Honoring the Founders

Brigham Young University has a rich heritage and every year during Homecoming the university pauses to reflect on those men and women who have helped to create the educational institution that we enjoy. The honored founder this year is Eugene Lusk Roberts. Roberts served as the first head of the Brigham Young University’s athletic department from 1910 to 1928 and was well known for his love of the outdoors and his commitment to allowing everyone to have an athletic experience. He will be honored in several different ways as part of the Homecoming celebrations that begin next week.

Eugene L. Roberts, chair of the Department of Physical Education, ca. 1910

Eugene L. Roberts, chair of the Department of Physical Education, ca. 1910

The tradition of honoring our founders runs deep at Brigham Young University. The practice was initiated by Benjamin Cluff, Jr. in 1891 as a way to encourage class and institutional spirit.

Benjamin Cluff, third principal of Brigham Young Academy and first president of Brigham Young University, served from 1892-1903.

Benjamin Cluff, third principal of Brigham Young Academy and first president of Brigham Young University, served from 1892-1903.

Cluff wanted students and faculty to have a way to tap into the rich heritage of the young educational institution. Every year during October students and faculty would gather at the Academy Building to listen to speakers extol the virtues of the men and women who had sacrificed time, talents, and money to allow the Brigham Young Academy to survive and flourish. They told wonderful stories about the early founders to illustrate the importance of sacrifice, commitment, loyalty, and hard work–some of which were even true!

Founders Day, ca. 1900

Founders Day, ca. 1900

These stories established a rich oral history that lives on today in our Homecoming celebrations. This oral tradition will be on display next week as the winner of the Brimhall essay contest reads his or her winning essay in front of thousands of students and faculty–an essay that discusses the contributions of Eugene L. Roberts to the university and what those contributions mean to us today. The oral delivery of the essay ties the university community back to the original Founders Day of 1891 as we connect to the past through the spoken word.

If you have any questions about the history of Brigham Young University, please contact the university archivist at (80) 422-5821 or gordon_daines@byu.edu.

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