UVU launches 75th anniversary year of celebration
Utah Valley University President Matthew S. Holland officially launched the University’s 75th anniversary Tuesday, Jan. 26, with his seventh State of the University address, reminding faculty, staff and students in attendance that UVU’s present is much grander than its past — but not nearly as grand as its future.
President Holland related the story of the institution’s first leader, Hyrum Johnson, who hired people to start new classes and bought equipment for them with his own money, without knowing whether or when reimbursement or funding would come. “Here was a man on a vital mission but virtually no staff, no money, and no campus,” said Holland. “Cramped in various and random quarters across Utah and Heber Valleys, instructors met with eager, even desperate, students delivering instruction wherever shared or donated space could be found.”
Created in 1941 as the Central Utah Vocational School, “the institution took a whole generation of mostly older, unemployed men out of economic and professional despair, and bolstered a worldwide fight against racial terror and political tyranny,” noted Holland.
“During my time here at UVU, I have spoken often of Wilson Sorensen [longest serving president for 37 years],” he continued. “It was my privilege to meet Wilson just weeks after I had been appointed president of UVU and just weeks before he passed away. I made him a solemn promise that day that I would do everything I possibly could to preserve and extend his magnificent accomplishments in building up this ‘miracle in the valley’ we now call Utah Valley University.”
A successful nursing program was underway by the 1950s, which provided some of the earliest and most advanced professional opportunities for women in the area. “The regional healthcare leaders tell me constantly that they have more success with UVU trained nurses than any other program around,” Holland said.
By the 1960s, academic programs were expanded and the school became known as Utah Trade Technical Institute; five years later it was renamed Utah Technical College. “In so many respects, the courses and programs that drove the creation of this institution and remain vital to its existence are those of the trades and technical education,” he said. “These programs have lifted and transformed the opportunities of citizens who otherwise might have been lost in more traditional programs of public and higher education.”
In the 1970s, students consistently made a name for themselves in vocational competitions, honors that continue today, Holland observed. This past year, UVU’s SkillsUSA team won the national title with more gold medal finishes than any other school in the country.
In the 1980s, students excelled in business-related programs, tying with a Wisconsin college as a top winner at the DECA national competition in 1983. In 1987, the school was renamed once again — Utah Valley Community College.
During the 1990s, UVCC began offering four-year degrees, which paved the way for the community college to become Utah Valley State College, a bona fide four-year college.
The 2000s ushered in the decade of becoming a university, including being named Utah Valley University in 2008. Since then, the University’s accolades are plentiful in academics, faculty honors, student awards and athletics.
Holland shared detailed examples of faculty and student success to illustrate the importance of “honoring our past and revealing the current health and vitality of our institution.”
The president noted there are thousands of stories on campus that demonstrate “we are all about leading our students into phenomenal paths of fulfillment and achievement. If the main purpose of our institution is student success, then when it comes to the state of the University, I say that we are indeed, ‘75 Years Strong.’”
As UVU looks to the future, its next building priority is the construction of an arts facility. “UVU is in the process of developing one of the best undergraduate programs in the nation, yet we are the only school in the state that does not have a physical home for the arts,” Holland said. “Every dollar raised makes a public victory that much more likely. But we are also going to need the support of the Legislature to complete the funding of this critical project.
“This institution has a trajectory and destiny so much greater than any one area, project or person,” he concluded. “Think of where we have come from and where we are today. Now just imagine where we are going. Our present is so much grander than our past but is not nearly as grand as our future. Our best days and finest accomplishments are ahead of us, not behind us.”
UVU President Matthew S. Holland delivers his annual State of the University address Jan. 26.