The Stewart School

The Stewart School

The William M. Stewart School was established as a training school for school teachers (Normal School) at the University of Utah in 1891 and continued under the State College of Education and the Graduate School of Education.

The Stewart School was attended by children from kindergarten to junior high. The Stewart School closed after the 1965-66 school year. The building was named after William M. Stewart, the founder of the school.

1988 Reunion

On Sept. 30 former students of Stewart Training School will gather from all over the country to meet at the University of Utah Alumni Center for the first reunion in its 76-year history.

Even though the school closed its doors in 1967, the response to invitations has amazed co-chairmen Ann Wilkins Ellis and Pat Campbell Bevan."We hoped we might have 60 or 70 people come," says Ellis, "so we rented one room of the alumni house. With each mailing, we asked for another room until in August we asked for the whole building."

When Eudora Widtsoe Durham heard there would be a Stewart School reunion, she thought of her best friend, Christine Gossett Ames and called her in California. They graduated from ninth grade in 1927.

"We have to go," she said, "we'll be the oldest ones there." Ames agreed and will come to Salt Lake from her San Diego home for the event. Then Durham contacted her three children, Carolyn Person, Doralee Madsen and George H. Durham, who also attended Stewart School during the 1950s.

She and Ames will not be the oldest ones there, however, because that distinction belongs to Larena Crow, who finished eighth grade at Stewart in 1919.

When Crow heard the news, she, too, began letting people know. She called her brother Arthur in Boise, Idaho, her sister, former tennis champion Ruth Crow Nelson, her friend Mrs. Alice Sheets Marriott in Washington D.C., her neighbors, Homer and Phoebe Stringham - all alumni from the school. She also wrote to Franklin Forsberg in Connecticut, who was one of her classmates.

Watercolorist and art critic George Dibble, supervisor of art at Stewart from 1941 to1947, presented the committee a painting of the school for the cover of the reunion program.

Heber Hall taught at Stewart from 1949 until the late 1960s. He uncovered his collection of slides and found hundreds he had taken of his students on field trips and recreational activities while at the school.

Why all this reunion excitement for a school that has not even existed for 20 years?

Former students of Stewart School are bonded by a unique learning experience they shared under the direction of some of the most prestigious educators in the state's history. William M. Stewart, for whom the school was named, was nationally recognized for his contributions to learning and teaching theories, which he perfected in the "laboratory" of Stewart School.

John R. Park, president of the University of Deseret, started the school in 1869. It was his idea to add a model school to the first two grades of his expanded Normal School program. "Normal School" was the early name of the Department of Education and its students practiced their teaching at the model School.

When William Stewart became head of the Normal Department in 1888, he carefully enlarged the model school and created a Normal Training School where university students could learn the most up-to-date teaching methods known in the country. Their young students, ranging from kindergarten through ninth grade, benefited from Stewart's enlightened philosophy:

"The school must be made a life-laboratory wherein childhood can be given the fullest, freest expression. Nothing is too good for the child."

When the training school was moved onto the U. campus, the students had access to the university's gymnasium, the library and the Home Economics Department - facilities not at all "too good" for Stewart's students.

"As we left Stewart School," says Ellis, "we had to make an adjustment to `public' high school. But most of us went on to the University of Utah, and it was like going back home to a campus we knew and loved."

At a time when formal education consisted mostly of theory and memorization, Stewart introduced the startling idea of hands-on education. Believing that "knowledge is valuable only to the extent that it is useful," he gave his teachers free rein to put the children into contact with what they studied.

"Florence Knox taught botany," says Durham. "We took long walks to study nature first hand. She shared her love of growing things with us as we walked."

"We studied foods in eighth grade," says Larena Crow. "We had our class in the university's Home Economics Building with a professor for our teacher. Miss Croxall taught us how to cook and then we prepared a luncheon every Friday for our faculty. We cooked, decorated the tables, served the meal and then cleaned up afterwards."

Today's occasional "field trips" were a regular part of the curriculum at Stewart Training School. Students visited fire stations, banks, the campus theater, the state legislature and U. sporting events. It was taken for granted that they would be interested in the trips, and they were.

"We had a marvelous group of youngsters," says George Dibble. "They were given more freedom than students in other schools, and they did not abuse it. They had more zest for learning."

