Memories and Reflections
Edited by Scott G. Kenney

Chapter 3
The Apostle of Education, 1911-22

Murdock Academy (ca. 1914).Murdock Academy was housed in an old abandoned fort bought by two well-to-do Beaver citizens. Some of the buildings were used for classrooms, others to house faculty members and their families. The balance were used as student dormitories. There was no structure originally built for school purposes except a foundation and five feet of wall that had been started four or five years previously. To me it was a pathetic story. The people had been told by one who was presumed to have had a prophet’s vision, Apostle Francis M. Lyman, that some day Murdock Academy would become the great institution of higher learning in southern Utah. Josiah Hickman had inspired the people to begin construction of a beautiful sandstone building. But funds proved inadequate and the faithful Saints were greatly disillusioned. It was left for President Tolton of the Beaver Stake and me to convince the church that the building should be completed. Our efforts were not so long or as difficult as those of Professor Hickman and President White, but they were probably more carefully planned.

The academy offered preparatory classes for teenagers who had not completed grade school, and four years of high school. It also [p.62] functioned as a “reform school” for wayward boys. In addition to serving as principal, I also taught a college course for Beaver City teachers and Murdock faculty who had not secured their degrees.

Since the academy was financed entirely from church appropriations and student tuition, the faculty spent much time and energy to maintain a school population of 300. Two or three weeks before the opening of each school year were spent visiting communities from Kanosh on the north to Fredonia, Arizona, on the south searching for prospective students. The task was essential but not particularly enjoyed by a new faculty member. Still, like Mormon missionary work generally, we eventually warmed up to our assignment, becoming eloquent advocates and preachers of education. And like all missionaries we learned to love the cause and gained a “testimony” of its value.

Edna with Gordon, Sheldon, and Stanford Ericksen (1918).On one such trip I was accompanied by my wife and baby. Edna was twenty-two and Stanford a little more than a year old. I sent a letter to each bishop, informing him of the day we would be in his community. I also told him that my wife would join me and, if he desired, would sing a couple of solos at the evening meeting. This announcement had the effect of bringing out the entire ward. Edna sang beautifully and her singing brought out the best talk I was capable of. It was our most successful effort in attracting students.

Edna had received vocal training before we were married, and in Beaver we agreed that her talent should be further developed. She studied under Professor Alfred Durham and sang the lead role in the operetta, The Nautical Knot (1915). It was a great hit. Edna also gave a Sunday afternoon recital at the academy.

For me, visiting church communities, lecturing on the importance of education, teaching psychology and education, presiding at church services, and conducting faculty meetings were easy compared to the duties of student discipline. Parents would bring their boys and girls with three [p.63] or four months’ provisions and a few pieces of furniture, secure living quarters, and leave all other matters for us to look after. Sometimes a mother would come and live with her children, but most students were without adult supervision other than that provided by the school.

When a family arrived at our home after a long and difficult journey, Edna would frequently serve them a simple but warm supper. The students were often timid at first, and when they saw where and how they were to live, they frequently felt discouraged. We assured them that they were among friends who had experiences similar to their own and that they would soon feel comfortable and happy.

Young souls were nearly always short of some needed equipment, and Edna would tell them that she had had the same kinds of problems when she went to school in Paris. “Oh, did you go to school in Paris?” they asked. “Yes,” she replied, “but not in France. It was Paris, Idaho.” Then she would tell them her experiences on Apple Street, while attending the LDS University, and her life at the Brigham Young College, where she got her “feller.” I, of course, was more serious. I told them that their reason for being at the Murdock Academy was to get an education and that getting the right “feller” or “girl” was of secondary importance. But then their faces would turn back to the young matron whose conversation was more interesting. She called their attention to our big house, with its nearly empty rooms. “But,” she said, “we are happy.” She smiled and laughed with them. I told them I had gone to Star Valley hunting deer and caught a goose. They laughed, and I held their attention again, but only for a moment.

Students were assigned to faculty members who looked after their needs and protected their morals. Some carried out their responsibilities with remarkable care, while others felt the obligations too heavy and burdensome. They would rather report the students’ problems to the principal than become involved themselves. Others, however, would [p.64] become too involved. At times some one would report a disconcerting quietness or observe that the lights were on at a very late hour. At other times a dangerous darkness prevailed when the neighbors were sure that young people were still awake. I was told that one of my predecessors had made surprise visits to student quarters at night. He had also delivered lectures on chastity. I was not without advice.

