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LeRoy E. Cowles


The sixth president of the University of Utah, Leroy E. Cowles’ tenure spanned the World War II years and much of his presidency was spent dealing with issues and efforts related to the war. Enrollment decreased dramatically as young men signed up or were drafted, but demands were placed on universities to train, educate and house servicemembers. The university fieldhouse and other buildings were converted to barracks, and the U added classes in military science, economics and philosophy of war. Programs began in Army pre-flight, Navy V-1 and ROTC.

During Cowles’ administration, the School of Medicine program was expanded from two to four years, eliminating the need for students to transfer out of state to complete their medical education. Prior to this, there was no university between Denver and the Pacific Coast with a complete medical school.

Cowles received a bachelor of philosophy and master of arts degrees from the University of Chicago. He taught at public schools in Utah before assuming a faculty position in the U Department of Education. After retiring from the U presidency in 1945, Cowles went on to teach at the University of California and University of New Mexico, and he wrote a history of the U during the years of his presidency titled “The University of Utah and World War II.” One of the first three buildings on campus, located on Presidents Circle, was renamed in honor of Cowles in 1980.