2014: The year of Karl G. Maeser

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Construction workers lift boards to the top of three-story scaffolds outside the Maeser Building.
Construction workers lift boards to the top of three-story scaffolds outside the Maeser Building. (Photo by Taylor Street)

BYU’s first president, Karl G. Maeser, is receiving special attention from various departments by way of a building renovation, a museum exhibition, a birthday party and a book.

Maeser was a driving force behind the establishment of Brigham Young Academy and what is now the Church Educational System.

The exterior renovation and waterproofing project of the Maesar Building began in September 2013, and completion is expected in May 2014, said construction project manager Lynn D. Shumpert. The building opened for classes in Fall 1911, and the last major renovation occurred in the 1980s, according to Carri Jenkins, of University Communications.

The building’s stonework includes limestone, sand, Terra Cotta and cast stone, although Shumpert said the reasons for the mixed selection are now unknown. The project involves repairing, replacing and waterproofing the stonework as necessary, and the contractor is Child Enterprises, of Springville.

Education in Zion employees serve Karl G. Maeser's birthday. After all, what is a birthday without a cake? [Photo courtesy of Natalie Stoker]
Education in Zion employees serve Karl G. Maeser’s birthday cake. (Photo by Natalie Stoker)
BYU plans to further honor Maeser later this year by displaying chalkboards which once hung in his academy, in the Education in Zion gallery. Through careful handling, BYU Special Collections was able to preserve them.

“We have talked about the chalkboards and will be investigating them further in the coming months,” said Heather Seferovich, curator of the Education in Zion gallery. “The issue is space.”

Maeser recorded his favorite philosophies and quotes on these chalkboards. Their presence in the Education in Zion gallery will increase Maeser’s already significant presence there.

The university celebrated Maeser’s birthday and 186-year legacy on Jan. 16.

“I have been on campus for a couple of decades now, and some of my faculty friends have been on campus for much longer. They say that in the last 30-40 years they have not seen any event that has celebrated Brother Maeser’s birthday,” Seferovich said. “It was high time that we change that.”

LeGrand “Buddy” Richards, associate professor of educational leadership, spent the past nine years studying Maeser’s life and is the author of “Called to Teach: The Legacy of Karl G. Maeser.”

The library Special Collections have preserved chalkboards with Karl G. Maeser's handwriting. Photo by Samantha Williams.
The library Special Collections has preserved chalkboards with Karl G. Maeser’s handwriting. (Photo by Samantha Williams)

“It really has been one of the greatest blessings of my life to study in depth the life of Karl G. Maeser,” Richards said. “I think I am a part of the Maeser family now.”

Richards described Maeser’s sense of humor by telling a story about students who tied a donkey to Maeser’s chair at the front of the classroom as a joke. Maeser walked in, looked at the donkey and then turned to the class. “I see,” he said. “Out of all those in the room, you chose the wisest to guide you.”

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