Our relationship with the faculty was amiable and pleasant. I was under the necessity, however, of requesting the resignation of two teachers. Neither had a college degree, and one had no college training whatsoever. In this action I had the support of the faculty and local board. We were trying to maintain the standards required elsewhere for a high school education. Of this the public had to be convinced.

Murdock had won the state track and field meet the year prior to my arriving, and the community had developed a great enthusiasm for athletics. In fact, the people seemed more interested in maintaining first place in athletics than in scholarly achievement. My success would be judged by the kind of athletes I turned out. So I had to get busy with my young cowpunchers and sheepherders.

The young fellows who had proved their mettle in the hundred-yard dash, the quarter-mile, and the mile needed little encouragement. But we needed to scare up men for the broad jump, pole vault, hurdles, shot put, hammer throw, and discus. John Gunn, Ira Hopkins, Clinton Luke, and Arton Durham were all well known, and others showed promise.

I had known some success in throwing the hammer and knew something about the shot put. It was for me now to find and train such a man. One day in the devotional service, I saw a young fellow from Mount Carmel whom I had earlier seen when visiting that little town. He stood head and shoulders above all the other students. “That’s the man for me,” I thought. And for the moment I almost forgot the spirit and purpose of the assembly.

[p.65] At first opportunity, I had a heart-to-heart talk with this young man. I told him of the wonderful educational opportunities that were his, of his religious duties, and then of his athletic possibilities. He was not greatly interested in education but wanted to go on a mission; as for athletics, he did not know much about that. “But I can show you how to throw the hammer. When do you have a free period?” We found an hour, met at the center of the campus, and began work. At first he was as awkward as I had been. But we worked at it religiously day after day, and eventually we succeeded. He became our champion.

We won the state meet on Cummings Field at the university for three successive years. We might have won the next year as well had not one of our men been unjustly disqualified. But that is another story. Our victories were regarded as remarkable in view of the size of our school compared to the larger high schools of the state. We also won a dual meet with the LDS University.

These victories became advertisements for students in southern Utah. But they caused jealousies elsewhere. We were accused of disregarding the rules of the state athletic organization, of not maintaining scholarship standards, and of having contestants who were older men. These were all false accusations, for we had a reliable committee headed by George Luke check carefully into the eligibility of our boys.

At Luke’s suggestion we notified Chairman Joseph F. Merrill that Clinton Luke, as a student of sixteen in the preparatory school, had participated in a competition at BYU. Dr. Merrill assured us that the technicality would not disqualify him. It would be unjust to keep a boy of that age out of these contests. So he went to Salt Lake City with the team looking forward to our fifth straight state championship.

When we arrived in the city we double checked with the committee and were again assured our boy would not be barred. Not until our team entered the field were we told that Clinton Luke would not be permitted [p.66] to enter. We withdrew from the meet after a strong protest. “Dr. Merrill,” I charged, “you have turned completely around in your boots. It is a cowardly trick.” I had more hot blood in my veins then than now.1

It was George Luke, Irene Tolton, Mamie Olerton, and Hettie White whose loyalty enabled me to do my job at Murdock and retain my position. Had it not been for them, my liberal views in this highly orthodox community would have caused me trouble. They ignored my mistakes and magnified my few successes. I was inexperienced, candid, and devoid of diplomacy, which was obvious to all. A few unfriendly individuals within the faculty and on the outside quietly made criticisms. But President Tolton,2 a man of strength in the community, was quick to put the critics straight. It was he who employed me, not the bishops and not Superintendent Cummings. He also had implicit confidence in the judgment of his daughter Irene, the young teacher who never failed to come to my rescue when in difficulty.

In June 1913 the old assembly building burned down. Some may have thought this was my personal contribution to the cause, but I swear I did not do it. Yet all the students, faculty, and even the principal seemed [p.67] to enjoy the big fire. More than that, they whispered, “We may now get the new building completed.”

President Lyman, of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, was invited to visit. He came and was reminded of our “sad plight” and of his prediction. He replied, “Then you want me to fulfill my prediction?” “Yes, Brother Lyman,” we answered. And he and the church did. It was not a three-story building but a two-story one. Unfortunately, it was destined to be occupied for only seven or eight years.

Near the close of my third year at Murdock, in 1914, I began to feel that if I were ever to achieve my life’s ambition I must get back to Chicago and complete the doctorate. I had done some work on my thesis but became so involved in administration that I was beginning to lose interest in what I had thought was my greatest calling. Within a few years I would become just another high school teacher or administrator holding down a job. I must get back into the center of higher education, which, of course, meant that I must have the highest credentials. Experience is essential, but it is not enough.