A Salt Lake Tribune photographer was surprised by this fact, Dibble recalls. He planned a story on the last day of school and chose Stewart School as his subject. He set up the camera facing the main doors just as the closing bell was about to ring. He would get a picture of the students rushing out of school with shouts of freedom. Instead, the boys and girls came slowly out the doors, very morose, obviously unhappy.

Puzzled, the photographer couldn't use the picture. He explained to some students what he was trying to do and asked them to go back in, get some old books, and come out throwing the books in the air.

The students' fondness for school attendance was undoubtedly connected with Stewart's infectious philosophy of learning, which was maintained by succeeding directors. "Teaching is consecrated service," he told prospective teachers. He said they should not teach ideas only, but should show students how ideas relate to their own lives. He wanted children to learn many skills and promoted "manual training" as a part of their curriculum.

As a result, students learned leather working, clay modeling, carpentry, needlework and mechanical skills. Manual training was not preparation for the trades, but preparation for life. Stewart noticed that many students were not intellectually inclined, but could excel in these skills. He found that their enthusiasm for learning increased when they alternated manual training with "book learning."

Eudora Durham was a student at Stewart during the years her father, John A. Widtsoe, was president of the U. She feels fortunate to have attended the school from kindergarten right through junior high school.

"We had so many advantages," she says. "We were often treated to outside lecturers, specialists in their fields, who visited the University. We had the benefit of master teachers who were hired because they had so much skill to share with student teachers."

She recalls being stimulated in art by Maude Hardman, in music by Jessie Perry, and in literature by a Miss Stevens, who would "read wonderful stories to us . . . if we behaved."

"We had dances in the hallways at lunch during junior high," she says, "and we had couple parties because our parents trusted us to act maturely."

"My grandmother's loom was given to the University's Home Economics Department," she says, "and I had the chance to work on that loom because that is where our classes were held."

According to Larena Crow, Stewart graduates were innovative and independent thinkers _ which sometimes got them into trouble. In 1919 she and some classmates went to East High and registered as freshmen. Then they went downtown to a movie. When they came to school the next day, they were expelled for missing the first day of classes.

"The principal was firm," she recalls. "He called around to other schools in the city, but nobody wanted us. Finally he let us come back to East, but we were on probation for the whole freshman year."

In spite of this inauspicious beginning to their advanced education, many of her classmates distinguished themselves. Forsberg later became ambassador to Sweden; Alice Sheets became associated with the giant Marriott Corporation with her husband Willard; Larena Crow organized a dance orchestra, "The Frosh Five," and put herself through college. She then taught public school for 38 years.

The school produced more than its share of high achievers, but the real success of the system was in the low percentage of dropout students _ nearly zero.

"Learning was an adventure," says Heber Hunt. "The students learned while they were being introduced to real life around them."

They learned about broadcasting by producing a radio show which was based upon research they had done on field trips. They learned about politics by visiting the legislature and rewriting their school constitution. They learned about other cultures by getting an introductory course in languages which gave them the basics of French, Spanish and German.

In 1940, Frances G. Davis wrote a history of Stewart School as her master's thesis. Dr. Roald Campbell, who was director of Stewart School from 1942 to 1951, thought it would be appropriate that someone finish the history. He expressed this interest to his daughter, Pat Bevan, who had already heard Wilkins' idea of a reunion.

Together they sent out a questionnaire along with a reservation form. In a snowball effect, the list of names has grown to more than a thousand. The responses will help in the history writing as well as in the booklet being presented to reunion participants.

Campbell and his children (Pat, Bruce, Judy and Adelle) represent just one of the families who shared the Stewart School experience. But for all the alumni, it will also seem like a family reunion as they recall together their unique learning experiences.


Patricia Hadley, Patricia Hadley is a freelance writer and former student at Stewart School
Deseret News Sept 27, 1988

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1999 Student Reunion

1999 Reunion

7 Stewart School graduates gather for old times' sake. Visit to U. campus stirs fond memories of '30s.

A group of graduates returned Friday to the University of Utah campus, but it looked a lot different than when they completed classes there in 1933.

