May 7, 2002 — In his 1998 University of Utah Commencement address, Gordon B. Hinckley, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, remembered fondly his days as a student of English. Holding up a thick and worn book, Hinckley said, “I brought with me today my old Shakespeare text from which I read so long ago in English 171. It is filled with wisdom.” He went on to use examples from Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest to enlighten the graduating class.
After graduating from the University of Utah with a bachelor of arts in English in 1932, Hinckley served as a missionary in England. According to his biography, Go Forward with Faith, “Quotations from the literature Gordon had studied became more meaningful as he lived in the land of their origin,” and his “personal literary efforts may have increased his appreciation for the exposure he received in England to some of the world’s finest literature.”
Now, 70 years later, a group of students in the U’s English department is traveling to study in England as part of a new British studies program established last year and funded by contributions to the department’s Gordon B. Hinckley Endowment. “We are seeking funds to increase the endowment to honor President Hinckley and to provide endowed professorships and scholarships for students,” said Norman Council, professor of English and director of the program. “This endowment will, when fully funded, enable the department to develop several related projects that will enhance the quality of education in all areas of British studies.”
The 23 students traveling to England will study at Regent’s College in central London under the directorship of Mark Matheson, assistant professor-lecturer in the English department. Course topics will include Shakespeare as well as theatrical conditions in London during the 16th century and in the present time. The group departs May 11 and returns June 1.
The English department intends to make study abroad an annual opportunity for English majors who choose the British studies emphasis. Future places of study will include countries which are former British colonies, as well as London and other parts of Great Britain.