I met with President Tolton and his committee and proposed that I take a short leave of absence, about the first of March, to give me spring and summer quarters at Chicago. I recommended that Reinhard Maeser be appointed principal in my absence. President Tolton was understanding and considerate.

“But would Brother Maeser be willing?”

“Yes, for I shall give him one hundred dollars of my salary.” One hundred dollars for teaching two classes for six or eight weeks was not very much. But he was most accommodating, and I needed the balance of the $1,800. When I think of how quickly this matter was effected and the kindness of the board and the faculty, I am amazed—amazed at my nerve in making such a request and at their generosity. I got more than I deserved. I nearly always did, and I cannot understand why.

[p.68] Leaving my little family was difficult. At two, Stanford was old enough and smart enough to tell the Farnsworths, “Papa going to Chicago and I’m going to stay home and take care of Mama and baby.” He could be most affectionate. Through the cold winter nights—and believe me they were cold—Stanford and I had been sleeping partners. He was put to bed early and had the bed nice and warm for his cold daddy. “Come in bed Papa and I’ll get you warm.” Sheldon, our newest child, was not yet one, and Mama had the warmer bed downstairs in a room heated by an old wood stove.

Edna carefully packed my suitcase and a nice lunch box. The old bus honked and away I went to Milford, then on to Salt Lake City by the Southern Pacific. Three days later I was in Chicago.

Near the end of the spring quarter, Joseph Peterson, head of the psychology department at the University of Utah, arrived to teach the first term of summer quarter. He called on me shortly after his arrival. We were birds of a feather. Both deeply religious, we had been disillusioned about many beliefs and methods of our church. His three or four years at the University of Chicago had made him a critical psychologist, and I was on the way to becoming a critical philosopher. He approached religion as a philosophical psychologist and I as a sort of psychological philosopher.

Dr. Peterson had brought his wife with him, which started me thinking about bringing Edna and the boys out. Had I been more mature and reflective I should have asked, Can I afford the cost? And what about the Chicago heat through June, July, and August? Still, they came, and we spent a happy summer together.

We went swimming with the Petersons at Lake Michigan and had our picnic parties together. We spent many hours together, strolling through Washington and Jackson parks and in our apartments. He was attentive to every comment made, both from critics and sympathizers. I [p.69] admired his keen analytical mind and his fine sense of justice. His story and his ideas of higher education caused me to think seriously about where I belonged in the church school system—or if I belonged there at all. No one had given me a clearer picture of the situation in Utah.

After the first six-week term the Petersons returned to Utah, and we moved from our one-room apartment into their larger apartment for the remaining six weeks. I bought a little two-wheel “go cart,” making it possible for all four of us to go places together.

The highlight of my summer coursework was a class in group psychology from a visiting professor, Dr. Parker. Professor Thomas had said that Dr. Parker had remarkable insight into the psychology of mob behavior in the South. Well, I thought, this is a man I want to hear and know. He may answer the question, Why were the Mormons persecuted? Why did mob action arise against my people?

I was not disappointed. After getting used to Dr. Parker’s mumbling way of talking, I learned about the preliminary stages of mob spirit. There was a feeling of expectation; something was about to take place, but nobody knew how or what. Men would collect in groups, expressing their fears, but no one seemed to know what it was all about. Mental clouds would gather and then, like lightning, would strike an object. And the object would always be a colored man, guilty or innocent—it made little difference.

Whenever Parker referred to a southern mob, I thought Gentile; whenever he spoke of the innocent Negro, I thought innocent Mormon. I was now in a position to explain Mormon/Gentile conflicts in psychological terms. I no longer needed to ask which party was guilty, but what were the causes, the antecedent psychological processes. Mobs were no longer inspired by the devil but by unrestrained human nature. The understanding of human nature, psychology, and reflective thinking could now come at last to the rescue of the irresponsible in human life. [p.70] Reflective thought must replace, or at least supplement, preaching against sin and the damnation of the offender.

My interest in the principles developed by Dr. Parker must have attracted his attention, for he asked me to take a period of his class and report my thesis studies to his students. He was especially interested in “the Mormon marriage institution,” as were most of the Chicago people at that time.

A University of Missouri sociologist by the name of Elwood had made the unfortunate statement in a high school textbook that children of polygamous marriages were not of as high a quality as those of monogamous marriages. After treating the general subject of my thesis I took occasion to call attention to this unfounded position. I told the group that the evidence pointed in the other direction.

