Brigham Young High School History

College & University Presidedents, BYH Graduates
Eleven B. Y. High School Graduates
Who Became College & University CEOs




  • Joseph Marion "Jay" Tanner was an American educator and a leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Tanner graduated from Brigham Young Academy High School in the Class of 1878. From 1887 to 1891, Tanner was the principal of Brigham Young College in Logan, Utah. In 1891, he enrolled at Harvard University. Tanner studied law at Harvard Law School until 1894. From 1896 to 1900, Joseph M. Tanner served president of Utah Agricultural College in Logan. The UAC today is Utah State University.

  • The second Brigham Young high school alumnus to serve as President of a university was James E. Talmage, graduating in the Class of 1879 at Brigham Young Academy High School. Talmage served as both President of and Professor of Geology at the University of Utah from 1894 to 1897. In the year last named he resigned the presidency, but retained the Chair of Geology, in which he continued until 1907. In December 1911 Talmage was ordained an Apostle, a member of the Council of Twelve of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  • Benjamin Cluff, Jr., graduated in the Brigham Young Academy High School Class of 1883. Cluff was a teacher of Mathematics, Psychology and Bookkeeping at Brigham Young Academy from 1882 to 1903. He served as Third Principal of BY Academy 1892-1895, then as first President of Brigham Young Academy. In 1903 BYA became Brigham Young University, and so for a matter of months Cluff served as the first President of BYU.

  • Franklin S. Harris, Sr. graduated from Brigham Young University High School in the Class of 1904. In 1921 he was selected to be President of Brigham Young University. He arrived on the campus as a reputable scientist and scholar at age 36, and was the school’s first president to hold a Ph.D. He also had a great love for the arts, and a vision of crafting a great university. Harris served as the fifth president of BYU, continuing for the next twenty-three years — the longest term of any BYU president. Overall, his educational leadership extended from 1907 to 1950, including serving as president in Provo at BYU from July 1921 to June 1945, and another five years as President at Utah State Agricultural College in Logan from 1945 to 1950. The USAC is now Utah State University.

  • Hugh McCurdy Woodward, Brigham Young High School Class of 1908, received his Bachelors degree from BYU in 1911. In 1914, Hugh M. Woodward was named the first President of the Dixie Normal College, and because of this he became known as the "Father of Dixie College", serving to 1918. President Woodward earned an M.A. from the University of Utah in 1918. In 1918, the Woodward family left St. George and went to the University of Utah. In 1920 he went to the University of California where he earned his Ph.D. degree.

  • Joseph K. Nicholes, Brigham Young High School Class of 1908, has the unusual distinction of serving as the third and fifth president of Dixie College in St. George, Utah. Joseph taught at St. George Stake Academy/Dixie from 1912 to 1914. He attended classes each summer at Brigham Young University, and studied there full-time from 1915 to 1916 to complete his Bachelors degree in Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics. Nicholes was selected as president of Dixie Normal College from 1919 to 1923, and he continued to teach Science and Mathematics. In the summer of 1923 he studied at Stanford University, where he earned his Masters degree in Chemistry in 1924. During this period, the office of the president of Dixie College was filled by Edgar M. Jenson. After being away from Dixie Junior College for 16 months, Professor Nicholes returned to Dixie where he taught Physics, Mathematics and Chemistry for two years. In 1926, Nicholes was again appointed President of the College, a position he held until 1933.

  • Henry Aldous Dixon graduated from Brigham Young High School in the Class of 1909. He graduated from BYU in 1914, from the University of Chicago in 1917, and from the University of Southern California in 1937 with a doctorate degree. He was a teacher at Weber College from 1914 to 1918. Dixon served as President of Weber College in 1919 and 1920, and again from 1937 to 1953. Dixon served as President of Utah State University at Logan from 1953 to 1954. Dixon was then elected a US Representative to the Eighty-fourth, Eighty-fifth, and Eighty-fifth Congresses (January 3, 1955 through January 3, 1961).

  • Vern Oliver Knudsen graduated from Brigham Young High School, Class of 1912. He then earned a bachelor's degree in Physics from Brigham Young University in 1915. Knudsen served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1915 to 1918 in the Northern States Mission. He then joined the staff of Bell Laboratories. Knudsen received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Chicago in 1922. Vern Knudsen co-founded the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), and served as its president, 1933–1935. In 1934, Vern Knudsen was made Dean of the Graduate Division of the Southern Section of the University of California, a post which he held for 24 years and during which time the UCLA Graduate Division increased from 287 to 5160 students. After serving as Vice Chancellor, Vern O. Knudsen then was named Chancellor of UCLA from 1959 to 1960. The Chancellor is UCLA's chief executive officer, overseeing all aspects of UCLA's mission of education, research and service.

  • John Thomas Wahlquist graduated from Brigham Young High School in the Class of 1918. He received a BS degree at BYU, followed by an MS from the University of Utah, and a PhD from the University of Cincinnati in 1930. A teacher by profession, he became a director of the Stewart Training School at the University of Utah beginning in 1932. John T. Wahlquist served as President of San Jose State College from 1952 to 1964.

  • Dallin H. Oaks, Brigham Young High School Class of 1950, was a Professor of Law at the University of Chicago's School of Law when in 1971 Oaks was selected to be President of Brigham Young University, serving from 1971 to 1980. He then served as a Justice of the Utah Supreme Court from 1980 until his resignation in 1984, when he was ordained an Apostle, set apart as a member of the Council of the Twelve of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  • Michael K. Young, Brigham Young High School Class of 1967. Young began serving as President of the University of Utah in 2004 and served until April 2011, when he moved on and became President of the University of Washington until 2015. Young is now serving as President of Texas A & M University beginning in May 2015. President Young brought to each presidency considerable academic experience, including more than 25 years as a faculty member and six years as Dean and Lobinger Professor of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence at the George Washington University Law School. President Young also brought significant government experience as a former official of the United States Department of State.


  • Addendum:
    BYH Faculty Members
    Who Because College & University CEOs

  • George Henry Brimhall taught Theology, Pedagogy, and Psychology at Brigham Young Academy from 1897 to 1932. Brimhall served as Fourth Principal of Brigham Young High School Principal from 1895 to 1900. Brimhall served as President of Brigham Young University from 1904 to 1921.

  • Edgar Milando Jenson, Education teacher, 1916-1917. Graduated from BYU, Class of 1919, receiving an MA Degree in Educational Administration. He then taught Education at BYH & BYU from 1927 to 1959. Jenson served as Ninth Principal of BY High School from 1928 to 1935, and also as an Art Instructor. He served as Director of BYU Training Schools after becoming Principal. Jenson served as President of Dixie College in St. George, Utah from 1923 to 1926.

  • John W. Tucker served as Seventeenth Principal of Brigham Young High School from 1957 to 1958. Tucker served as President of the College of Eastern Utah from 1962 to 1970. Later he served as Executive Vice President at the University of Utah. Tucker served as Chancellor of Purdue University North Central from 1972 to 1979, where he also taught until 1991.


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