Franklin S. Harris

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Franklin S. Harris
Franklin S Harris.jpg
Harris pictured in The Banyan 1923, BYU yearbook
President of
Utah State University
In office
Preceded by Elmer George Peterson
Succeeded by Louis Linden Madsen
President of
Brigham Young University
In office
July 1921 – June 1945[1]
Preceded by George H. Brimhall
Succeeded by Howard S. McDonald
Personal details
Born (1884-08-29)August 29, 1884
Benjamin, Utah
Died April 18, 1960(1960-04-18) (aged 75)
Salt Lake City, Utah

Franklin Stewart Harris (August 29, 1884 – April 18, 1960) was president of Brigham Young University (BYU) from July 1921 until June 1945,[1] and president of Utah State University from 1945 to 1950.

His administration was the longest in BYU history and saw the granting of the first master's degrees. Under his administration the school moved towards being a full university. He set up several colleges, such as the College of Fine and Performing Arts with Gerrit De Jong as the founding dean.

Harris was an agricultural scientist, holding a doctorate in agronomy from Cornell University.[2] He had served as the agriculture department head and head of the experiment station at Utah State Agricultural College and left BYU to become president of that institution.

The Harris Fine Arts Center on BYU's Provo campus is named after him.

Early life[edit]

Harris was born in Benjamin, Utah Territory, United States.[3] In the 1890s his family moved to the Mormon colonies in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Harris did his early studies at BYU before going on to receive his doctorate from Cornell. His second son Chauncy Harris, born in 1914, became a geographer.[4]

Harris authored four books: The Principles of Agronomy, 1915; The Young Man and His Vocation, 1916; The Sugar Beet in America, 1918; and Soil Alkali, 1920. He also wrote articles for scientific journals and contributed bulletins to the Agricultural Experiment Station.[5]:27

In 1920, Harris was working as director of the Utah State Agricultural Experiment Station and was also head of the department of zoology and Entomology at Utah State Agricultural College (USAC).[5]:14 Although he held these administrative positions at USAC and was already the president of the American Society of Agronomy, the General Church Board of Education offered Harris the opportunity to take George H. Brimhall's place as president of Brigham Young University. After a thinking about his decision for a week or so, he accepted the offer on April 22, 1921.[5]:19,27

BYU presidency[edit]

Even before officially becoming president, Harris began to put his plans in motion. He submitted a plan of organization that suggested adding the Extension and Research Division to the University, which was approved.[5]:31 He also began to recruit professors who had completed their doctorate degrees and well-known LDS scholars to join the faculty at BYU.[5]:35

One of Harris's first announcements on coming to campus was a need to make BYU a center of religious scholarship and a desire to have a broad spectrum of religious books in the library.[1] Just as the BYU presidents before him, Harris continued to differentiate and better organize the different collegiate subjects at the university and to separate the colleges, the normal school, and the training schools.[5]:35

Harris began instituting special lectures on campus from LDS General Authorities relating to a variety of different topics such as religion, science, industry, etc.[5]:40 He also instituted the school's radio program that extended to all inter-mountain states. President Harris contributed to the Improvement Era, the LDS Church magazine, along with other important members of the BYU administration.[5]:58,59 He also took the initiative to visit different parts of the continental United States, Hawaii, Japan and other countries in order to share information about his studies of soil alkali. Prompted by these trips, Harris extended his trip in order to travel around the world for the Church and the University. He not only shared his own educational knowledge at universities, but gathered information about the practices of other educational institutions around the world. While travelling, the church asked him to check-in on the LDS church members in Syria and report back to the First Presidency.[5]:77

The first building constructed on BYU campus during Harris's administration was the Heber J. Grant building which at that point was a library. This was the first BYU building built as a library, but it soon became too small to hold all the books that the University acquired. The building was dedicated in 1925.[5]:64

In June 1945 Harris left BYU to assume the presidency of Utah State Agricultural College.


In 1938 Harris was the Republican candidate for United States Senate in Utah. He lost to Democrat Elbert Thomas.[6]

Other church service[edit]

In 1923 Harris was made a member of the General Board of the Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association.[3]

In 1926 he served as a missionary in Japan. He also served a short mission among the Latter-day Saints in Syria in 1927.[3]

International work[edit]

In 1929, Harris traveled to the Soviet Union as part of an expedition to study the agricultural potential of what would become the Jewish Autonomous Oblast in 1934.[7]

In the early 1950s Harris worked in Iran, where he served as the president of the LDS Church branch headquartered in Tehran, as reported in the October 1951 general conference. He died in 1960.[3]


  1. ^ a b c Bergera, Gary James; Priddis, Ronald (1985). "Chapter 1: Growth & Development". Brigham Young University: A House of Faith. Salt Lake City: Signature Books. ISBN 0-941214-34-6. OCLC 12963965. 
  2. ^ Winters, Charlene (Fall 1998). "Franklin S. Harris". BYU Magazine. Retrieved 2009-12-10. 
  3. ^ a b c d Jenson, Andrew. "HARRIS, Franklin Stewart," Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News Press, 1936) Vol 4, p. 240
  4. ^ Mikesell, Marvin W. (2004). "In Memoriam: Chauncy Dennison Harris (1914-2003)". Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 94 (4): 982–991. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8306.2004.00444.x. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Wilkinson, Ernest L. (1975). Brigham Young University: the first one hundred years. Provo Utah: Brigham Young University Press. p. 0-8425-0708-6. 
  6. ^ Wilkinson, Ernest L., BYU: The First 100 Years (Provo: BYU Press, 1975) Vol. 2, p. 240
  7. ^ Rubinstein, Joshua; Naumov, Vladimir Pavlovich (2005). Stalin's Secret Pogrom. Yale University Press. 

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Elmer George Peterson
President of Utah State University
Succeeded by
Louis Linden Madsen
Preceded by
George H. Brimhall
 President of Brigham Young University 
July 1921 – June 1945
Succeeded by
Howard S. McDonald