“How is that?” asked Dr. Parker. “Do you mean to tell us that because a man has children by two or three women his children are of a higher quality?”

I explained that in polygamous days the men who assumed responsibility for rearing a large family were the more successful men and presumably biologically and psychologically of higher quality. He got my point, but I think he had some doubts about my conclusion. I had some doubts about this myself on the ground that the mothers may not have been of the highest quality. I was skating on thin ice. But this was a popular theme in Utah. Professor Josiah Hickman had collected data which in his judgment demonstrated that children of polygamous families were larger, brighter, and morally better than average children. He had sent this material to Dr. Small of the sociology department at Chicago, requesting that it be evaluated for a doctor’s thesis. Professor Small’s reply was interesting and significant. “Mr. Hickman, your statistics are most interesting, but may I ask what method you employed in collecting them?” Hickman did not get his degree.

[p.71] At the end of the summer we returned to Utah. Edna visited her family in Farmington while George Luke and I undertook the annual recruitment drive. Edna’s mother was not in the best of health, and Edna brought her and six-year-old Ivins to Beaver for a rest. Unfortunately neither Ivins nor Stanford was always on best behavior. In fact, I know now that I was not behaving as I probably should have in Mother Clark’s presence. She was sweet and in no way critical, but I talked too freely about my ideas of religion and family life. I should have been more discreet. Fortunately, as the years passed, I regained what I may have lost in reputation during those two or three weeks. The kind things she has since said both to and about me have made me feel that I was accepted as a son in her family, not just a son-in-law.

I did not realize it at the time, but the 1914 recruitment drive would be my last. We left no stone unturned. Every community was visited; the gospel of education was taught to every young soul that would listen. George knew nearly everybody down there, having been reared in Circle Valley. He could cover an entire community in just a few hours. His was what we called a “running walk.”

In the evening I did most of the preaching, partly because George wanted me to but mostly because I loved doing it. Four missions of this sort had convinced me that not only was the gospel of education “true” but that it was probably the only really true gospel.

I was so converted to education that when called upon to “say a few words” at stake conferences, I would preach a sermon on the “eternal glory of education” and on the “sacred mission of the Murdock Academy.” I was scolded by the brethren from Salt Lake City for attempting to make the school “more important than the whole church.” Elders Heber J. Grant, Joseph W. McMurrin, and James E. Talmage each reprimanded me on different occasions for the direction my enthusiasm was taking. I did not feel hurt, for I knew the gospel—my gospel—to be true. I would [p.72] quote Jesus to myself, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” So I bear this testimony: “I know the gospel is true so far as it is interpreted correctly.” Faith, charity, and education, these three. And the greatest of these was education—my idea of education.

Enthusiasm and persistence paid off. Student population topped three hundred, the number required to secure a church appropriation. We also recruited a few good athletes, thanks to George’s knowledge of where athletic stock was to be found and his ability to convince them of a bright future at Murdock. Many of my converts were also faithful to my religious education, or educational religion. I can name only a few, but enough to convince myself that my preaching took root. George Luke became a professor of physics at the University of Idaho; Thomas Joseph, a dean at an eastern university; Irene Tolton, a teacher at the University of Utah; Edgar White, a school district superintendent (though he later fell from grace by becoming a doctor). Lucy and Cecilia Jones became wonderful mothers and even greater grandmothers; and Cathleen Smith became the mother of missionaries by the dozens.

I was so thoroughly converted to the work I was doing that to be released would come as a disappointment. Superintendent Cummings was too far away to interfere with my work, and “the brethren” visited only once every three months. Some of the local brethren were, to be sure, concerned about my lack of orthodoxy, but my friends came to my defense. Humility at that stage of my educational career was not the virtue for which I was best known. I was proud—too proud—of my record at Murdock. When one reaches a point where he believes himself to be above criticism and regards himself as indispensable, it is time for a change, both for him and for the community he serves. This is my own confession.

During the 1914-15 school year there took place what we referred to as “the muddle” at the University of Utah. Four young instructors [p.73] were fired and the head of the English department demoted. It was an awkward move on the part of the administration, and seventeen members of the faculty, including Joseph Peterson, resigned in protest.3

E. E. Ericksen (1915).At the April 1915 General Conference, Superintendent Cummings told me that Dean Milton Bennion4 of the University of Utah wanted to see me. Joseph Peterson had recommended me to Dean Bennion as a replacement for Franklin Smith, who was resigning his post as assistant professor of philosophy. Dean Bennion was congenial, frank, and unassuming—a man who appeared to know just what he was about. He interviewed me for the position of assistant professor teaching elementary [p.74] courses in philosophy and psychology at an annual salary of $1,700. Neither the rank nor the salary was particularly flattering, and I was somewhat sympathetic with the men who had resigned—though I knew very little about the controversy. When I asked about it, Dean Bennion prefaced his remarks with the statement, “Well, of course, I did not resign.” In his judgment no good purpose was served by the resignations, either to the university or to the men themselves. Although his response was clear and effective, it was his personality rather than what he said that influenced me. I told Dean Bennion that if offered the position, I would accept.

