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Howard S. McDonald and Brigham Young University

Howard S. McDonald greets students in his office, fall 1945

On November 14, 1945 Howard S. McDonald was inaugurated as the sixth president of Brigham Young University. His appointment coincided with the end of the Second World War and the return of veterans of that war who were hungry for education. It was a time of tremendous growth and change for the university. The enrollment at Brigham Young University doubled from 2,700 students in the fall of 1945 to 5,400 students in the 1947-1948 school year. This increased enrollment strained the limits of the university’s physical plant and personnel. It also strained the university’s organizational structure.

McDonald spent most of his tenure working tirelessly to increase the number of buildings on campus, to solidify the organizational structure of the university and to recruit additional faculty members. McDonald first tackled the administrative problems created by the surging enrollment by creating the Dean of Students Office and putting it in charge of almost all non-academic programs on campus. He then turned his attention to the faculty and physical plant. McDonald firmly believed that the faculty and buildings of Brigham Young University needed to be significantly improved in order to meet the needs of the rapidly growing student body. McDonald was extremely successful in improving the quantity and quality of the faculty. By the end of his administration over eighty new faculty were welcomed to campus and a large percentage of them held doctoral degrees. He was not as successful with his building campaign.

Beginning in 1946 McDonald began lobbying the Board of Trustees for funds to build a science building, a library addition, a student union building, additional dormitories, and a fine arts building. His first priority, in step with a national obsession with science following the Second World War, was a proper science building and funds were appropriated in 1946 for one. Unfortunately, construction did not begin until 1948 and the building was not completed until after the end of McDonald’s administration. McDonald also felt strongly that additional dormitories were a priority and worked diligently to obtain surplus military housing from the Ogden arsenal. Using funds from the Federal Works Program, McDonald oversaw the conversion of forty-five temporary buildings into a student housing complex called Wymount Village.

Wymount Village, ca. 1946

The other buildings that McDonald proposed were not built until the 1950s for a variety of reasons including the Board of Education’s concern about the large financial commitment required by the university. Although he was not successful in accomplishing all of his goals, McDonald did lay the ground for further growth in the 1950s and 1960s.

The University Archives is home to several collections that can help you better understand the McDonald era. They include:

  • UA 1087 Brigham Young University Presidential records, 1945-1949. To view the register click here.
  • BX 8666.5 .R465 1982 An historical appraisal of educational development under Howard S. McDonald at Brigham Young University 1945-1949 by David B. Rimington.
  • MSS 2961 Howard S. McDonald interview, 1972.
  • BX 8670.1 .M144b 1969 Brief Autobiography by Howard S. McDonald.

If you would like to learn more about the resources available for studying Howard S. McDonald and his impact on Brigham Young University, contact the University Archivist at or gordon_daines@byu.edu

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