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The Airing of Their Ways

The U provides safe haven for mind-expanding views of the day.

by W. David Smith

When I was a youngster in the '50s I heard a masterful speech at the University of Utah that changed my life. I was at a crossroads in my development and had no idea a person could be so bright and the world so fascinating. The University's place at the "crossroads of the West" offers a rare advantage for us because world-shapers can visit campus readily on their way from coast to coast. I've since heard hundreds of lectures and speeches on the hill, but I am, alas, far short of the numbers that have enlightened many through the years.

I wish I could have heard the life-changing speeches that gave unanimous approval from the Utah Legislature a century ago to build the U in its current location-or listened to the pioneer leaders establish the U 50 years before that. But a sweep through the University's history via the public forum shows much about this place and why we have so much cause for celebration at the University's sesquicentennial.

In the beginning, faculty lectured singly, though often. The first series for students and the public began by happenstance when Professor George Q. Coray, librarian, organized lectures about the library in 1882-83. They became popular and diverse-"the best local thought on the leading topics of the day," the Utah Chronicle said.

When John A. Widtsoe became president in 1916, he did so during the most controversial period in the University's history. The U had become the first institution to be censured by the American Association of University Professors. The issue was academic freedom; President Kingsbury, under broad protest, had fired several faculty whose beliefs were dissimilar to his.

President Widtsoe, himself hired under protest, used the choice of visiting speakers as a means of reuniting alumni, the campus, and the community. He said that students should have the opportunity to hear "men and women who are doing things in the world....Persons of national significance who pass through Salt Lake City will in the future be invited to the University to address the student body." His policy, along with a general affirmation of the principle of academic freedom, allowed for anyone to speak on campus, upon approval of any three members of a committee he appointed. He also created, in 1917, the Master Minds lecture series under the directorship of Frederick W. Reynolds.

If the Great War upset many of President Widtsoe's immediate hopes for the University, its cessation and the new campus gave the University a huge leap forward, beginning with the Thomas presidency. Among the first Master Minds to speak was the Irish poet William Butler Yeats. (A Bryn Mawr professor had called him the most vital presence at that university in 15 years.) The world outside Utah became a steady presence as visiting speakers appeared on campus throughout many subsequent series.

In 1936, following the death of Professor Reynolds, an annual lecture was established in his name. Reynolds was the first full-time director of what is now Academic Outreach and Continuing Education, which continues to sponsor this popular lecture. Faculty members selected to give the speech have latitude to select their topics. To attend one is to hear echoes of more than six decades of legendary faculty.

Following World War II, the University saw immense growth. The Tyndale lecture was established in 1945 in honor of Dr. William R. Tyndale, a lecturer in the School of Medicine for 31 years and instrumental in its conversion to a four-year program in 1943. The Department of Philosophy began a series of monthly forums in 1946 that became the Great Issues series, and eventually, in 1976, the Tanner Lectures in Human Values. The Tanner Lectures exist at several of the world's greatest universities. They are presented and published annually through the generosity of Professor O.C. BA'29 JD'36 and Grace A. ex'35 Tanner.

Over time, speeches at the U became extraordinarily diverse. Henry Eyring BS'55 predicted at the 1946 inauguration of President Olpin that the stature of the U and the fortunes of the state and nation would rise through the advancement of science and technology. The Frontiers of Science and several departmental lecture series chronicle such developments. Eleanor Roosevelt on several occasions discussed the United Nations on campus. Esther Peterson, U.S. assistant secretary of labor, in 1962 spoke on "Woman-Power: Our Great Resource for Progress." At the dedication of Marriott Library in 1968, Wallace Stegner BA'30 said, "It is the necessity of the young to challenge and risk. It is the obligation of the old to conserve." Andy Warhol actually sent an imposter to lecture-an Oregon theater student on his way to Italy. (Utah art faculty uncovered the deed.) Robert Fulghum, the author, not only spoke under ASUU sponsorship but also gave the proceeds, more than $17,000, to the University's Bennion Center to support service learning.

Great service and generosity have also made possible lectureships of general appeal in the various disciplines and named for William H. Leary BS'51, Milton Bennion, Arthur L. Beeley, Philip B. Price, David R. Wood BS'64, Rufus Wood Leigh, W.W. Clyde BS'13, Maryam Smith, O. Meredith Wilson JD'62, John F. Fitzpatrick, David E. Miller, William Prokasy, Sterling McMurrin BA'36 MA'37, Hans Hecht BS'46, Max Cowan, Francis Wormuth, Leonard Taboroff, David P. Gardner, John R. Lewis BS'21, George Cartwright, Belle S. Spafford DPLM'14, Alex Oblad BA'33 MA'34, B. Aubrey Fisher, Elliott Organick, Louis Zucker ex'38, William BS'42 and Erlyn BS'42 Gould, Spencer Fox Eccles BS'56, Clifford and Mary M. Snyder, Pete Gardner BS'49 MS'50 PhD'53, Cedric I. Davern, Reza Ali Khazeni BFA'59, Rocco Siciliano BA'44, and Sterling M. McMurrin BA'36 MA'37.

The Alumni Association began its Homecoming lecture series now called "Best of U" in 1960. Students sponsored more than 1,500 speakers in the five years prior to 1971. They created the Challenge series in 1963, which won a first-place award from the National Student Association. The numbers of speeches have grown and waned and grown again with the economy, and privately funded lectureships provide vital stability. Several colleges and departments have special series of long standing. The Hinckley Institute of Politics has brought to campus hundreds of individuals-perhaps more than any other University entity. Director Ted Wilson BS'64 has four favorite speakers: Margaret Thatcher, Hubert Humphrey, Robert Redford, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Who was the first speaker I heard at the University? He was Professor Stanley Mulaik of the Biology Department, and he talked about the origins of genetics, a field in which the University is particularly outstanding. In fact, one can hear at the University frequent lectures in the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Institute of Human Genetics on the latest achievements worldwide.

