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, taking a year to teach at Utah State Agricultural College, before going on to receive his doctorate from Cornell.[4]

After Cornell, Harris traveled back to Logan to become a professor of agronomy and an agronomist at Utah State Agricultural College.[5] 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).[6]: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 thinking about his decision for a week or so, he accepted the offer on April 22, 1921.[6]:19,27 He was the first non-polygamous president of Brigham Young University.[1]

As president of a university[edit]

Brigham Young University[edit]

Before officially becoming president, Harris began to encourage the university's development. He submitted a plan of organization that suggested adding the Extension and Research Division to the University, which was approved.[6]:31 He also began to recruit professors who had completed their doctorate degrees and well-known Latter-day Saint scholars to join the faculty at BYU.[6]:35 Janet Jenson, author of The Many Lives of Franklin S. Harris, wrote: "The most significant and enduring accomplishment of Franklin S. Harris was his leadership in transforming what was essentially a high school with a small collegiate division into a university".[7]:57 Harris recognized that the combination of high school students and university students was hurting the scholarship of the college and organized the high school and college into separate buildings. His second year as president, Harris attempted to get BYU accredited with the Northwest Association of Secondary and Higher Schools; BYU became recognized as a four-year college but was not given the status of university. Harris then requested accreditation with the Association of American Universities, "but BYU failed to meet the criteria in student entrance requirements, coursework, faculty credentials, or research funds". In 1828, BYU was finally accepted as a member of the Association of American Universities.[1]

Harris instituted special lectures on campus from LDS General Authorities relating to a variety of different topics such as religion, science, industry, etc.[6]: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.[6]: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 LDS Church and BYU. He not only shared his own educational knowledge at universities, but gathered information about the practices of other educational institutions around the world.[6]:77 Harris believed that university education should prepare students for community leadership.[5]

Harris oversaw the founding of the College of Fine Arts and considered enjoying the arts vital to living a rich life.[8] The first building constructed on BYU campus during Harris's administration was the Heber J. Grant building. This was the first purpose-built BYU library.[6]:64 The building was dedicated in 1925. Harris wanted Brigham Young University to become a center of religious scholarship and advocated acquiring 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.[6]:35

Utah State University[edit]

In June 1945 Harris left BYU to assume the presidency of Utah State Agricultural College.[3]


In 1938 Harris was the Republican candidate for United States Senate in Utah. He lost to Democrat Elbert Thomas.[9]

Other Mormon 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 chairman of a commission appraising for an American Jewish organization.[10]:36 The commission's work on the agricultural potential of Birobidzhan would later become the Jewish Autonomous Oblast in 1934. In July of 1929 the commission began searching in Birobidzhan to see if it could agriculturally sustain a large population.[11]


Harris became the agricultural adviser to His Imperial Majesty, the Shah – H.I.M. Reza Shah Pahlavi the Great – and the Iran government in 1939. He mainly focused on studying the forestry problem of Iran. His relationships in Iran attracted Iranian students to the United States and specifically to Utah.[10]:38-47

The United States Department of State took Dr. Harris back to Iran in 1950 because of his strong relationships this time as part of the United States Technical Cooperation program.[10]:48 He also served as the president of the LDS Church branch headquartered in Tehran, as reported in the October 1951 general conference.

Middle East[edit]

In 1946, Harris accepted the head of mission to the Middle East "offered by the United States Department of Agriculture to take a trip through Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Transjordan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt to survey agricultural conditions."[10]:50

Later years, death, and legacy[edit]

He died in 1960.[3]


In 1964 the Franklin S. Harris Fine Arts Center was inaugurated, named after Harris because of his support for the Fine Arts while the president of BYU.[12]


Some of the publications of Franklin S. Harris from the BYU library catalogue.[13]

  • Effects of variations of moisture content on certain properties of soil and on the growth of wheat, 1914
  • The Principles of Agronomy, 1915
  • The Young Man and His Vocation, 1916
  • The Sugar Beet in America, 1918
  • Soil Alkali, 1920
  • Heroes of science, 1926
  • A Book of Mormon bibliography, 1936
  • A critical study of the apparatus used by Beniams in his study of the emission of positive ions from heated filaments coated with metallic salts, 1936
  • College values in retrospect, 1953
  • Others kept records on metal plates too, 1957

He also wrote articles for scientific journals and contributed bulletins to the Agricultural Experiment Station.[6]:27


  1. ^ a b c d e 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 e 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 Daines III, J. Gordon (2006). "Charting the Future of Brigham Young University: Franklin S. Harris and the Changing Landscape of the Church's Educational Network, 1921-1926". BYU Studies. 45 (4): 69–98. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ Jensen, Janet (2002). The Many Lives of Franklin S. Harris. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Print Services. 
  8. ^ Rowley, Dennis (1985). "Setting Sail: Franklin S. Harris". Friends of the Brigham Young University Library Newsletter. 
  9. ^ Wilkinson, Ernest L., BYU: The First 100 Years (Provo: BYU Press, 1975) Vol. 2, p. 240
  10. ^ a b c d Franklin Stewart Harris: Educator, Administrator, Father, Friend: Vignettes of His Life. Provo, Utah: Published to coincide with the dedication of the Franklin S. Harris Fine Arts Center, April 3, 1965. Brigham Young University. April 3, 1965. 
  11. ^ Rubinstein, Joshua; Naumov, Vladimir Pavlovich (2005). Stalin's Secret Pogrom. Yale University Press. 
  12. ^ Daines, Gordon. "Franklin S. Harris Fine Arts Center". Retrieved 3 July 2017. 
  13. ^ "Franklin S. Harris: Author". Retrieved 3 July 2017. 

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