The Weber Stake Academy is the foundational school for Weber State University. The Academy served thousands of students before transitioning to a University.
The Weber Stake Academy was founded in 1889 by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. On the first day of classes, Jan. 7, 1889, approximately 100 students crowded into the red-brick church meetinghouse on the southwest corner of Grant Avenue and 26th Street, Ogden. The academy offered elementary and high school classes with a focus on training future teachers. Louis F. Moench was the first president.
In 1890, Weber Stake Academy moved to the Ogden Tabernacle to accommodate a growing number of students, but this was short-lived for fear the government might confiscate the building if it was used for nonreligious purposes. The academy closed for 18 months while new buildings were constructed in downtown Ogden at 2447 Jefferson Avenue. Only the Gymnasium Building remains today.
In 1901, it became Weber Academy and was divided into three departments: Primary, Intermediate, and Academic. According to a program published in 1909, the school's focus was to promote moral, intellectual, and physical development. The Academy included laboratories, a library, a carpenter shop, and a commercial school. The school was open to men, women, all nationalities, and all religious affiliations. The main requirement was that the person applying had to be of good moral character.
The school changed its name to Weber Normal College in 1918, reflecting the school’s emphasis on teacher education. The name changed again in 1922, this time to Weber College. It was reorganized into two distinct departments – three years of senior high school work and two years of college work. The high school division was dropped the next year.
In 1928, football player Wallace Morris was nicknamed “Wildcat” Morris. As the team continued to refer to Morris as “Wildcat,” a local sportswriter referred to the team as “scrappy as a bunch of wildcats.” The name stuck, and the team became the Wildcats.
In the 1931–1932 school year, during the Great Depression, Weber College President Aaron Tracy allowed tuition to be paid with produce and meat instead of money. In 1933, Weber College was transferred from the LDS Church to the State of Utah. At this time, Weber became a state-supported two-year college.
In 1947, Weber College purchased 175 acres near Harrison Boulevard, between 37th and 40th Street, in Ogden (the site of today’s campus) for approximately $100,000. A 1953 public referendum deciding whether to return Weber College to the LDS Church or not after the Utah Legislature withdrew its support for the college resulted in 80,000 “yes” votes and 120,000 “no” votes. The outpouring of public support reversed the legislative decision.
Classes begin at the new Upper Campus on Harrison Boulevard on Sept. 22, 1954, with the Lower Campus still in operation in downtown Ogden. The Ogden Bus Company transported students between the two campuses for 7 cents each way.
Today, Weber State University continues to provide an education to thousands of students each year.