James E. Talmage, the third president of the University of Utah, was a prominent scientist, educator, author, and higher education leader. As president, his major focus was to restore the university’s strength and forward trajectory after the legislature had significantly cut funding and attempted to absorb the U into the Utah Agricultural College (now Utah State University). Talmage secured financial support, hired more faculty and oversaw efforts to establish new departments and grow existing programs. In addition, he expanded the university library and natural history museum. A passionate educator, he continued to teach metallurgy, biology and geology while serving as president.
Talmage was born in England and came to Utah at the age of fourteen. He attended and taught at the Brigham Young Academy (now Brigham Young University) before studying at Lehigh University, Johns Hopkins University, and Illinois Wesleyan, where he earned a PhD. He returned to Brigham Young to teach geology and chemistry. He then led LDS College for a year prior to his appointment as U president. Internationally recognized for his work in chemistry and geology, he was elected member of several top scientific societies in the U.S. and Great Britain. After resigning as U president, he remained chair of geology for ten years. He served as a member of the LDS Church Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1911 until his death in 1933.
One of the oldest buildings on campus was renamed in Talmage’s honor in 1976. Located on President’s Circle, the building was completed in 1902 and has housed the university museum, the School of Medicine, and the School of Biological Sciences, which still occupies it today.