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Brigham Young University. Centennial History Project



  • Existence: 1972 - 1976

Administrative History

The Centennial History Project (1972-1976) was a research project led by university president Ernest L. Wilkinson to compile a history of Brigham Young University at its 100-year anniversary.

In January 1972, administrative officials at Brigham Young University inaugurated a project to compile and publish a comprehensive history of the school. The project was undertaken in conjunction with plans to commemorate the university's centennial anniversary. Given the official label Centennial History Project, the endeavor evolved into an extensive four-year research and writing effort which culminated with the distribution of the first published histories of the University.

Chief among those intimately involved in the project was Ernest L. Wilkinson, a former president of Brigham Young University. Receiving his appointment from university president Dallin Oaks, Wilkinson served as the project's director and as editor of the published histories. As director, Wilkinson performed routine administrative tasks, selected staff personnel, and acted as project liaison with university and ecclesiastical officials. As editor, Wilkinson indirectly supervised research and writing, and read and edited preliminary drafts, eventually assuming responsibility for the literary style and intellectual content of the final product. Though principal figure in the Centennial History Project, Wilkinson did not work alone. He was aided in the discharge of his duties by a number of professionals and student assistants who served on his official staff.

A Centennial History Advisory Committee was also formed by Wilkinson during the initial stages of the project. Composed of historians, university personnel, and alumni, the committee included Leonard J. Arrington, Edwin Butterworth, LeRoy Hafen, Wayne B. Hales, John Clifton Moffitt, Ernest L. Olson, Kiefer B. Sauls, Hollis Scott, and Vasco Tanner. From this group, Wilkinson sought advice as to the best approach to be taken in researching and writing the history. The committee met only once, though several members of the group continually rendered valuable service throughout the project.

James R. Clark and W. Cleon Skousen, both university faculty members and long time personal friends of Wilkinson, served on his staff as chief assistants. When the decision was made early in the project to produce two separate histories, Clark was placed in charge of work on a multi-volume comprehensive history, while Skousen was given the task of preparing a single-volume abridged version of the same history.

Under the direction of Wilkinson, Clark directly supervised much of the research and writing for the multi-volumed work. Working with him on various phases of the project were graduate student assistants Richard Bennett, Janet Hansen, Harvard Heath, and Eugene Thompson. When circumstances led to Clark's departure from the staff midway though the project, Bennett assumed the role of research director. This team carried on extensive research and produced preliminary chapter drafts for Wilkinson's editing.

Bruce Hafen, administrative assistant to President Dallin Oaks, worked independently of the official project staff to research and write the chapters dealing with the administration of Oaks. These chapters Hafen co-edited with Wilkinson. Additionally, Leonard J. Arrington, Church Historian, Robert K. Thomas, Academic Vice President, and Frank Fox, a member of the university's history faculty, were assigned to review and edit those chapters of the history which dealt directly with Wilkinson's administration. For their work on the project, Arrington and Hafen were named as official editors. Representing the Brigham Young University Press in the process of editing the manuscripts and preparing them for publication was Roy. K. Bird.

Assisting the research and writing team as support staff were a corps of secretaries. Edith Johnson served as Wilkinson's personal secretary. Others included Nanette Bame, Carolyn Baum, Patricia Bennett, Karen Echols, Linda Lee, Klea Lundgreen, and Phyllis Thompson. To the secretaries fell the responsibility of maintaining office files, duplicating source material, preparing research cards, and typing chapter drafts.

W. Cleon Skousen pursued his task of writing a popular history of the school by abridging and condensing the final drafts of the multi volume work into a single volume. Assisting Skousen with research and documentation was student assistant Glenn Bird. Orson Scott Card and Roy K. Bird represented the University Press and assisted Wilkinson and Skousen in the editing process. For his work with the one volume history, Skousen was designated as the book's Associate Editor. Serving as secretaries to the project were Pamela Fugate, Linda Gravely and Linda Lee.

In addition to official project staff members, dozens of individuals from the ranks of university personnel, the local community, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, university alumni, and other interested persons contributed valuable time, talents, and information to the efforts of the Centennial History Project.

During the 1975-1976 school year, as the university celebrated its one hundredth birthday, the labors of the Centennial History Project were brought to fruition. The university published and distributed its official histories, the four-volume Brigham Young University: The First One Hundred Years, and the popularized one-volume work Brigham Young University: A School of Destiny. Shortly after the publication of the final volumes of the centennial histories, the Centennial History Project concluded its work.