Edna was excited about the prospect of living in Salt Lake City and having a husband at the university. She wanted to live more in the center of things and near her folks. When my appointment was approved, we celebrated by visiting the Pan-American Exposition in San Francisco and taking summer classes at the University of California. We packed our suit cases, bundled our little papooses on our backs, and, like Indians, away we went.

At Wells, Nevada, we called upon my sister Anna and her husband Robert Vardy. He was so ill he could hardly speak. I sat up with him all night, and in the morning I called for Anna. She came in and cradled him in her arms. “I need you so much,” he said. And in a few moments he passed away.

After a few days with Anna we took the train for California—our first visit to that state. In Berkeley we found a small apartment and were delighted to discover that our next door neighbors were the Knapps from the Murdock Academy. They had brought their babies and we had ours, so we were all at home. Mamie Olerton and many other Utahns were also at the university that summer.

The General Board of the Mutual Improvement Association of the LDS Church. E. E. Ericksen is fourth from the left on the back row.I registered for social ethics from Dr. Adams and for educational psychology from Professor Reugh. Dr. Adams was a young gentleman [p.75] with a high pitched voice that was annoying to me at first. Later I learned that he was regarded as the strongest man in the department. Professor Reugh was a most interesting lecturer. His class numbered well over two hundred. Among Utah students he was most popular, and he was later invited to teach at the BYU summer school.

At the fair we heard William Jennings Bryan and Teddy Roosevelt. Although it was four decades ago, I can still say that I have never seen anything more beautiful and impressive than the Tower of Jewels and the display of fireworks in the evenings. The tower stood majestically at the entrance. Just what the architects intended it should symbolize I do not remember, but to me it stood for America, its ideas, its principles of liberty, of justice that extended into eternity. It may also have represented the beauty and majesty of the country, its mountains, lands, and seas. Whether by day or by night, I was emotionally affected by it. In the evenings it was made most impressive by skillful electrical devices.

Alma and his wife Eleda spent a short time at the fair and then joined us on a boat trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles, where we took the train to Utah.

A few days before leaving Beaver for Salt Lake City, we spent two or three days with our closest friends at Puffer’s Lake, a beautiful body of water high in the mountains east of Beaver. There was no highway to this resort so we drove our teams of horses up over the mountains. There we enjoyed fishing, picnicking, boating, and talking about anything and everything. We threw off all responsibility and behaved like our primitive ancestors living in the woods. With this happy occasion as the final event, we were ready to leave Murdock and our friends.

We set up housekeeping at 252 University Street, Salt Lake City, with less than nothing. I was in the red when I left Beaver and remained faithful to that color until it came to mean something more than being in debt. We spent our checks for good vacations and lived on good credit.[p.76] We bought our home on credit and furnished it on credit. At that time, I must have had a good name.

For the first two years my teaching load was not heavy, thanks to the thoughtful arrangement of Dean Bennion.5 I was attentive to my job and highly self-conscious. As one of the few new professors without a Ph.D., I was timid in faculty circles and did little to advance my reputation. At Murdock I had been a big frog in a little pond. Here I was a minnow. To make matters worse, I could not afford to dress as well as my poorest students. Clothes do not make a man, but they might unmake a man if he is compelled to think about it too much, as I was.

During World War I we were advised by the government what we should and should not buy. The cost of living was rising rapidly. In one faculty meeting Professor Corey exclaimed, “The way prices are rising there is danger of a famine.” After paying fifty dollars rent and making payments on furniture, grocery bills, and heat, little was left for fineries.

After I had advanced to the rank of associate professor, Dean Bennion urged me to complete my work at Chicago. I had no savings but the dean [p.77] insisted I go. It would take two quarters. This time Edna remained home with the three children, for Gordon had been born in September 1917, and took in boarders.