But the women, all in their late 70s or early 80s, found one structure, the William M. Stewart Building, looking much the same.Except for missing playground equipment that was outside the building many years ago and some structural changes inside, the ivy-laden building, built in the early 1900s, looked much the same. It is located south of the Utah Museum of Natural History.

The Stewart Training School, a laboratory school for University of Utah students preparing for a teaching career, was where the women either attended kindergarten or first through the ninth grades.

The building housed the school from 1919 to 1966, according to a plaque on the building. It currently houses the university's anthropology program. Many of the Stewart School students, including three of the women in the group Friday, were children of university faculty members.

"Everyone has heard of five-year, 10-year, 20- or even up to 50-year class reunions. But our gathering Friday was to celebrate 66 years. It's unusual for a group to get together after all that time," said Etta Lou Cowles Rose, 81, Walnut Creek, Calif.

A California resident for 54 years, Rose was the "catalyst" for the group getting together for lunch and a brief visit to the school.

The women say many of those who graduated with them in 1933 have moved away or died. They don't know the whereabouts of the rest. But the seven women, most of whom were childhood friends and who grew up in the same neighborhood near the university campus, say they like to keep in touch and to gather together as often as they can.

In 1988, a reunion of many of the former students of the school attracted about 600 to the campus, said Sarah Anne Nelson Jones, who took reservations for that gathering.

Besides Jones and Rose, those who graduated in 1933 and who gathered Friday for lunch or for a visit to the school, are: Gwen Colton Anderson, Betty Jean Neil Anderson, Jacqueline Allen Jeremy and Marsha Ballif Midgley.

Mary Ellen Taylor Jackson, who graduated from the school in 1936 and a close friend of the other women, joined the group.

Several of the women (six live in Salt Lake City) went on after attending Stewart School to attend East High School, the U. or other colleges or universities. Five are graduates of East High and the U.

A visit to the campus brought back many pleasant memories, but some in the group said getting around the campus and finding a parking spot wasn't easy.

"I don't know the university anymore. I get lost up here," said Rose, who toured the campus earlier in the week with a faculty member.

Midgley, 80, who serves on a number of organizations at the U., is a resident of Salt Lake City and more acquainted with how to find her way around on the large campus.

The Cowles Building is named after Rose's father, LeRoy E. Cowles, who was U. president from 1941 to 1945.

Ballif Hall, a men's residence hall, is named after Marsha Ballif Midgley's father, Dean John L. Ballif. He was dean of men at the university.

Mary Ellen Taylor Jackson's father, A. LeRoy Taylor, was dean of the School of Mines and Engineering.

Jackson said she gets together three or four times a year for lunch with quite a large of number of those with whom she graduated in 1936.

"One thing I remember about Stewart School is that the teachers really spent a lot of time getting acquainted with the students. We felt we were really important to them."

Originally published by Douglas D. Palmer in the Desert News.

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Explore the SRI

At many universities undergraduates have the opportunity to engage in scientific research only in their junior or senior years. Yet successful scientists all have the same core attributes—curiosity, communication skills and a willingness to learn interdisciplinary techniques— traits that many students already possess as first year students. In 2020, College of Science will give hundreds of undergraduates the opportunity to contribute to real research projects the year that they step onto campus.

The Science Research Initiative (SRI) is a team-based program that will connect students to discovery-based research early in their education to gain valuable scientific skills. The vision is to provide an opportunity to do research for any incoming student in the College of Science. Additionally, the cohort model makes research opportunities more equitable for students from all backgrounds.

The initiative is self-sustaining by design with experienced students tasked with training incoming first year students—a model that could allow hundreds of students to contribute to a principal investigator’s research for decades. The initiative has support from the university, the state, and industry partners who see the benefit of producing students who are ready to thrive in Utah’s STEM workforce.

“Research opportunities for undergraduates are transformative experiences. The problem that the college has historically faced is that there are many more science majors than there are openings in faculty research laboratories. The SRI solves that problem by scaling up the model of one-on-one faculty mentorship in the framework of vertically integrated research streams,” said Peter Trapa, Dean of the College of Science.

The SRI aims to give 500 undergraduates per year the opportunity to contribute to scientific discoveries, just like Bridget Phillips, a Crocker Science House Scholar and sophomore biology major with a math minor, had this summer.

