Franklin S. Harris

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Franklin Stewart Harris is best known as the founder of the College of Fine Arts and Communications. He served as President of Brigham Young University from 1921 to 1945. Dr. Harris founded The College of Fine Arts, consisting of the Departments of Art, Music, and Dramatic Arts, in 1925. President Ernest Wilkinson later named the art center, the Harris Fine Arts Center in Harris's honor, in 1965.

Early Life and Education

Harris was born in Benjamin, Utah, and grew up in Mexico. He later attended BYU and received his degree in 1907, a year later he married Estella Spilsbury, whom he met at school. In 1911 he attained his doctorate from Cornell University.


His experience as an agricultural scientist eventually led him to being the President of Utah State University. Harris directed experiments at USU until he was appointed as BYU’s President.

His administration was the longest in BYU history and oversaw many changes in the university. He helped the school move towards being a full university by establishing several colleges, including the College of Fine and Performing Arts (appointing Gerrit de Jong as the first Dean), added the Honors Program, and granting the first masters degrees, and establishing a library in the Heber J. Grant Building. Harris, "Mr. BYU," as he came to be known, was honored at Homecoming 1998. Under his direction, the university dramatically expanded in numbers, prominence and influence. In the April 1965 Daily Universe, President Wilkinson mentions that the reputation of BYU for it's lyceum concert series was due to President Harris' support and encouragement.

Harris wrote 6 books and over 600 pieces ranging everywhere from scientific papers to articles. Harris was honored as an agricultural adviser.

The Harris Fine Arts Center on BYU Provo’s campus bears his name and in 2015, he was honored as one of the founders of the College at the 50th anniversary of the building. The College of Fine Arts and Communication’s highest honor, the Franklin S. Harris Award, is also named in his honor.


Daily Universe. Dedication Honors Dr. Harris. Vol. 17, No. 120. Friday, April 2, 1965. Brigham Young University. Provo, Utah.

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