Our Family Legacy
Graduate of 1876 Marvels at Institution's Growth
Sixty years ago today these graduates of the normal school of the University of Deseret received their diplomas. Lacking of ceremony of today's exercises, the students were given their certificates, posed for this picture and their school days ended. From left to right the graduating class of 1876 included: a Mr. Wilson, whose first name was not remembered; Mrs. Clarissa Smith Williams, president of the Relief Society; F. M. Bishop, professor of Natural Science; Eli A. Day, only living member of the class, and John R. Baxter.
BY GLADYS HOBBS
But, they weren't the only ones in the great audience who held diplomas. Carried in an atlas under the arm of a gentleman of 80 years was this certificate:
University of Deseret
This is to certify that Eli Azariah Day has completed the course of study in the normal department of this institution.
In testimony whereof, we hereunto append our signatures and cause the seal of the University to be affixed this 9th day of June, A. D. 1876.
In ink once black, now faint tan, these names follow the certificate: John R. Park, president; Dr. Carl G. Maeser, Professor German, and theory and practice; F. M. Bishop, B. S., president of natural science, and J. B. Toronto, professor of Ancient Languages and Mathematics.
Eli Day, of Fairview was awed as he watched the great quilt of black caps. He had been even more amazed when he watched the graduates John R. Park Building to march from the magnificent Kingbury Hall. He thought of John R. Park himself and of the University which later became the University of Utah, which he headed.
"If we students had sat down in our mental philosophy class (Psychology) and had been asked to write an essay describing the University as we thought it would be in 60 years, we couldn't have conceived it one half so wonderful as it is today," Mr. Day said.
When he attended the University it was held in the Council Building on the corner of Main and South Temple where the KSL Building now stands. The building was red brick, two stories high, as Mr. Day described it. It was placed 20 feet from the sidewalk and surrounded by a picket fence.
The student body of 1876 would equal one third of the faculty members of the present school. There were five graduates from the normal department, who received the first diplomas ever given out by the University.
Dr. Maeser started the class for teachers as an experiment, with the aid of the territorial legislature upon recommendation from the territorial superintendent of public instruction. Therefore, the only teachers were those physically incapacitated to do manual labor. The tuition was provided by the legislature and the students paid only for their books. Mr. Day paid for his by chopping wood for the book salesman.
"I was the worst dressed student in the whole class and I didn't have any money except that which I spent for board and room," Mr. Day said.
He spent only 35 cents for amusement during his ten months in Salt Lake City.
"Gilmore's Band was coming to play at Salt Lake Theater and my friend and I wanted to go. We bought tickets for 25 cents in 'nigger heaven' and heard the band. The other ten cents was spent for an orange. We saw a peddler who was selling oranges. They were 15 cents a pieces. We only had a dime between us so he picked out the scrawniest orange he could find and sold it to us for the dime."
There was no address to graduates when Eli A. Day finished his course. The diplomas were merely distributed and the students left the school. With his "key" Mr. Day went to William T. Redd, superintendent of Sanpete County Schools, and applied for a job as a teacher.
Mr. Read read over the diploma. He was puzzled. "This is the first time I've ever seen one of these things," he said. "I don't know what to do with it."
He gave Mr. Day the job as instructor by turning the diploma over and writing on the back of it: "I hereby endorse the within diploma of the Normal Department of the University of Deseret. Witness my official signature this 23rd day of September, 1867, William T. Reid."
This happened on Mr. Day's twentieth birthday. He continued to teach school for 36 years.
Ten years ago, the class of '76 had a reunion. There were three members present. Today Mr. Day is the only member still living. He is alert and active and remembers remarkably well. Memorable events of his year at the University, only one year was required to receive a normal certificate, were recalled as vividly as though they happened yesterday.
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