Last Updated: December 21, 2017, 3:59 pm

From college to university: DSU’s progress throughout the decades


Dixie State University has experienced a tremendous amount of change since its origins in 1911.

 In its early days, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owned the school until it was transferred over to the state in 1935. To become the institution it is today, DSU underwent the transition from St. George Stake Academy to Dixie College, and then from a college to a university.

Ellen Bonadurer, library assistant and alumna of 1973, attended Dixie College. She said she never would have imagined DSU becoming what it is today.

“There was no thought of this ever having four-year programs, [and] definitely not becoming a university,” Bonadurer said.

She recalls the old gym, now the Student Activity Center, as the first building of the new campus on 700 South, where DSU currently sits. 

What today’s students know as the Snow Math & Science Center used to be the Val. A Browning Library, another one of the first three buildings at the new campus.

“The landscape of the entire area has changed dramatically,” Bonadurer said.

Professor of Art Glen Blakley joined the DSU faculty in 1976, shortly after Bonadurer’s graduation. He recalls some buildings that still remain today such as the Graff Fine Arts Building, the McDonald Center for Humanities & Social Sciences and the Science Building; although each of their uses were different than what they are today.

At that time, there were around 800 students and 73 faculty members compared to approximately 9,700 students enrolled and 1,935 employees as of 2017. In 1976, Blakley said there were students at Dixie College representing 13 different countries.      

The college helped to bring many people and opportunities to the community.

“I thought I got hired in heaven,” Blakley laughed. “To go where there were only two red lights in town and you could hike, and the kids were nice kids… it was a great place to work.”

Although there are definitely more traffic lights around town, there are certain things about DSU that haven’t changed.

John Bowler, director of alumni relations and a Dixie College 1985 alumnus, said the activities he enjoyed while he was in school still remain the same today.

Bowler was involved with student government and Program Bureau, a group similar to what we call Raging Red. He also enjoyed attending athletic events and participating in intramurals. 

Students were much more integrated into the happenings on campus because the student body was so small, and everyone was involved in some organization or group on campus, Bowler said.

Still, the campus’s advancements are amazing to him, Bowler said. The Dolores Dore Eccles Fine Arts Center, the Kenneth N. Gardner Student Center and the Hansen Stadium were all developed around the time he attended Dixie College. 

Since returning to DSU, he has also witnessed the renovation of the Val. A Browning Library into the Snow Math & Science Center, the addition of the Jeffrey R. Holland Centennial Commons and soon, the addition of the Human Performance Center.

   “If you were to transport me from 1985 — a ‘Back to the Future’ kind of thing — to now, I’d be blown away,” Bowler said. “These buildings are so advanced… In fact, the alumni that come back… onto the campus to see various facilities, they’re always amazed and they’re always very proud, and so am I.”

   When he was attending Dixie, he lived in student housing trailers on the Encampment Mall, and now students get the opportunity to live in Campus View Suites, which is state-of-the-art student housing. Bowler said the addition of Campus View and its expansion will see tremendous growth and change to DSU in the coming years.