Early BYU educator Edwin S. Hinckley often told students that when one man says something can't be done, he is usually interrupted by someone else doing it. This may have been his classroom creed, but it also characterized Hinckley, a man dedicated to accomplishment as he pursued knowledge, teaching and improving the world around him.
As a legendary teacher at the turn of the 20th century, his legacy is considerable. He is perhaps best remembered, though, through the Edwin S. Hinckley Scholarship, the most prestigious and largest privately endowed scholarship BYU offers. Many leaders and educators have benefited from the scholarship, including Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former BYU president Rex E. Lee. As the scholarship reaches its 50th year, family, friends and recipients are preparing a 2004 Homecoming reunion honoring both Hinckley and his daughter-in-law, Abrelia Clarissa Seely Hinckley, after whom a second Hinckley scholarship is named.
During Homecoming, BYU will honor Edwin S. Hinckley with the Founders Award. As a man who stood firm in the fires of growth and progress, he extended his reach beyond the parameters of BYU to make substantial contributions wherever he lived.
Hinckley began life July 21, 1868, in Cove Fort, Utah, the seventh child of pioneer parents, Ira N. and Adelaide Hinckley. Known as people of refinement and integrity, they put religion, family and education first in their lives.
His Brigham Young Academy experiences heightened his interest in higher education. He and his wife Adeline "Addie" moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., to pursue additional studies in geology at the University of Michigan; he graduated as class salutatorian. Simultaneously he served a part-time mission.
Returning to BYU to teach in 1895, Hinckley served another mission in Colorado. For 21 years he inspired students, prompting at least one of them, J. Edward Johnson, to write that he "sat as one enchanted all the period he talked to our class," later adding,
"One of [his] expressions was, 'Some of you here have it in you to do things which will set waves in motion that will not stop until they break upon the waves of eternity.' What he taught me in geology has long since ceased to make the slightest difference to me, but the inspiration of his personality and philosophy of life, his keen wit and wholesome good humor, continue to fire me with new ambitions."
Nels Anderson credited Hinckley with his decision to stay in school. Discouraged and finding himself among "kids who had not come up the rough way," Anderson had already rolled up his bed to go home when he saw Prof. Hinckley. As he explained, "He listened and without my realizing, kept me an hour. He told stories and listened to mine. In the end he said, 'I'll gamble on you. If you agree to stay till the end of the term, I'm sure you'll come on top. Go to your classes. You found your way there; you'll find your way around. Whatever the outcome, I will pass you at the end of the term.' I went back, unrolled the bed and started over. By three months I was getting A's." His book Deseret Sands was his tribute to his teacher.
Hinckley, known as the geologist of the university, also served as second counselor, as it was termed then, to BYU president George H. Brimhall. With E.D. Partridge, he laid out the block Y, and was dean of the Church Teachers College.
Upon his BYU retirement he served the State Industrial School at Ogden for seven years as superintendent where his management philosophy was "Trust-not punish." He later served as executive director for the Provo City Chamber of Commerce and was a principal participant in major economic development in central Utah. He had served as BYU's Alumni president in 1897-98 and continued his affiliation in 1924-25 as president a second time.
Hinckley died Nov. 15, 1929, leaving a posterity that included 13 children. In 1954, wanting to express appreciation to his children, they extended the Hinckley influence by establishing the Edwin Smith Hinckley Scholarship fund at BYU.
Writer: Charlene Winters