NOV 1, 2019
9:00A – 12:00P
University of Utah, Marriott Library, Rm 1150
PANEL: A University for Utah: The Great Issues Forum 1952-1974
PRESENTATION: Placing Juanita Brooks among the Heroes (or
Villains) of Mormon and Utah History.
by Richard Saunders
SPONSORING ORGANIZATIONS: Utah State Historical Society,
Utah Historical Quarterly, UofU Department of Philosophy, UofU
Department of History, UofU Continuing Education & Community
Engagement, UofU American West Center, Juanita Brooks Lecture
Series and Dixie State University
A University for Utah: The Great Issues Forum 1952-1974
9:00 – 10:30 am
Panel discussion evaluating the University of Utah Philosophy Department’s Great Issues
Forum and the idea of the university.
John Bennion, former Superintendent of the Salt Lake City School District and an
Bruce Landesman, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Utah
L. Jackson Newell, Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Utah and former
president of Deep Springs College in California.
John Nilsson, Assistant Dean of the Academic Advising Center at the University of Utah
and author of an article on the Great Issues Forum in UHQ, vol. 87, no. 3.
Two years after the University of Utah’s centennial commemoration (1850–1950),
Waldemer Read, chair of the Philosophy Department, in partnership with the Extension
Division (now Continuing Education) looked to the school’s future by launching an
annual lecture series open to the public. The Great Issues Forum featured the work of
local, national, and international scholars on topics of contemporary relevance ranging
from the nature of truth to civil rights to the freedom of the press and the war in
Vietnam. The participants were committed to a broad view of the university, a center
of intellectual leadership and service, benefiting the entire state. The forum endured
until the professionalization of philosophy, specialization within the academy, and the
secularization of the university combined to make the topics narrower, the faculty scarcer,
and the attendance sparser. This panel discussion involving former forum participants will
address the evolution of the idea of the university: although all-embracing events like the
Great Issues Forum are relics of the past, in the twenty-first century are we coming full
circle to this earlier idea of the university?
Placing Juanita Brooks among the Heroes (or Villains) of Mormon and Utah History
by Richard Saunders
11:00 – 12:00 pm
Presentation originally delivered as the thirty-sixth annual Juanita Brooks Lecture at Dixie
State University, March 28, 2019
At midcentury the gulf between the history produced by academics and that consumed
by the general public was narrower than it now is. The practice of Utah history was
largely one-dimensional, emphasizing a single cultural perspective, common values, and
identities over class conflict, social divisions, and circumstantial complexities. Richard
Saunders takes a lens to Juanita Brooks, the giant of a historian most readers will be
familiar and even empathetic with, and asks the seemingly innocuous question: Why do
we consider Brooks great?—in her contemporaries’ words, heroic. The answer requires
looking at not only what Brooks did, but even more at the cultural and intellectual waters
she swam in leading up to publication of her classic work, The Mountain Meadows
Massacre (Stanford University Press, 1950). By midcentury a new way of telling the
history of Utah and Mormonism was emerging from the 1930s and 1940s. At the
forefront of this transformation was Brooks and her young mentor, Dale Morgan, who
employed what Saunders calls a documentary approach that valued evidence over
theology or cultural solidarity. Brooks was part of a sea change that brought Utah history
into professional and academic ranks and changed public understanding of the past.
Panel and presentation are based on articles.