Utah History Encyclopedia


By Richard C. Roberts
Weber State University, formerly Weber State College, is a four-year undergraduate university located in Ogden, Utah. In 1989 it celebrated the centennial of its establishment with a student body of approximately 13,000 students. The university has a strong liberal arts and technology orientation and offers master degree programs in education and accounting. Because of its enrollment and number of schools and departments, and its excellent academic performance, the Utah State Legislature passed Senate Bill 101 which gave Weber State College university status. Governor Norman Bangerter signed the bill on 14 February 1990 with the designation of Weber State University becoming effective on 1 January 1991. On 20 July 1990, Dr. Paul H. Thompson was appointed as the tenth president of the institution.

The university first opened its doors for students on 7 January 1889 when ninth-eight students enrolled for classes. At that time the school was designated as Weber Stake Academy (Weber Stake was an ecclesiastical division of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Weber Stake Academy was one of twenty-two Mormon colleges or academies founded in that time period to provide basic elementary and secondary education and Mormon religious training to counteract the Protestant missionary schools which had been established in the area during the late nineteenth century. Louis Frederick Moench was the first principal, and the first classes were held in the Mormon Second Ward meetinghouse.

Over the years the institution changed its name and status from church ownership to state ownership, and moved from teaching basic and secondary courses to college level programs. The institution was Weber Stake Academy from its founding in 1889 to 1897. In 1902 the school was renamed Weber Academy, and in 1918 it became Weber Normal College because of the teacher training emphasis. In 1922 the high-school-level courses were dropped, and the name was changed to Weber College, with classes now on the junior college level. The college was a Mormon Church college until 1 July 1933 when the school was turn over to the State of Utah by an act of the state legislature.

Weber College remained a junior college until 1962 when students began work at Weber as a four-year institution. In 1951 the college moved from its downtown location in Ogden to a spacious and scenic area in the southeast bench area of the city. On 14 May 1963 the name of the institution was again changed to Weber State College. All of this change had come as result of tremendous growth of student numbers which by 1962 had reached 3,670 and by the strong support of faculty and citizens of the northern Utah area. The community also had acted together to overcome by referendum vote in 1954 a move by Governor J. Bracken Lee to turn the school back to the Mormon Church.

Weber State University has developed into a major state undergraduate institution serving northern Utah and areas beyond, including American and international students. The university has received awards for its teacher education training, for NUSAT electronic satellite program, teaching alliances, and providing a good, general all-around education. The university claims several prominent graduates and faculty from its ranks. Among this list are business magnate J. Willard Marriott; author-historian, Fawn Brodie; Mormon Church president, David O. McKay; communications expert, Mark Evans Austad; inventor of the industrial diamond, H. Tracy Hall; U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, David M. Kennedy; prominent lawyer and university president, Ernest L. Wilkinson; president of Black and Decker, Nolan Archibald; professional basketball coaches, Dick Motta and Phil Johnson; and band and orchestra composer, Clair W. Johnson - just a few of the illustrious people associated with Weber State University.