L. Douglas Smoot
Engineer, Teacher, Church Leader,
Historic Preservation Leader
Distinguished Honorary Alumnus of
Brigham Young High School

L. Douglas Smoot, Leader Who Saved Academy Square
L. Douglas Smoot '52~DH


Although he did not attend or teach at Brigham Young High School, and in fact captained the Springville High School basketball team that defeated the BY High team for the State Championship in 1952, all BY High alumni, faculty and friends today honor Dr. L. Douglas Smoot for the central role he played in the "Miracle at Academy Square". There is no doubt that, without his leadership and the thousands of hours of service that he devoted to the cause, the historic Brigham Young Academy building would now be gone forever.


"Miracle at Academy Square" Leader Retires from BYU After 38 Years

By Luciana Loureiro
BYU News Net writer
April 18, 2006


Professor L. Douglas Smoot, who has been teaching at BYU for 38 years, is officially retiring from BYU after this semester ends. Smoot taught religion classes during his last semester at BYU.

Coming to BYU on a basketball scholarship and enrolling in the school's first class of chemical engineering, L. Douglas Smoot did not then know the path of his future career.

"I always loved to study," he said. "I loved science and math. I've always liked to do things well, but I had no idea how things would flow."

Beginning as a BYU assistant professor, Smoot became department chair and was the dean of the engineering department for nearly 17 years.

Smoot spent nearly 54 years of his life associated with BYU - 38 of those years teaching.

With a smile and no regrets, Smoot officially retires from BYU after this semester. At age 71, he will be cleaning out his office and beginning a new chapter of his life.

"I walk away freely without reservations," Smoot said. "There is plenty to do; I will just do something else."

Smoot is a senior consultant and taught religion classes during his last semester at BYU.

Michelle Heit, one of his students, said she enjoyed taking his class.

"He has a really great testimony and a really great knowledge about the church and the gospel," she said. "He is so awesome; I'm glad that I chose his class."

Smoot accomplished many things in his years at BYU, from writing books to teaching to conducting academic research.

His wife, Marian, has always been impressed with his work ethic, organization and energy.

"He is a very ambitious and intelligent man and has been since day one," she said. "He is always learning; he is so smart."

As a highlight of his career, he was able to participate in a research competition that started in 1985. All universities in the United States had the opportunity to develop a proposal in any subject in the engineering field.

Among the 105 universities, only five would receive grants to develop a new center. Smoot was the proposal director, and the proposal, which focused on fossil fuel, earned a grant that led to BYU's Advanced Combustion Engineering Research Center.

"I led that [the center] for 12 years," he said. "We became one of the largest academic centers in the world on BYU campus."

Another important event of his life was being the leader most responsible for successful reconstruction of the historic Education Building, which today is the Provo City Library, centerpiece of Academy Square.

Smoot said three reasons motivated him to preserve the building: his great grandfather Abraham O. Smoot was on the first board of trustees for the building, he was born in Provo, and he loved to affiliate with the university.

"It can be done," he said before the project was begun. "It will make a first-class library and will cost about $25 million, which we will have to raise."

The building, not used after 1968, was in terrible condition. The city wanted to destroy it. Smoot got involved with the project in 1995.

Spending more than 8,000 hours of his time, Smoot and others were able to preserve the building. It was dedicated three days before Sept. 11.

Smoot wrote the book, "The Miracle at Academy Square" to document the miracles that happened within the six years of hard work.

"I wrote a lot of books, and I did a lot of things, but this is one of the most difficult things I did in my life," he said.

Smoot not only prospered in his career but also had great success in his personal and spiritual life.

Family plays an important role in his life. He has four daughters, 16 grandchildren, three great-grandsons and one great-granddaughter.

"We are a happy family, I can say that," his wife said. "I feel truly blessed."

Austin Hyde, Smoot's grandson, said his grandpa is a caring person.

"He treats everyone with the same respect and love," he said.

