Virginia Farrer Cutler

Utah EducatorBorn: Dec. 17, 1905

Died: May 20, 1993

Virginia Cutler, noted educator, author, lecturer, philanthropist, and advocate for the rights and betterment of women died on the 20th of May 1993 in Eugene, Oregon. Over the years, she received numerous honors and awards after a long and varied career in the field of home economics.

She was born in very modest circumstances, the daughter of a Park City coal miner, Robert Farrer and his wife Mary. They later moved to Murray, Utah where he worked in the smelter.

Education became a high priority for her and she attended the University of Utah, getting a bachelor's degree in 1926 on a four year scholarship, other degrees to follow later. In 1929, she married Ralph Garr Cutler and settled in Salt Lake City.

Widowed in 1931 after just two years of marriage, in the depths of the nation's depression, having one child to support with an other one soon to be born, she returned to teaching, struggling to achieve independence for herself and her young family. Ethel Waring, professor at Cornell University years later said of this period, "As a young widow, she paid a higher tribute than grief to her husband when at his death, she undertook her master's degree at Stanford University and later her doctoral work at Cornell University, and to manage both so that their young sons gained richly from the experience." A fractured spine from an automobile accident during her studies at Stanford did not deter her educational goals. She also attended sessions at Vassar and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1946 she was appointed to be professor and the Head of the Home Economics Department at the University of Utah. During her eight years there, she established the Family Home Living Center.

In 1954, her sons then gone, and yearning for adventure, she obtained a position as an education advisor for the State Department's International Cooperation Administration in southeast Asia, first in Bangkok, Thailand for two years, and then in Djakarta, Indonesia for five years, organizing instruction programs in schools and workshops.

In 1961 she returned to Utah to become dean of the College of Family Living at the Brigham Young University where she contributed to the planning and development of the Heritage Halls.

In 1966 she was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to the University of Ghana in Legon, where she taught for three years, finally returning to the Brigham Young University with the title of distinguished professor to spend another two and final years there.

In "retirement" in 1970, she spent the next five years working as chairman of a Consumer Action Panel for the major appliance industry and setting up a program that has continued to the present.

In 1976, she was the jury foreman for the highly publicized trial and conviction of Gary Gilmore, resulting in the first instance of capital punishment in this country in decades.

She combined a deep abiding faith in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with strong desire to reach out to peoples of other faiths, races, and cultures. In her later years she sought to improve the conditions of women and of minority students.

Major honors: United States delegate to the World Forum on Women, Brussels, 1962; Joseph F. Smith Family Living Award, Brigham Young University, 1962; American Association of University Women, woman of the year in 1966; first distinguished professor at the Brigham Young University, 1967; appointed by President Nixon to the Consumer Advisory Council, 1972-1975; Utah Mother of the year, 1972; member of Utah Governor's commission on the Status of Women, 1972; distinguished service awards from the University of Utah and Cornell University; Abraham Smoot Public Service Award, Brigham Young University, 1982; Outstanding Home Economist, Ricks College Home Economics Department, 1984; Beehive Hall of Fame, 1986.

Philanthropy: She has financially contributed over two hundred thousand dollars to church and to philanthropic trusts and she established a number of scholarships at eight universities. In the late seventies, she devoted her full time to the fund raising and erection of a monument to motherhood by the noted Utah sculptor, Avard Fairbanks.

She is the author of articles on home economics in the United States, Ghana, and Indonesia. She had also written articles for the Latter-day Saints Instructor, and Improvement Era.

Family: her older son, Robert Garr Cutler received a Ph.D. from Princeton and had a promising job with the Bureau of the Budget in Washington D.C. He died in 1962 of complications of appendicitis.

Her younger son, Ralph Garr Cutler is a plastic surgeon in Eugene, Oregon. She has eight grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. She is survived also by two sisters, Fern Arnason and Blanch Sonntag, both of Salt Lake City.

Tributes: In 1972, Frank Moss, United States Senator, wrote of her, "...she is a most remarkable woman in every respect. Professionally she has achieved distinction in her field of Home Economics and Home Science that is both national and international, but she has also been equally successful as a mother and homemaker in her own family."

In 1975, Gerald R. Ford, then president of the United States, wrote to her, "I am pleased for this opportunity to salute your enduring professional achievements as an educator and staunch champion of the consumer interest."

In 1988, Barbara Merrill, a long time friend and confidant, wrote her, "I am constantly reminded of the dear feminine giant who trod the continents of this earth, improving the existence of who knows how many of God's children. And of course I love you dearly, deeply--"

Memorial services will be held at the Garden Park Ward Chapel in Salt Lake City at 12 noon on Saturday, May 29, 1993. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Virginia F. Cutler lectureship at the Brigham Young University. Following the service there will be a buffet reception at the Stirling Sill Center at the University of Utah Campus from 2 to 5 p.m.

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