1950s

In 1949, McDonald unexpectedly resigned to accept the presidency of Los Angeles State College.  Dr. Christen Jensen, professor emeritus, served as acting president until Ernest L. Wilkinson was appointed BYU’s seventh president in 1950. A successful Washington lawyer, a BYU graduate, and a devoted supporter of the university, Wilkinson set out to build the school in every area. One of his first major efforts was to increase the student body.  Successful innovations included sending faculty members to speak in stake conferences on the benefits of a BYU education, recruiting returning missionaries, asking mission presidents to urge parents to send their children to BYU, obtaining names of high-school graduates through their bishops, visiting area high schools, and advertising the university through radio, television, magazines, and newspapers. The result was an increase of five thousand students between 1950 and 1956, bringing the total to ten thousand.

To meet the increasing need for faculty, the English Department hired many new members during the early and mid-1950s. Most would spend their whole teaching careers at BYU, forming the department’s core faculty for the next thirty years. These included Dean B. Farnsworth, Edward L. Hart, Marshall R. Craig, Samuel C. Monson, Robert K. Thomas, Zane G. Alder, Dale S. Bailey, Ross S. Esplin, David L. Evans, Nan Osmond Grass, John (Jack) E. McKendrick, Ernest L. Olson, Lyman F. Smart, Homer G. Stratham, Woodruff  C. Thomson,  Glena D. Wood, Bruce B. Clark, Marden J. Clark, Irene O. Spears, Soren F. Cox, Richard G. Ellsworth,  Ernest Olson, John Thomas, and John S. Harris.

Several of the male faculty had completed their graduate degrees through the G.I. Bill following their discharge from military service after 1945. Some faculty who did not have their doctorates finished during summers or took leaves to do so. It was not unusual for department faculty to finish dissertations several years after completing all class work.  The record was ten years.

As an example of what new faculty members were bringing to the department and its students, John S. Harris had taught technical writing as a doctoral student. Knowing the value of the course for students in engineering and the biological and physical sciences, Harris surveyed faculty in these departments to find out if they favored the course. Given the enthusiastic response, he then approached the English Department and received approval for a lower-division course. Later, with the help of other interested faculty members, Harris designed the course and trained faculty where necessary. The course proved popular, and soon multiple sections were being taught. When in the early seventies the department moved to a vertical composition program, with students taking one freshman English course and an upper-division writing course, Technical Writing, now numbered 316, became the required course for engineering and science students.

During the 1950s, because of the rapidly growing numbers of students, freshman English classes ran from thirty to forty students and literature classes from fifty to one hundred. Typical teaching loads for faculty were from twelve to sixteen credit hours per quarter.

Maeser Building. Courtesy Office of the Dean of the College of Social Sciences, 
Brigham Young University Archives
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