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Karl Maeser's Legacy

While members of the Honors Program know the building we call home carries Maeser's name, many may not know his legacy reaches far beyond the MSRB.

Born in 1828, in the town of Meissen, in Saxony, Germany, Karl G. Maeser was recognized as a bright scholar from a young age. He received some of the most innovative and highest quality teacher training offered in Europe at the time and began his teaching career in Dresden in 1852. After joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he immigrated to Utah and was asked by Brigham Young to start an academy. He served 16 years as principal of Brigham Young Academy and although he was not the first principal of the Academy, he is considered its founder. The Academy became Brigham Young University (BYU) in 1903. Maeser went on to train thousands of teachers and helped found over fifty schools, many of which are now prominent academic institutions in Utah.

Throughout his life, Maeser made a lasting impression on his students at the Brigham Young Academy. He focused on teaching students how to develop rational thought and build intellectual inquiry. His philosophy left a legacy and foundation for the Honors Program today, as exemplified in the four pillars: academic excellence, community of scholars, interdisciplinary thinking, and skills of inquiry. During one Grand Theology Course lesson, Maeser told his students, “Every one of you, sooner or later, must stand at the forks of the road, and choose between personal interest and some principle of right.” The students knew well that these were not idle words from Brother Maeser, his own life an object lesson in difficult decisions. As a convert cast from his homeland for his faith, as an unlikely frontiersman, and as an educational luminary at the head of an impoverished academy—again and again Maeser had come to the fork and chosen principle over personal interest. His words still ring true today.

As we remember his birthday this coming weekend, take some time to learn more about some of the key decisions Maeser made during his life that would define his legacy and help give birth to Brigham Young University in an aspiring BYU Magazine article, "Maeser at the Crossroads."