A. Ray Olpin

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A. Ray Olpin
7th President of the
University of Utah
In office
Preceded byLeRoy E. Cowles
Succeeded byJames C. Fletcher
Personal details
BornJune 1, 1898
Pleasant Grove, Utah
DiedMarch 7, 1983(1983-03-07) (aged 84)
Salt Lake City, Utah
ChildrenVirginia, Helen, Barbara, Howard, other daughter ("Shinobu")
Alma materBrigham Young University
Columbia University

Albert Ray Olpin (June 1, 1898 – March 7, 1983) was president of the University of Utah from 1946 to 1964. During his presidency the university quadrupled in size and enrollment tripled from 4,000 to 12,000 students. To accommodate these new pupils, new programmes such as Nursing and Fine Arts were organized.[1]


Olpin was the eldest son of eight children of Henry Albert Olpin (who was severely beaten by a mob while serving on an LDS mission in South Carolina) and was raised in Pleasant Grove, Utah. He was accepted into the Brigham Young University business school at 16 years of age, but left school a year later to serve a four-year mission in Japan for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[2] When Olpin returned he switched majors and graduated from Brigham Young University with bachelor's degrees in mathematics and physics in 1923. In 1930 he received a Ph.D. in physics from Columbia University.[2] He then worked at Bell Laboratories where he conducted research with Philo T. Farnsworth that led to the first television broadcast. Later, as president of the University of Utah, he granted Farnsworth a grant to establish television station KUED in Salt Lake City, Utah and Olpin was featured as the speaker on KUED's first broadcast. He also helped design the "Y" on the mountain overlooking the BYU campus. He directed research departments at Kendall Mills in North Carolina and at Ohio State University. On October 16, 1946, he became the seventh president of the University of Utah, continuing as such until his retirement in 1964, at which time he accepted the title of "President Emeritus" and continued working with the university as a consultant.[2]

He also worked on the Manhattan project that developed the first atomic bomb, and then helped in efforts to rebuild Japan after World War II. His efforts included creating the "Olpin Plan" (later renamed the "Peace Corps"), and the "Sister Cities" program (cultural exchange program between Japanese and U.S. cities of similar size). For many years after his death, the Japanese government sent delegations annually to lay flowers on his grave, to honor him.

Olpin died in Salt Lake City on March 7, 1983.[2]

University growth[edit]

Many of the buildings on campus today were built under President Olpin's administration. Olpin started a 10-year building program in which 30 buildings were completed, including the Milton Bennion Hall, the Merrill Engineering Building, and the A. Ray Olpin Union Building, which features a large portrait of him.[1] Olpin worked to resolve challenges less frequently faced by larger, more established institutions, including defending academic freedom and educating local politicians about the potential for the University of Utah to become the state's flagship university.[3]


  1. ^ a b "A. Ray Olpin". University of Utah. 2007. Archived from the original on 27 March 2009. Retrieved April 1, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d "Albert Ray Olpin Presidential Records". University of Utah Marriott Library. Archived from the original on 12 December 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2009.
  3. ^ Peterson, Anne Palmer. Years of Promise: The University of Utah's A. Ray Olpin Era, 1946-1964. University of Utah Press: Salt Lake City, 2009.
Academic offices
Preceded by President of the University of Utah
Succeeded by