UPB files, April 3, 2020 (Brigham Young University Centennial History Project; commenced in 1972; Ernest L. Wilkinson leadership; research team documenting first 100 years of BYU since Brigham Young Academy was established in 1875; four-volume history of BYU entitled "Brigham Young University: The First One Hundred Years"; abridged one-volume version called "Brigham Young University: A School of Destiny" published in 1975; disbanded in 1976)

Wilkinson, Brigham Young University, 1975: vol. 1 p. xix (President Dallin H. Oaks asked Ernest L. Wilkinson to prepare centennial history, 1972) p. xx (assisted by a separate Centennial History Advisory Committee)

Butterworth, Brigham Young University, 1975: p. 345 (Centennial History Project; team included Ernest L. Wilkinson, Karen S. Echols, Richard E. Bennett, James R. Clark, Harvard Heath, Eugene T. Thompson, Linda W. Lee, Janet W. Hansen, W. Cleon Skousen, and Roy Bird)

Found in 25 Collections and/or Records:

Richard Edmond Bennett, Harvard S. Heath, and James R. Clark interview

 File — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 2961
Scope and Contents Typescript of an interview conducted by Richard Bennett, Harvard Heath, and James R. Clark on August 7, 1972 for a meeting of the Brigham Young University Centennial History Committee meeting. The interview took place in the J. Reuben Clark Building on the campus of Brigham Young University. The persons interviewed include Karl Miller, Kiefer B. Sauls, President Howard S. McDonald, Leland Perry, and G. Thomson. The men discuss many issues related to the history of Brigham Young University...
Dates: 1972 August 7

Centennial History Project administrative records, 1972-1976

Identifier: UA 566 Series 1 Sub-Series 1
Scope and Contents

Contains correspondence with assorted university staff, research and writing timetables and status reports, assignments, budgets, memoranda, and clippings, relating to the administrative, research, writing, and editing activities of Wilkinson and his staff. Materials date from between 1972 and 1976.

Dates: 1972-1976

Centennial History Project chronological source files, 1835-1979

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: UA 566 Series 3 Sub-Series 1
Scope and Contents

Contains source material, including extracts from a variety of sources such as university presidential papers, correspondence, diaries and journals, minutes of various meetings, published sources, personal histories, and reports. Many of the items exhibit annotations of staff members. Materials date from approximately 1835 to 1976.

Dates: 1835-1979

Centennial History Project collection of histories

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: UA 930
Scope and Contents

Contains histories compiled by various colleges and departments at Brigham Young University, largely between 1974 and 1975 in conjunction with the centennial of the university. Includes several other histories related to the university, dating as early as 1942 and as late as 1985. Also contains correspondence and records relating to the histories, 1942-1985.

Dates: approximately 1908-2002

Centennial History Project copy-editing correspondence and other material, 1972-1976

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: UA 566 Series 4 Sub-Series 3
Scope and Contents

Contains correspondence, budgets, and other material related to the copy-editing and publication of centennial histories. Materials date from between 1972 and 1976.

Dates: 1972-1976

Centennial History Project director records, 1971-1976

Identifier: UA 566 Series 1
Scope and Contents

Contains files compiled by Ernest L. Wilkinson, Project Director and Editor of the published histories. Includes correspondence, meeting minutes, memorandums, notes, and other items. Materials date from between 1971 and 1976.

Dates: 1971-1976

Centennial History Project drafts and correspondence, 1972-1977

Identifier: UA 566 Series 4
Scope and Contents

Contains drafts and associated correspondence for both the one-volume history and multi-volume history of Brigham Young University. Materials date from between 1972 and 1977.

Dates: 1972-1977

Centennial History Project drafts and other material for multi-volume history, 1972-1976

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: UA 566 Series 4 Sub-Series 2
Scope and Contents Contains materials related to the multi-volume history, Brigham Young University: The First One Hundred Years. Includes draft subsections of chapter critiques and outlines, foreword, preface, acknowledgements, editor's introduction, volume one (chapters 1-14 and appendices), volume two (editor's comments, chapters 15-30, and appendices), volume three (editor's comments, and chapters 31-44), volume four (chapters 45-55 and appendices), including correspondence about the book (in progress and...
Dates: 1972-1976

Centennial History Project drafts and other material for single-volume history, 1972-1977

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: UA 566 Series 4 Sub-Series 1
Scope and Contents

Contains general correspondence, production and distribution files, drafts and draft correspondence, including chapters files, index, galleys, pertaining to the single-volume history, Brigham Young University: A School of Destiny. Materials date from between 1972 and 1977.

Dates: 1972-1977

Centennial History Project interviews, 1972-1975

Identifier: UA 566 Series 3 Sub-Series 5
Scope and Contents Contains transcripts of interviews of assorted Unviversity staff, past and present, and card files and compiled lists of the various topical and source codes used by staff researchers. It consists primarily of notes by staff members on personal interviews conducted with university personnel, alumni, and others possessing information concerning the history of the university. Several of these interviews were tap recorded. For several of these taped interviews partial transcripts were produced....
Dates: 1972-1975