June, 10, 2010

Pioneers of Our Higher Education

On the north side of the Education in Zion gallery is a room titled “Pioneers of our Higher Education Tradition.”  On its walls hang images and stories highlighting eight of the countless pioneers who shaped Brigham Young University.

Some of these individuals are well-known, such as Sidney Sperry, Florence Jepperson Madsen, and James E. Talmage.  Others are not as easily recognizable, including Brigham Thomas Higgs and Delbert Brigham Brown.  Well-known or not, each of these men and women worked to build a legacy of learning—one of faith, love, and mentoring.

For example, Delbert Brigham Brown, born in 1896, grew up in the Mormon colonies in Mexico and later relocated to Provo with his family at the age of 52 so his children could attend BYU.  He was hired as the custodian at the Smith Fieldhouse.  Brown became the confidant and trusted advisor of many students.  The following story from the gallery gives a glimpse of this man’s influence:

One day Delbert found a purse containing cigarettes and a gold lighter. The young woman who came to claim it wept when he told her the story of a young man who “took up with some [bad] habits” but with help overcame them; it was, of course, his own story in disguise. Delbert told her that she could have “the cream of the campus” for her friends and future husband, if she would only try. About three years later, following a devotional, a young woman asked him if he remembered the girl with the cigarettes. “I[’]m that girl,” she said, “and I[’]m going to be married in the temple next month.”

What makes Brown and BYU’s other pioneers so influential was their ability to change the individual—to reach out and find the one, following the example of the Savior.  When coming to Education in Zion and reading about the pioneers of BYU’s past, think about the educational pioneers in your own life and consider how you could influence others in the future.