin, with skinny, wispy branches and not too much taller than a human being, but it was with faith that the assembled team took turns supplying soil to the sapling, believing that one day this new life would become a mighty tree of its kind — the Burr Oak — spreading its branches out to all the world — just like they hoped PathwayConnect would do.
The seeds we’re planting today will grow… and their branches will run all over the earth.
“When PathwayConnect started, we were hopeful, enthusiastic, and maybe a little uncertain,” said Lynne Landon, one of the two original BYU-Pathway staff members. “It took faith and a lot of trial and error to launch PathwayConnect. It was a pilot program and we didn’t know if it would succeed, but we knew we had an opportunity to do something great.”
Much like BYU-Pathway, the Burr Oak has certain attributes that make it very special. It stands by itself and can resist fire and drought thanks to its bark and deep taproot. It provides the largest acorns of any North American oak in bounteous numbers, providing food for a wide array of animals from black bears to caterpillars. The Burr Oak grows slowly for hundreds of years, but from its humble beginning as an acorn can mature up to 100 feet high with a trunk as thick as nine feet (2.7 meters). It was the perfect symbol to commemorate BYU-Idaho’s new journey to bring education to the world. It also further completed the vision of Jacob Spori — the first principal of Bannock Stake Academy (the forerunner of BYU-Idaho), when on November 12, 1888, he stated: “The seeds we’re planting today will grow and become mighty oaks, and their branches will run all over the earth.”
Just like the tree, great things are brought to pass by small and simple means, and it is from such a small beginning that BYU-Pathway has grown from a simple acorn to having branches that are beginning to stretch throughout the world from Rhode Island to Rome1, with eager students enjoying the fruits of education and the Spirit. And just like the Burr Oak sapling, there is so much more room to grow, deepening the spiritual and educational roots of students all over the world.