What we now know as Brigham Young University was founded on October 16, 1875, when Brigham Young, who was then president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, purchased the Lewis Building. He first dubbed the school the “Brigham Young Academy”— in 1896, the Church of Latter-day Saints moved to officially sponsor the school, and in 1903 it was split into the Brigham Young High School and Brigham Young University. In 1904 President Brimhall presided over the purchase of land from Provo for the university and in 1909 construction commenced on the Karl G. Maeser Memorial, in honor of the university’s first president. The Maeser Memorial was the first building built on the current BYU campus.
President Franklin Harris took the helm of the university in 1921 and made the changes necessary to reorganize the school in true university fashion and thereby gain the recognition of the major accrediting organizations. President Harris was the first BYU president with a doctoral degree.
The approximately 560-acre main BYU campus in Provo, Utah is situated below the Wasatch Mountains, which are prominently marked with a large, white “Y” in rocks for the school. There are 311 buildings on the Provo campus in different architectural styles. One of the most famous buildings on campus is the Harold B. Lee Library, which has been called the finest college library in the nation, boasting 8.5 million items in its collections and almost a hundred miles of shelving. Another notable landmark is the Marriot Center, BYU’s basketball arena, which, at 22,000-plus seats is one of the largest in the nation. Many of the school’s departments are housed in the tallest building in Provo, the Spencer W. Kimball Tower, which is known as “the Swiggit” (the name is an acronym of the first letters of each word in the name of the tower).
BYU’s campus is also home to a number of distinguished museums, including: the Museum of Art (one of the biggest and most popular art museums in the regiont the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum; the Museum of Peoples and Cultures; and the Earth Science Museum, which houses one of the best collections of artifacts from the Jurassic Period in the world.
For students who prefer their fellow students to old fossils, there is Wilkinson Center (“the Wilk”), a campus center with venues for eating, socializing, and events. Artsy students tend to congregate at the HFACT, the fine arts building on campus. There’s also a creamery on campus, where BYU students can get ice cream.
BYU is located in Provo, the third-largest city in the state of Utah, with over 115,000 residents. It is just south of the city of Orem, just north of Springville, and approximately 45 miles south of Salt Lake City.
Provo is very much an LDS city—it was first settled in the mid-nineteenth century by a couple dozen Mormon families from Salt Lake, and today the city remains 88% LDS. Politically, Provo is the most conservative city with a population over 100,000 in the United States, according to a study released by the Bay Area Center for Voting Research. Racially, the city is predominantly white, with small African-American, Latino, and Asian American populations.
The city is located at the base of the Wasatch Mountain Range and the white BYU “Y” looms large in Provo’s mountains.
Provo-Orem is definitely a college town and there are many businesses that cater to the college crowd. There are dollar theaters which are almost always sold out on the weekends. Muse and Velour are two concert venues on University Avenue that have local bands on the weekends. There are two large indoor malls, University Mall and Town Centre Mall, and in north Provo there is an outdoor shopping area called the Riverwoods. Two classic restaurants frequently visited by students would be Costa Vida and Café Rio which are basically one in the same and have some great Mexican food. The Malt Shoppe and The Creamery on 9th are also great group date spots. If you’re looking for something other than a regular desert place you need to stop and try out Sub-zero for some ice cream and Pudding on the Rice for some flavorful rice pudding.
Buying ice cream for roommates when they kiss someone for the first time, and steaks when you get engaged.
The canned food drive competition with the University of Utah: around Thanksgiving BYU and its rival University of Utah rally to see who can provide more in the canned food drive for the United Way. Locals as well as students get involved.
When the football team wins at home or in a big game on the road, the school rings the Victory Bell at the Marriott Center. Formerly known as the Y Bell, the Victory Bell has been in its place at the Marriott Center since 1978. It has a storied past and even gets mention in the Cougr Fight Song.
At basketball games students have a special chant for opposing players who foul out: they yell “left, right” along with each of the player’s steps and then “sit down!” as they take their seat.