My roommate that summer quarter of 1918 was Edgar White, who had taken an ethics course from me at Murdock. He gave respectful consideration to my views, and I, in turn, got the idea that he knew what he was talking about. He did not talk for the purpose of hearing himself but because he had something to say and sincerely wanted to know what I thought. We were quite intimate in our conversation on matters religious and personal. Like myself, he was engaged in a transition from religious and moral dogmatism to the more liberal way of thinking. Aristotle said that like-minded men make the best friends. I would add that the like-mindedness that mutually inspires mental growth is the best. His companionship and friendship I esteemed of highest value.6

Professor Hoxie had died and Laughlin had retired. Some of the new men in economics, who had no knowledge of me, were not entirely friendly. The emphasis had shifted from economic philosophy to statistical economics, in which I was neither trained nor interested. Fortunately, the philosophers, Tufts, Moore, Mead, and Ames, were still there, friendly to me and interested in my thesis.7 Professor Tufts read my [p.78] thesis and suggested the addition of a chapter on Mormon group ethics; Mead recommended a chapter on religious background. The final draft was accomplished under the influence of George H. Mead and Edward S. Ames8 of philosophy and I. W. Thomas and Dr. Park of sociology. To these men I attribute the basic ideas employed in my study.

Dr. Ames developed the idea that a “spiritual genius” is a product of his group, and I incorporated this theme in my interpretation of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young as prophetic leaders.

George Mead insisted that the self is the out-growth of stimulus and response in which the self is discovered or developed. You see yourself in the attitudes of your associates as if they were a mirror. I saw, or thought I could see, the Mormon prophets coming into being as spiritual leaders in the presence of group conflicts. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 of my dissertation illustrate these principles.

In my treatment of Mormon marriage institutions I quoted W. I. Thomas on the importance of sex in the development of social values. His Sex and Society was regarded as a great contribution. It was sad that he should lose his standing at the university by permitting the sex impulse to overpower his own personal behavior.

[p.79] The simplicity of style, if that is a quality worth noting, is due to James Laurence Laughlin, head of economics. Clarity was his major emphasis.

The chapters of my dissertation dealing with Missouri through territorial Utah were developed from 1910 to 1915. They were essentially economic and historic in character. The first two and final five chapters, treating Mormon origins and contemporary issues, were ethical and philosophical and were prepared from 1916 to 1918.9

[p.80] While I was ebbing up and down with the tide of events at Chicago, Edna was struggling at home to feed, nurse, and protect our three children. The influenza epidemic struck nearly every family in Salt Lake City. Many died every week. Edna kept me informed and assured me that if any of the family became seriously ill she would send a telegram. It was a great strain for me, fearing a telegram from home. And sure enough, one night about one o’clock there came a knock at my door and the words I shall never forget: “Mr. Ericksen, I have a telegram for you.” There it was. Who would it be? My heart stopped beating. Then I read, “Mr. Ericksen, will you please announce to my students in philosophy that I shall not be able to meet them today.” Great relief.

Edna was taken sick but continued to care not only for her own brood but also for her sister Thelma and her two children and two university girls who were sick and needed attention. Her letters were precious to me. She also had a picture taken of the family to send me. Where she got the money to have it done I never could understand, but Edna always had money for pictures of our children.

In the final examination I satisfied the department of philosophy, but economic theory and the history of economic legislation gave me some trouble and embarrassment. Drs. Wright and Clark of the economics department gave their approval to my graduation, but I think this was done rather reluctantly and I do not blame them. If I were to take that examination today, I think they would be pleased if not surprised.

With the thesis complete and examinations over, I was now ready to celebrate. I sent a telegram to Edna, who received the news with joy. The Cowles were at our home that evening, and Edna reported they all joined hands and danced in a circle.

The Ph.D. was conferred in December 1918. One of the commencement speakers commented, “He who accepts the honor of the high degree from this university makes a sacred pledge to do all in his power to [p.81] advance knowledge and defend it regardless of the pressure of circumstances and how such may effect him personally.” This impressed me as a religious obligation, not unlike that which accompanies the receiving of the higher priesthood in my church. I have tried to honor it as I have the priesthood that was conferred upon me. The one is no less sacred than the other.

Dr. Angel placed the hood over my head. He was a small man and had difficulty reaching over my head—or acted as if he did—which caused some slight amusement in that otherwise dignified assembly. It is just possible that I had grown extremely tall in consequence of this great honor.

I was within a few days of my thirty-eighth birthday. The greater part of my life had been spent as a student. It was now high time, I felt, to begin serving others. In elementary school, high school, and college, I had been under the influence of my church, taught by men with the missionary spirit. At the University of Chicago my teachers were men of great scholarship and wide social training. Missionary work and objective, critical thought sometimes make strange bedfellows. But they were a part of my spiritual household. I could not disclaim either of them. This inner conflict was most intense immediately after leaving Chicago but gradually less as I became actively engaged as a teacher and parent.

