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William Jasper Kerr

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William Jasper Kerr

William Jasper Kerr (1863 - 1947[1]) served as the president of Oregon State University for 25 years, 1907–1932.[2] In 1932 he became the first chancellor of the Oregon State System of Higher Education,[2] serving until 1935.[1] He also served as the president of Brigham Young College from 1894–1900 and of Utah State Agricultural College from 1900–1907.[1]

Kerr was born in Richmond, Utah. He received a B.S. degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah in 1885. In 1887, he joined the faculty of Brigham Young College as a mathematics professor. He also taught at the University of Utah.[1]

He married in 1885, and had four daughters and two sons.[1] Raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) during the time when plural marriage (polygamy) was taught and practiced, Kerr later married a second wife, a schoolteacher in Smithfield, Utah. After the church renounced the practice, Kerr divorced his second wife in 1898. The emotional impact caused Kerr and his wives to leave the LDS Church. When he was considered for president of Oregon State College in 1907, the public animosity for Mormonism invited attacks on Kerr's polygamous past, until he reasserted his rejection of the faith.[3]

Following his retirement, Kerr moved to Portland, where he died in 1947.[4]


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Academic offices
Preceded by
Joshua H. Paul
President of the Brigham Young College
Succeeded by
J. H. Linford
Preceded by
Joseph M. Tanner
President of Utah State University
Succeeded by
John A. Widtsoe
Preceded by
Thomas Milton Gatch
President of Oregon State University
Succeeded by
George Wilcox Peavy

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