The mission of the Charles Redd Center
for Western Studies is to promote the study of the Intermountain West
by sponsoring research, publication, teaching, and public programs in a
variety of academic disciplines including history, geography, sociology,
anthropology, politics, economics, literature, art, folklore, range
science, forestry, biology, and popular culture.
A History of the Center
The Charles Redd Center for Western Studies was created in 1972 when area and ethnic studies were expanding across the United States. New areas of study included Mormon, women’s, African American, Chicano, and Native American studies. Scholars interested in those fields created new professional organizations, journals and conferences. To support these new areas of study, universities established research centers. In this climate, several history professors approached the administration at Brigham Young University and proposed a research center that would promote and enhance western studies on the campus.
At about the same time, Charles and Annaley Redd, prominent southeastern Utah ranchers and philanthropists, donated funds to Brigham Young University. The Redds had lived in Provo when their children were in high school so they could attend Brigham Young High. A neighbor and BYU physics professor, John Gardner, was instrumental in convincing the Redds to donate to BYU. Because of the Redds’ deep roots in the West and their interest in western history, they agreed to endow the Lemuel Hardison Redd, Jr., Chair of Western History and the University agreed to create a western studies center. Leonard J. Arrington, an economic historian, became the first holder of the Redd Chair and the first director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies. To help manage the center, Arrington’s former student and a professor of history at BYU, Thomas G. Alexander, became the assistant and then associate director. In 1980 Alexander became the Redd Center director.
When Arrington retired in 1987, James B. Allen was appointed to the Lemuel Hardison Redd, Jr. Chair of Western History. Allen held the chair until his retirement in 1992. Subsequently Thomas G. Alexander held the chair until his retirement in 2005. In 2006, Ignacio Garcia, who specializes in Mexican American Studies, was appointed to the chair.
In 1992 Alexander was replaced as the director of the Redd Center by William A. (Bert) Wilson, a folklorist and English professor. When Wilson retired in 1996, Edward A. Geary, an English professor and essayist, was appointed chair. Brian Q. Cannon, an associate professor of history who specializes in western rural history, became the new director in January 2003.
Over the history of the Redd Center, the Redd Foundation, a non-profit organization established by Charles and Annaley Redd, and others have substantially strengthened the endowment of the Chair and provided additional support for Center programs. In the 1980s, Karl D. Butler, a plant pathologist, farming consultant and former president of the National Farmers’ Co-op, donated funds and encouraged his sister Hazel Butler Peters and her husband, William Howard Peters, civic leaders in Glendale, California, to bequeath funds to the Redd Center. In 1986 those funds were used to establish the John Topham and Susan Redd Butler Research Endowment, named in honor of Karl and Hazel’s parents.
Since its establishment, the Charles Redd Center has promoted the study of the Intermountain/Mountain West through publications, lectures, classes, and oral history. Research grants are awarded annually to faculty members on and off BYU campus, students from BYU and other universities, museums and professional organizations and independent scholars. Specialized grants allow scholars to come to BYU to use the L. Tom Perry Special Collections and visiting scholars to come to the Redd Center for 2-4 months to research and write.
Under Edward A. Geary, the Center created a Western Studies Minor to encourage students to study the western region. In recent years the Center also has sponsored a Young Scholar Program which is given each year to a junior faculty member at BYU who studies the Intermountain West. The Redd Center regularly sponsors luncheons and faculty presentations on campus to encourage dialogue and collaboration between BYU faculty members who study the American West.