Should your appetite for stimulating intellectual discussion be whetted, information on many upcoming lectures is available electronically at http://www.utah.edu/calendar/. The Daily Utah Chronicle and FYI are the best general sources for learning about when speeches are given, though many programs, such as the Tanner Humanities Center, also issue calendars of events. On the following page is a sampling of other great voices who have been heard here, at the crossroads of the West.

—W. David Smith BS'66 is an independent writer in Salt Lake City.

They Aired Their Views at the U

Nobel Award winners: John Bardeen, Baruch S. Blumberg, Norman Borlaug, Walter H. Brattain, Joseph Brodsky, Ralph Bunche, Thomas Cech, Jim Cronin, Paul Erlich, Manfred Eigen, Val L. Finch, Jerome I. Friedman, Murray Gell-Mann, Alfred Goodman Gilman, Ronald Hoffman, Robert W. Holley, Martin Luther King, Jr., Arthur Kornberg, Joshua Lederberg, Sinclair Lewis, Willard F. Libby, Salvador E. Luria, Rudolph Mössbauer, Vladimir Prelog, L. James Rainwater, Frank Sherwood Rowland, William Shockley, J. Robert Schrieffer, Kai Siegbahn, Albert Szent-Györgyi, Rabindranath Tagore, Henry Taube, E. Donnall Thomas, Harold C. Urey, George Wald, Lech Walesa, James D. Watson, Kenneth Wilson, and Eugene P. Wigner.

American presidents and candidates: John Anderson, George Bush, Shirley Chisholm, Ron Daniels, Geraldine Ferraro, Gerald R. Ford, Barry Goldwater, Dick Gregory, Gary Hart, Hubert H. Humphrey, John F. Kennedy, Robert F Kennedy, Eugene J. McCarthy, Edmund Muskie, Nelson Rockefeller, George Romney, Robert A. Taft, Ron Paul, Ross Perot, and Pat Paulsen.

Famous writers: Edward Abbey, Sherwood Anderson, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Robert Bly, Jorge Luis Borges, Joseph Brodsky, Juanita Brooks, John Mason Brown, Witter Bryner, Raymond Carver, Bennett Cerf, John Cheever, John Ciardi, Arthur C. Clarke, Malcolm Cowley, Robert Creeley, Harry Crews, Bernard DeVoto, James Dickey, E.L. Doctorow, Theodore Dreiser, George P. Elliott, Elizabeth Enwright, Thomas Hornsby Ferril, Leslie A. Fiedler, Robert Frost, Carlos Fuentes, Robert Fulghum, Tess Gallagher, Hamlin Garland, George Garrett, William Gass, Brewster Ghiselin, Allen Ginsberg, Edgar A. Guest, Thom Gunn, Alex Haley, John Hawkes, John Hollander, Richard Howard, Richard Hugo, Randall Jarrell, Robinson Jeffers, Donald Justice, Galway Kinnell, William Kittredge, Kenneth Koch, Joseph Wood Krutch, Maxine Kumin, Stanley Kunitz, Oliver La Farge, Philip Levine, Sinclair Lewis, Vachel Lindsay, Barry Holstun Lopez, Andrew Lytle, Norman Mailer, Edgar Lee Masters, William Matthews, W.S. Merwin, James Mitchener, Vladimir Nabokov, Howard Nemerov, John Fredrick Nims, Octavio Paz, John Crowe Ransom, Kenneth Rexroth, Carl Sandburg, Irwin Shaw, Karl Shapiro, Dave Smith, William Jay Smith, Gary Snyder, Stephen Spender, William Stafford, Wallace Stegner BA'30, Mark Strand, May Swenson, Rabindranath Tagore, Allen Tate, James Tate, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich BA'60, Dylan Thomas, Alvin Toffler, David Wagoner, Diane Wakowski, Rebecca West, Richard Wilbur, Thornton Wilder, William Carlos Williams, Charles Wright, and William Butler Yeats.

Newspeople: Jack Anderson ex'44, William F. Buckley, Carl Bernstein, David Broder, John Chancellor, Norman Cousins, John B. Hughes, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Chet Huntley, H.V. Kaltenborn, Russell Kirk, William Laurence, Anthony Lewis, Walter Lippmann, Roger Mudd, Malcolm Muggeridge, Vance Packard, Ike Pappas, Drew Pearson, James Reston, Roger Rosenblatt, Hobart Rowen, Richard S. Salant, Harrison Salisbury, Gloria Steinem, Lowell Thomas, and Barbara Ward.

Some "significant others": Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Barbara Bush, Al Capp, Cesar Chavez, Aaron Copland, Eve Curie, Sandra Day O'Conner, Moshe Dayan, John Dewey, Will Durant, Jacques d'Amboise, Liang Er, C. Everett Koop, Erich Fromm, Buckminster Fuller, Margaret Geller, Mikhail Gorbachev, William Gray, William H. Masters, Stephen Hawking, John Hope Franklin, Fred Hoyle, Spike Lee, Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson, Barbara M. White, Rose Marie Reid, Margaret Mead, Kate Millet, Ralph Nader, Leonard Nimoy, William O. Douglas, Linus Pauling, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, David Reisman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bill Russell, Louis S. B. Leakey, Haing S. Ngor, Arthur Schlesinger, Jerry Seinfeld, Glenn T. Seaborg, Edward Teller, Margaret Thatcher, Arnold Toynbee, Willard V. Quine, Werner von Braun, Byron White, Roy Wilkins, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Victor Zahkarov.


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