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The Lost Class of 1899

During the commencement ceremonies held last week, 6,297 degrees were awarded for those graduating in December 2017 and April 2018. This makes up a significant portion of the approximately 8,500 students that graduate each year. On the other side of the spectrum, however, is the Class of 1899–a lost graduating class caused by shifting university program requirements.

Following the inauguration of President Benjamin Cluff, Brigham Young Academy began strengthening its requirements for granting degrees, while expanding its curriculum. At the time the Church Normal Training School was established in 1891, incoming students had to be high school graduates of at least age 14 and were required to complete a four-year course of study to qualify for a Bachelor of Didactics diploma. Both of these requirements changed in 1894/1895, with the admission age raised to a minimum of 16, and successful completion of a comprehensive examination. Graduation requirements were also adjusted, moving from a four-year to a six-year program. When the Collegiate Department was formed in 1896, graduation requirements changed again, returning to “four years’ work, beginning with the twelfth grade. This includes the Normal Training School of three years’ work.”

At the time of the requirements change in 1894/1895, those that had been previously enrolled were allowed to complete their degree according to the old requirements, if they could graduate before the end of the 1898 school year. Due to these shifting requirements, only one student graduated in 1899 with a bachelor’s degree–John M. Mills. Mills had first entered the Academy around 1886, and was allowed to complete his program in 1899. However, the Utah County Democrat reported that “there was no graduating class this year.” This aberration was changed the following year with full commencement exercises for the “Century Class” of 1900.

For more information about graduating classes, see the commencement programs and student newspapers available on the BYU History digital collections page.

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