There is also the tradition of Hiking the Y.
The campus is situated at the base of the mountains and on the mountain is a large white rock Y. The hike is a little over a mile long and provides a great view of Utah Valley. During the early fall and spring semesters students are able to drive into Provo canyon and have bonfires at camping grounds located less than 5 miles into the canyon. This activity is great when it’s warm and lets students ‘escape’ from campus for a couple of hours.
Mitt Romney (’71) former Governor of Massachusetts and 2008, 2012 Republican Presidential Candidate
Philo T. Farnsworth, one of the inventors of television
Orson Scott Card (’75) author of the “Ender’s Game" series
Jon Heder (’02) star of “Napoleon Dynamite”
Aaron Eckhart (’94) star of “Thank You for Smoking” and "The Dark Knight"
Ken Jennings (’00) all-time champ on “Jeopardy!”
Jack Morris (’76) all-star pitcher
Steve Young (’84) Super Bowl-winning quarterback for San Francisco 49’ers
Jim McMahon (’81) Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks for Chicago Bears
Ezra Taft Benson (’26) thirteenth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Secretary of Agriculture for both Administrations of President Eisenhower
The BYU Cougars football team competes in the NCAA Division I-A Mountain West Conference. Football milestones include having gone undefeated and winning the National Championship in 1984 and Cougars quarterback Ty Detmer winning the Heisman Trophy in 1990. Most recently, the team has gone 10-2 and won the Las Vegas Bowl.
The BYU men’s basketball team scored 36th in Street & Smith’s “100 Greatest College Basketball Programs of All Time.” The criteria were NCAA tournament success, National Invitation Tournament success, national championships, conference regular season and tournament titles, all-time win-loss percentage, graduation percentage, NCAA infractions, NBA first round draft picks, and, most intriguingly, mascot ferocity. As of this writing, BYU has the longest ongoing winning streak at home, having won 47 straight times at the Marriot Center.
Other notable teams include men’s volleyball, who won the National Championship three times, women’s volleyball, which reached the Elite Eight in 2007, the rugby team, which has been the national runner-up for three years running, and the ballroom dance company, which is one of the finest dance teams in the world.
BYU football is huge. Games are usually packed and filled with students, out-of-town fans, and locals. The slogan, “I bleed blue!” is a common phrase at sporting events. Men’s basketball and volleyball usually draw large crowds as well. Volleyball is always full and they usually have to turn people away. You’re lucky to get a good seat if you get there an hour early.
Mount Timpanogos is the biggest thing in sight (elevation 11,957 feet), and towers above everything else in the northern view.
Approximately 98% of the 34,000 students at BYU are LDS (Mormon)
Two-thirds of its American students come from outside the state of Utah
78% percent of BYU students speak a second language; BYU students speak 107 different languages beyond their native tongue; 47% of BYU students have lived outside the US for at least one year.
Most, though not all freshmen live in dorms, though few undergrads live on campus thereafter. The university must approve of off-campus accommodations to ensure that they uphold the school’s principles, and has a relationship with local landlords to facilitate that process.
There are four sets of dormitories on campus for single students. The Helaman Halls has doubles for men, suite doubles for women, and suite singles for both. The complex also has a pool, basketball, and sand volleyball courts, laundry, and a piano room. The Heritage Halls consists of two, four, and six person suites that have one bathroom per suite. Heritage Halls also has laundry, a computer lab, and courts for sand volleyball and other sports. Wyview Park has singles and doubles and includes a living room and a kitchen.
The fourth option is Foreign Language Housing, which has three doubles for every apartment with a shared bathroom. The premise of Foreign Language House is that people who live there agree to only speak the foreign language of the house. It’s a full immersion in a foreign language which compliments BYU’s strong emphasis on language programs. A native speaker of the appropriate language lives in each apartment to facilitate learning.
Wymount Terrace provides on-campus apartments for married students.