Founded in 1888 by Danish Mormon settlers for the purpose of educating themselves and their children, Snow College was first called Sanpete Stake Academy and was begun at the urging of LDS Stake President Canute Peterson, who supported the LDS church’s emphasis on education. Built entirely with local donations, including “Sunday Eggs” (the proceeds from the sales of all eggs laid on Sunday), the school had a rocky start as the locals struggled to finance their dream.
The Academy’s first principal, Alma Greenwood, was assisted by teacher Miss Carrie Henry. The first class of 150 students met on the top floor of the Co-op Store; a building which still stands today, located on the corner of Main Street and First North.
Mr. Greenwood resigned at the end of 1891 and was replaced by Principal George Christensen, who served only one year and left to continue his schooling. He returned twelve years later and became a teacher at the Academy.
From 1892 to 1921 Newton E. Noyes served as principal. The still-occupied administration building bears his name as a tribute to his leadership. When Mr. Noyes began his years of service, the staff had grown to four full-time teachers and two part-time employees. Tuition for preparatory courses was $4.50 for fifteen weeks of study; for intermediate courses, the cost was $6.50 for fifteen weeks.
In 1900, financial woes sent Mr. Noyes to LDS Church headquarters to plead for Church assistance for the school, and Church President Lorenzo Snow authorized $2,000 as that year’s appropriation. In gratitude, the Sanpete patrons named their school Snow Academy after Lorenzo Snow and, at his request, after another early Mormon pioneer, Erastus Snow. The name of the school was changed to Snow Junior College in 1922 and finally to its present name of Snow College in 1923.
Newton Noyes was followed as principal by Wayne B. Hales who served from 1921 to 1924. By this time the student body had grown to 339 pupils, but only 59 were in the college program. In the fall of 1923 plans developed to transfer the high school students to the local board of education.
The next leader of Snow College was Milton H. Knudsen who served from 1924 until 1933. When the high school students were transferred to the local board of education, Snow accepted the first four grades of elementary school in return. President Knudsen strengthened the College’s normal school by providing each student with valuable experience in teaching under the supervision of skilled instructors. In the last year of President Knudsen’s administration -owing to financial difficulties caused by the Depression - the LDS Church deeded Snow College to the state.
Knudsen was followed by Dr. I. Owen Horsfall, who served from 1933-1936. Dr. Horsfall stressed self-improvement of the faculty, and in the summers of 1935 and 1936, 70 percent of the teachers were doing graduate work. During Dr. Horsfall’s administration the teacher-training programs were dropped from all two-year schools in the state. As a result, Snow’s curriculum was reduced from twenty courses to five, and many feared the college wouldn’t be able to survive.
In spite of the changes, Snow received strong support from the community and experienced strong leadership under another long-term director, James A. Nuttall (1936-1953). A celebration of its first fifty years in 1938 showed the remarkable characteristics of this small school: a strong and loyal alumni group which boasts a long list of distinguished people, dedicated faculty who were willing to sacrifice salaries for the school’s survival, and a pervading feeling that those affiliated with the school have called the “Spirit of Snow.”
In 1951 Snow became a branch of Utah State Agricultural College (now USU) in Logan. It remained an adjunct to USU until 1969 when it became a member of the State System of Higher Education.
Following James A. Nuttall came Lester B. Whetten, who led the institution from 1953-1956. Director Whetten’s emphasis for Snow, as stated in the 1953-54 school catalog, was in accentuating the school’s role as a community college for the benefit of every citizen within a fifty-mile radius to “improve his education and broaden his satisfaction with life.”
Whetten’s successor, J. Elliot Cameron, came to Snow from the position of Superintendent of Schools in Sevier County. During Director Cameron’s term (1956-58), the faculty grew to twenty-six teachers. Although the campus was still contained on one block, plans were made to expand the campus and the student body size.
When Cameron left in 1958, the faculty’s choice, Floyd S. Holm, was appointed director. A popular and effective leader, he served until 1974. The school made a significant transition from fighting for its existence to stressing academic excellence. The school’s and community’s pride in Snow’s reputation was at an all-time high.
The next president was J. Marvin Higbee. He served form 1974 until 1982. The Higbee era was seen as a time of change, appraisal, and growth. Vocational courses were expanded, and the Snow Activity Center—the largest such facility provided in Utah to a two-year college—was funded. The campus expanded to the west of Ephraim with plans for a Career Center.
Under President Steven D. Bennion (1982-1989) the funding for the Career Center was obtained, and the Snow College Foundation was formed to acquire needed funds for the college and its students. The college celebrated its Centennial with a year’s activities honoring alumni and recognizing the successes and accomplishments of the first one hundred years. The school continued to build its reputation on an outstanding academic offering, and Snow became the first two-year school in the state to offer an Honors Program. The school was also recognized for its theatre productions, forensic awards, music contributions, outstanding journalism, noteworthy programs in English as a Second Language, and athletic accomplishments—including the 1985 National Championship football team.
Gerald J. Day continued to lead the school through significant change. During his administration (1989-2001), the Humanities Building was renovated and the Lucy A. Phillips Library was remodeled. The Greenwood Student Center was also built, and the Noyes Building was restored to more closely reflect its original architecture. In addition to increasing the number of physical facilities, President Day, an economic development proponent, was also helpful in increasing the number of employment and educational opportunities for the people of Central Utah. He lobbied for House Bill 114, which officially made the former Sevier Valley Applied Technology Center, located in Richfield, a branch campus of Snow College. Snow College South became the Applied Technology Division of the college. Additionally, under President Day’s tenure a new Fine Arts Division was created.
During President Michael T. Benson’s tenure (2001-2006), a new home was needed for the newly created Fine Arts Division. President Benson masterfully secured private funding for the new performing arts center - appropriately named the George S. and Delores Doré Eccles Center - and saw its construction through completion. With this major addition to campus, five other facilities (the Old Gym, the old Social Science Building, the Varsity House, the old theater, and the old South Ward Music Building) were demolished. Fundraising efforts were a focus during President Benson’s presidency, and substantial, private donations to the college reached historical levels. Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel visited the college, and academic excellence was emphasized.
That academic excellence and impressive student success rates resulted in consistent, numerous national recognitions for the college while Scott L Wyatt served as president (2007-2014). He led the college in growth initiatives and strategic planning, including approval of the college’s first four-year degree, implementation of technology-enhanced classrooms, construction of Karen H. Huntsman Library, and a new 400-bed student housing complex. President Wyatt also guided the realignment of Snow’s career and technical education programs to better fit local workforce and economic development needs. In spite of a national economic downturn, he championed an aggressive marketing campaign, enhanced the college brand, and led the college to a 40% increase in student enrollment.
President Gary L. Carlston’s career as an educator and his concern for students and employees position him to be an effective leader of his alma mater. He experienced the “Spirit of Snow” as a Snow College student, and he exemplifies the remarkable characteristics of those early, successful leaders who sacrificed much for the school they loved. Enrollment continues to grow in traditional classes on both campuses as well as in concurrent enrollment courses. Funding for the new Graham Science Center has been secured, and capital improvements on both the Ephraim and Richfield campuses are underway. Employees sense President Carlston’s appreciation for them and this “one college with two campuses,” and the “Spirit of Snow” lives on. The future is exciting.