The University of Chicago required that a thesis be published or filed in the office of the graduate dean with a note covering the cost of publication. Three years were given before publication was required. Not having the necessary $300, I signed the note.

I left the campus with two bulging suit cases. One contained clothes; the other toys for my boys, a Spanish shawl for my wife, and the sheep skin and hood for me. The toys satisfied the playful instinct of the boys, [p.82] the shawl and the hood the vanity of their parents. The sheep skin decorated my study and helped convince my friends that I was now truly a “learned man.”


1. The technicality was that Luke had participated in college athletics at BYU while in the eighth grade. The original ruling granted permission to participate because Luke had competed before the rules had been adopted separating college and high school participants. But a few days before the meet, Salt Lake high schools threatened to withdraw unless Luke was barred. The university, where the meet was scheduled, depended on gate receipts to cover the costs of the meet. The ruling was reversed. After withdrawing their team from the meet, John H. Barton, J. T. Tanner, E. E. Ericksen, and O. F. McShane sent a sharp letter of protest to the university and local newspapers. Merrill and Jacob Bolin of the university responded that the date of Luke’s BYU competition had been inadvertently misrepresented, resulting in their reversal, but the Murdock representatives denied the error (Deseret News, 26 May 1913, 2).

2. John F. Tolton (1861-1950), Beaver city councilman, U.S. deputy marshal, county clerk, and county surveyor; president, LDS Beaver Stake and Murdock Academy board of trustees (1908-16); Democratic candidate for governor (1912); four-term state representative, and speaker of the House (1917).

John A. Widtsoe.3. In February 1915 University of Utah president Joseph C. Kingsbury notified two associate professors and two instructors that “for the good of the University” they would not be reappointed for the following year. They were refused a hearing. Two weeks later, the popular head of the English department was demoted, to be replaced by Osborne J. P. Widtsoe, principal of the LDS High School. It was widely believed that the actions were the result of church pressure to reduce non-Mormon influence at the university. Over half of the 1,349 students signed a petition of protest, and the Alumni Association, Federation of Women’s Clubs, and Ladies Literary Society called for a public investigation. But the board of regents, dominated by influential Mormons, supported Kingsbury. They insisted the two instructors had been released because the English department was being reorganized and their services were no longer required–Dr. A. A. Knowlton had “worked against the administration,” and Associate Professor Wise had “spoken in a depreciatory way” about the university and its administration. The four denied the charges and offered to refute them by evidence, but the board refused to reconsider. Nine full professors, including the dean of arts and sciences and the dean of the law school, four assistant professors, three instructors, and one lecturer–a third of the entire faculty–resigned in protest. In April the American Association of University Professors launched an investigation by six prominent professors, including John Dewey. Their report condemned the actions of the president and the board, and Kingsbury resigned in January 1916, to be replaced by John A. Widtsoe (Ralph V. Chamberlin, 325-41).

4. Milton Bennion (1870-1953), graduate, University of Utah (1897); M.A., Columbia (1901); principal, Southern Branch, Utah State Normal School, Cedar City (1897-1900); member, Utah State Board of Education (1898-1900); assistant professor (1904-13), professor of philosophy (1904-13), dean of the school of education (1913-41), University of Utah; and member, LDS Sunday School General Board (1909-34), Sunday School General Superintendency (1934-1949). Bennion was well respected as an educator and churchman. As editor of the Utah Educational Review during the 1911 BYU evolution controversy, he had published a thoughtful critique of the controversy in favor of academic freedom and caution in disciplining church members for unorthodox beliefs.

5. Except for 1918-20, when William H. Chamberlin taught extension classes, Ericksen and Bennion constituted the philosophy department for fifteen years (1915-1930). Bennion taught Citizenship, Political Ethics, Historical and Critical Introduction to Philosophy, and, later, New Testament Ethics and Philosophy of Religion. Ericksen taught Social Ethics, Moral Development of the Race, Logic, History of Greek Philosophy, and History of Modern Philosophy. Waldemer P. Read, who succeeded Ericksen as department head, began in 1930 and introduced Movements of Thought in the 19th Century. Stephen C. Tornay, hired in 1950, added Philosophy of Art, Philosophy of Mind, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Culture, and Theory of Knowledge. Instructor Jarrett joined the department in the early 1940s, and Obert Tanner in 1946.

