The HFAC was named in honor of the fifth president of BYA/BYU, Franklin S. Harris. Since his early boyhood, Harris had been encouraged to pursue higher education by influential people such as John Widtsoe. Harris’s greatest inspiration, a teacher at the Juarez Academy in Arizona named Guy Wilson, kindled Harris’s desire to become an educator. Following his graduation from BYA, Harris attended Cornell University and obtained a doctorate in agronomy.
Harris assumed his position at BYU when the university was in dire financial needs. Although the university’s credibility and curriculum were lacking compared to other universities, he was undaunted and sought to make changes. Among his many accomplishments, Harris upgraded the collections of the library from 17,030 volumes to over 138,500 volumes. To accommodate such a large increase in books, Harris had to commission a new library to be built; he named it the Hebert J. Grant Building. Harris also hired more accredited educators with doctorates and urged existing faculty members to earn their doctorates as well. His vision of education extended beyond the scope of the campus; he founded Leadership Week, later renamed Education Week to instruct and enrich the community.
Perhaps the biggest accomplishment he’s known for is acquiring the land that is BYU’s campus today. Despite criticisms, Harris said “I can never purchase enough land to provide for the future growth and development of this campus.” To hear more stories about the forerunners of Brigham Young University, visit the Education in Zion Gallery at the top of the spiral staircase in the JFSB.