Phillips was working in biologist Mike Shapiro’s Pigeon Genetics Lab writing code for a project looking for genes that determine the birds’ eye color. She was mining mountains of data searching for a quantitative trait locus (QTL) peak.

She was comparing the genotypes of two groups of pigeons with different eye colors. Because pigeons breeds are the same species, their genetics should look identical except for the gene locus underpinning eye color.

“I got a QTL peak that showed where the gene might be,” she said, smiling. “It was nice. I impressed the postdocs.”

Phillips has been working in Shapiro’s lab since her freshman year. She is an alum of ACCESS, a program where rising freshman in STEM disciplines join a cohort of like-minded undergrads ahead of their first semester in college. ACCESS facilitated her placement in the lab where she found her passion—coding and genetics, two things she never knew existed in a one career.

“Starting in a lab as a freshman is so useful, but the fear is that you don’t know what you’re doing. But you learn the skills really quickly,” Phillips said. “The earlier you can start, the better. If you find out your freshman year that you don’t like research, that’s good to know. If you like research, like I do, then you know what to aim for.”

The college based the SRI on a similar program at the University of Texas-Austin that impressed Henry White, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and former dean of the college who championed the initiative during his tenure. Since starting the program 20 years ago, UT-Austin has increased enrollment and improved student success, particularly among those from underrepresented groups in STEM fields.

“Students from families who’ve been going to college for generations come to campus recognizing that research opportunities are just as important as the classes themselves,” said White. “This program is meant to promote students who haven’t had the opportunity to be involved in research. We hope to introduce underrepresented, first-generation students to research opportunities, enriching their experience at the U.”

During the first semester, a cohort of students will take a research course to learn basic lab techniques that will replace a traditional prerequisite class. The second semester, the students begin work in a lab led by a principal investigator. They continue the research for their third and fourth semesters, and train an incoming cohort to create a “steady-state” model. During their third year, the students can do an internship or work on an individual project that resembles a more traditional undergraduate lab experience. The college aims to have different streams of research in data science, molecular biology and many disciplines across the College of Science.

In January 2020, a small pilot cohort began the SRI journey. White, Shelley Minteer, professor of chemistry, Markus Babst, professor of biology, and Braxton Osting, professor of mathematics, have committed to developing initial projects. The goal is to eventually have 500 freshmen, sophomores and transfer students participate every year.

SRI brings benefits beyond campus. Others outside the university see benefits beyond student success. Funding has come from many sources, including corporate, foundation and individual gifts and workforce development funds from the Utah State Legislature. ARUP Laboratories, a national pathology lab, research facility and a nonprofit enterprise of the University of Utah, and BioFire, a medical diagnostics company, are sponsoring SRI because they view the partnership as mutually beneficial.

“We are constantly looking for well-qualified people to work in labs. It’s a career that’s understaffed—graduates have no problem finding a job, but there’s not a good awareness of this as a possible career path,” said Sherrie Perkins, CEO of ARUP Laboratories and professor of pathology at the U School of Medicine. “We’re so pleased to be a part of this exciting new program and to continue the pipeline of excellent students coming out of the university that we employ.”

Research opportunities indeed open many doors, agreed Rachel Cantrell, a senior chemistry major and Goldwater Scholarship recipient. Also an ACCESS alum, Cantrell has worked in Ryan Looper’s organic synthesis lab since her freshman year. At the time, she thought she wanted to be a pharmacist. Instead, she fell in love with research.

She is developing a scaffold for new antibiotic candidates, a crucial field of inquiry as bacteria are constantly building resistance to current antibiotics. Cantrell’s molecule is modeled after a natural product that kills both bacteria and human cells. Her project focuses on modifying the molecule so that it will only kill the bacteria and leave human cells alone. She plans to pursue a PhD after graduating this year. Beyond the research, the community and networking aspects of ACCESS made a big impact on her life.

“I met a lot of great people there that I’m still friends with. I got to meet faculty and was selected for a scholarship to study in Germany—the community aspect was huge,” she said. To undergrads thinking about whether they want to work in a lab, Cantrell has this advice, “You have to give it a chance. I worked as a pharmacy technician for a while, but I loved being in the lab more. Check out what you like. It can open some huge doors.” The new SRI aims to do just that.