The 1916 bulletin described Ericksen’s course on Moral Development of the Race as “a genetic treatment of moral conduct; the moral standards of primitive tribes and of ancient and modern civilized nations with emphasis upon the explanation of the standards in relation to their determining factors.” The following year’s bulletin depicted Social Ethics as “The moral aspect of present day social problems studied with a practical rather than a theoretical emphasis.” The objectives were “(1) To define moral problems connected with the basic social institutions and (2) to point out practical lines of their solution.”

6. Ephraim and Edgar shared a bedroom for $13 per month and paid seventy cents for two meals per day. Two other Utah students, Beckstead and Ogilvey, were in an adjoining room. Ephraim admired Edgar’s even temperament. Ephraim saw himself as “very much inclined to be moody, either in the seventh heaven or in deepest hell.” Initially he identified with Beckstead, who married shortly before leaving for Chicago. “We are both big fellows with lots of red blood. We like to take long walks in the park and talk about our dear ones. We also enjoy to go to picture shows and follow a love story on the screen.” Later, when Beckstead took up smoking cigars in their room, Ephraim lost patience with his erstwhile friend (EEE to ECE, 5 July 1918).

7. The change in faculty and emphasis may have contributed to Ericksen’s decision to reverse himself again and complete his degree in philosophy rather than economics, though he mentioned neither reason in his 18 July 1918 letter to Edna: “I find that in view of the fact that I am in the philosophy department at the U of U it would be to my professional interest to take out my degree in that department. Prof. Tufts has not yet read my thesis but he seemed interested in my explanation of it. You know that I have done 3/4 of my work in Economics and must therefore brush up in philosophy.… Of course I shall have to revise and do a great deal more work on my thesis to make it fit the philosophy department.”

8. George Herbert Mead (1863-1931) graduated from Oberlin and Harvard, where he, like W. H. Chamberlin, studied with Josiah Royce (1888). He taught philosophy at the University of Michigan before going with John Dewey to the newly organized University of Chicago in 1894. Known primarily as a teacher, his famous course in social psychology was presented for thirty years after 1900 and published posthumously as Mind, Self and Society (1934).

Edward S. Ames (Ph.D., Chicago, 1895), was an assistant professor of philosophy and pastor of the United Church of Disciples of Christ (1900-40). He later became head of the philosophy department (1931-35) and was, according to Sydney Ahlstrom, “the country’s most widely read psychologist” (Ahlstrom, 906).

9. After passing his German examination on 20 June, Ericksen cloistered himself in his room working on the thesis from 5:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. By 1 July he was frustrated: “It makes me out of sorts to sit here day after day with an old manuscript that will be of no use to me when it[‘]s done, and it may give me trouble at home when it[‘]s published. So for goodness sakes don’t say any thing about this thesis or me either. I am ashamed of this whole thing, etc., etc., etc. Well I guess I must be in a bad mood.”

A few days later, “This eternal boar at my thesis will soon be over and I will be my real self again.” But by mid-July he decided to switch from economics to philosophy, resulting in additional thesis revisions. He resumed course work on 25 July and returned to the thesis in late August:

Back here toiling away with some old ugly and hateful manuscript. It does seem so out of place for me to sit and kill time this way.… It has certainly been a grind to set here in my room day after day trying to put my ideas into readable form. If there is any one thing that my boys must get in school it is a good command of English. If I had only the expressions I could have finished my thesis in one tenth the time that it has taken me. How thankful you ought to be to know that you knew how to talk and that you have a language that will carry ideas (EEE to ECE).

By the first of October the thesis was ready to be typed. Heber Sears, who frequently visited Ephraim, insisted on reading it. Ephraim read him the first two chapters. Sears was enthusiastic, insisting copies ought to be sent to every ward MIA president. He offered to pay for this himself. “I told him to go to it. I was writing it for the purpose of having it read. But I said that he would have to defend my heresy among the brethren. But he does not anticipate any great stir on that account. He does not think as Cowles does that I am burning my bridges behind me.” Classwork resumed the next day and final thesis revisions were completed in early December.

Ericksen was painfully aware of his heretical nature and was apprehensive about how his thesis would be received in Salt Lake City. He was amused in October when Edna complained that the new house of Albert Taylor and Rachel Smith under construction south of their home would block the view. Ephraim replied, “But think of me having Pres. [Joseph F.] Smith’s daughter next door–and I such a heretic.” Later, Rachel’s older sister, Emily Jane, and John W. Walker moved into the home south of them, giving the University Ward a strong Smith family contingent.