Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
History records some notable events in the year 1889. The Eiffel Tower opened, the first permit to drive a car in New York City was granted, and Thomas Edison showed his first motion picture. With much less fanfare, a small group of people in Northern Utah got together to form what was then called the WeberStake Academy.
A century and a quarter later, what has become Weber State University is now commemorating the anniversary of its founding and celebrating the impressive growth of an institution with 28,000 students from around the world.
It’s the kind of celebration that isn’t only about the past, but also a salute to a promising future. The school is marking the event by staging a $125 million fundraising campaign to further cement its place as a vital component of Utah’s system of higher education. Weber State will continue to develop its satellite campus in Layton, which eventually will include 10 or more separate buildings serving more than 15,000 students.
It is a far cry from the makeshift 19th Century campus with an initial enrollment of only 98 students.
The institution’s growth and continuing success both reflects and contributes to the overall vibrancy of the community it serves. The area of Weber and Davis counties is sometimes referred to as the “Top of Utah,” and Weber State University occupies the top echelon in that community’s social, cultural and educational spheres.
The school’s importance transcends its geography. It serves students from every state in the union and from 55 foreign countries. For 60 years, its college of nursing has been among the most respected in the nation. From the time of its founding, it has excelled in teaching future teachers, drawing accolades for its educational science curricula.
It has become a powerful economic engine in Northern Utah, helping lure a wave of new-age businesses that are slowing transforming the local economy, bringing the kinds of jobs all communities covet.
The Weber alumni may lament the fact their alma mater doesn’t always receive the level of attention garnered by other universities along the Wasatch Front, but there is no question it has earned equal respect and admiration.
For its past success and its important role in the greater community, the sprawling university that began in an improvised arrangement of classrooms in a small church building is deserving of a hearty wish for a happy birthday, and the continuation of a proud and prominent legacy.