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Contributions of the Class of 1891: Richard R. Lyman

Graduating as president of the Normal Class of 1891, Richard R. Lyman described “an incalculable debt of gratitude” he felt to Brigham Young Academy for the care and teaching he and his classmates received. Over the course of his public life, Lyman worked to advance the cause of education in Utah, and contributed to the growth and development of the Academy and later Brigham Young University. This included service in various capacities–as principal of the academy’s high school, as a member of the Church Board of Education and the university’s Board of Trustees, and as a faculty lecturer.

Richard R. Lyman

Richard R. Lyman

Lyman was born in Fillmore, Utah on November 23, 1870 to apostle Frances M. Lyman and his wife Clara. He attended school in Tooele before being sent at age 11 to study at Brigham Young Academy in Provo. After completing his studies he was sent by his father to Brigham Young College in Logan, where we worked for a year as an assistant teacher before returning to study in Provo. He was elected president of his Normal Class, and graduated with his classmates on May 21, 1891. Like Edwin S. Hinckley, after graduation he headed east to attend the University of Michigan. While there he again served as his class president–both as a sophomore and a senior.

Class Officers, 1891

After completing his bachelor’s degree Lyman returned to Provo, where he worked as principal of the Academy’s high school program from 1895 to 1896 before joining the faculty at the University of Utah. While working for the university he also completed a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Chicago in 1903, and a Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1905. This educational preparation and experience served Lyman well following his call as an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1918. Among his ecclesiastical assignments he became closely engaged with BYU, serving as a member of the Church Board of Education (1919-1943) and university’s Board of Trustees (1939-1943), as president of the Alumni Association (1927-1930), and as a faculty lecturer on community building (1921-1926).

During his tenure on Church and university boards, Lyman made significant contributions to the success of the Brigham Young University. As a counselor to the Commissioner of Church Education he helped select Franklin S. Harris as university president in 1921, advocated for continued funding of the university during the financial crisis of 1929-1930, and established the Alumni Association Emeritus Club in 1941.

Speaking at the university’s graduation ceremonies in June 1943, Lyman fondly recalled his affiliation and service at Brigham Young University, saying:

“As a student in this institution, as a graduate of this school, as a member of the faculty and as a member of the Board of Trustees I have been more or less familiar with the affairs of this great educational institution since 1882 when, nearly sixty-one years ago at the early age of eleven, I entered the preparatory department. The school itself when I came to the old Lewis Theatre Building on Center Street was but six years old. Sixty-one years of happy and intimate association with the students, the faculty members, and those who have served on the Board of Trustees covers a period longer perhaps than such association has been enjoyed by any other individual.

Do you wonder then that is a joy to me and a source of keenest pride and satisfaction to be here in this magnificent building, to see the great growth of the Brigham Young University.”

More information on Lyman and his support of the university is available in his personal papers, which are held in Special Collections (MSS 1079), as well as in his faculty file (UA 909 box 111 folders 3-4). For a historical summary of his early life, see the L.D.S. Biographical Encyclopedia.

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