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Do you recall being greeted by President Ernest Wilkinson, lunching at the Cougareat in the basement of the Joseph Smith Building, dancing the Lindy, or going through registration in the Smith Fieldhouse? If you do, then you might have been at BYU in the 1950s.

Since then, campus space has been refigured and repurposed, new buildings have replaced older ones, and some old build­ings have been given new life. But a constant has been the Spirit of the Y that continues to inspire, encourage, and sup­port each new class and live on in the lives of McKay School and BYU alumni.

Looking back on our college experience can evoke all kinds of feelings and memories. Remembering the good times, the fun interactions, the great people, the challeng­ing courses, the new vistas that were opening, and the future plans can be a source of happiness and gratitude for a lifetime.

BYU College of Education

In the 1950s, David 0. McKay was president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Harry S. Truman was president of the United States from 1945 to 1953, followed by Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1961; and Ernest L. Wilkinson was president of BYU beginning in 1951.

The school we now know as the David 0. McKay School of Education was called the BYU College of Education. Reuben D. Law and then Asahel D. Woodruff served as deans during that decade.

The departments in the college were reorganized during those years. One change involved the Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, which was relocated from the College of Education in 1955 to a newly created university college: the College of Recreation, Health, Physical Education, and Athletics. In 2009 the Physical Education Teaching/ Coaching program returned to the McKay School of Education.

At the end of the 1950s, the College of Education contained the following departments: Educational Administration, Educational Philosophy and Programs, Instruction, Laboratory Schools, and Educational Research and Services.

The Booming 1950s

old wheel

For those who don't remember the 1950s or weren't even born by then, here is a brief look at a time of change and growth in the United States.

Color TV was introduced in 1951 with the Tournament of Roses Parade, the first event nationally televised in color. With the Brown v. Board of Education case, the Supreme Court declared in 1954 that educational segregation was illegal in the United States. In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seal on a bus, inciting the Montgomery bus boycott. In 1955 the McDonald's Corporation was founded. Some additional events include

  • The Korean War started
  • The Cold War was ongoing
  • Peanuts, the Comic Strip by Charles M. Schulz, was first published
  • Jonas Salk Developed the polio Vaccine
  • Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California
  • Elvis Presley made his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show
  • "In God We Trust" was adopted as our national motto 
  • The Russian sputnik, the first-ever satellite, was launched
  • The National Defense Education Act was created
  • Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th US states

"My memory involved having lunch in the downstairs of the Joseph Smith Building and noticing that Terry Tebbs bowed his head to bless his food. (Terry was o BYU basketball guard, o member of college basketball's Associated Press Little All-America team in 1955 and 1956, and was inducted into the BYU Hall of Fame in 1981.) That impressed me. I was new to the Church, as I came from Montano in 1954 to attend the Y. To find humility in an athlete was an inspiration to me."
- Gary Lane Carson, Class of 1956

We would love to hear your memories from the decade you were at BYU. Send them to


Written by Shauna Valentine

Photography courtesy of L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah