Albert Ray Olpin was appointed seventh president of the University of Utah in 1946 and led the university for 18 years, overseeing a period of enormous growth and progress. During his presidency, university enrollment grew from 4,000 to 12,000 students. This was due in part to the flood of veterans returning home after World War II, then, later, the Baby Boom generation coming of college age. To accommodate the increase, Olpin led major efforts to expand the university, and campus quadrupled in size during his time in office. Nearly 200 buildings and 450 acres of land were acquired from Fort Douglas. Olpin started a 10-year building program in which 30 buildings were completed, including the Merrill Engineering Building, several dorm buildings and student family housing, and the Union Building, which was named after him.
Areas of study were expanded and organized into colleges and schools, including the Colleges of Mines and Mineral Industries, the College of Pharmacy, the College of Nursing and the College of Fine Arts. Doctorate programs were established and the first PhDs were awarded in 1947. The football team defeated BYU in its first nationally televised game, and the university started its own television station, KUED.
Olpin graduated from Brigham Young University and joined the faculty as a mathematics and physics professor. He earned a PhD in physics from Columbia University, then worked at Bell Telephone Laboratories, engaging in research that led to one of the earliest television broadcasts. He served as director of research at Kendall Mills. He went on to The Ohio State University and worked as director of the research foundation and professor of industrial research before his appointment as U president.