Hyde said he is involved with everything and the community.

"He [Smoot] had a wonderful career at BYU and he won't be forgotten soon," he said.

From China to Alaska and Mexico, the Smoots have enjoyed big family trips. They've been all over the world, his wife said.

"Family and church are the most important to me," Smoot said. "I had a greatly blessed life ... so many challenges and opportunities."

When it comes to church callings, Smoot has been a faithful servant of the Lord.

With more than 28 consecutive years of serving without one break between them, he has served as bishop, stake president and a member of the Quorum of Seventy, among others.

"I grew up in an inactive family," he said. "However, I had these great roots [Abraham Smoot]. I was always active, and I loved the church."

Nearing the end of semester, Smoot said he will miss being on BYU campus.

"You can always come back, but it is not the same," he said. "Watching the university grow and becoming more recognized and more established is one the most important things to me."


Doug Smoot was born in Provo, Utah (1934), as was his father (1909) and grandfather (1878). His great-grandfather Abraham Owen Smoot, then Mayor of Salt Lake City, was sent to Provo by Brigham Young in 1868: "You can either go to Provo," President Young said when Smoot protested, "or you can go to hell." In Provo, A. O. Smoot was soon elected mayor. Brigham Young called A. O. Smoot to be the first president of the Brigham Young Academy Board of Trustees (1875-1895), and through Smoot's leadership and financial sacrifice, the BY Academy Building was constructed and dedicated in January of 1892.

Doug grew up in nearby Springville, where he played on the state championship basketball team in 1952, served as its captain, and garnered all-state honors. He was also a tennis champion and was active in both sports while at BYU. He also won the Utah State Masters Racquetball title.

He attended Brigham Young University from 1952 to 1957, marrying Marian Bird in 1953. He graduated in chemical engineering from BYU (BS, BES) and the University of Washington (MS, PhD). He has become an internationally recognized authority regarding energy, fossil fuels, combustion, fires and explosions. In addition to his many professional accomplishments, he has written a book on the life of A. O. Smoot.

But to most people, Doug Smoot is the hero of the "Miracle at Academy Square." Doug initially refused an invitation to help preserve the historic Brigham Young Academy Building. The structure, then more than a century old, once the heart of the campus, had been sold in 1975 and had lain vacant and decaying for more than two decades. But in 1995 Doug assumed the leadership of a seven-year preservation effort -- one in which he saw the hand of Providence. Twenty-six years of uncertainty culminated in the building's rededication in 2001 as the Provo City Library at Academy Square.

L. Douglas Smoot, Professor, BYU Chemical Engineering (retired). Emeritus Dean, BYU College of Engineering & Technology. Ph.D., University of Washington, 1960 -- General Background -- Dr. Smoot has been at Brigham Young University since 1967 and was department chairman from 1970-1977, Dean of Engineering and Technology from 1977 through 1994, and Director of ACERC from its beginning in 1986 to 1997. He retired from BYU in 2006. His previous experience included four years at Lockheed, one year at California Institute of Technology and summers with Hercules, Phillips Petroleum Company and Boeing. He has also consulted with over sixty companies and agencies in energy, combustion and propulsion areas in the united States, Europe and the Orient. He is a member of AIChE, ASEE, The Combustion Institute, and NFPA and has received six state or regional awards. He has presented or published over 200 technical articles, eight invited review articles and four books on combustion. He has completed a term of service on the Governors Science and Technology Advisory Council for the State of Utah. He also received the first BYU Distinguished Faculty Award, and its Presidential Medal in 1985. Dr. Smoot has recently been awarded a Combustion Professorship at BYU, and was named the 1995 Outstanding Faculty Member in Engineering and Technology.
Educational & Service Background:
B.S., Chemistry, Brigham Young University, 1957
B.E.S., Chemical Engineering, Brigham Young University, 1957
M.S., Chemical Engineering, University of Washington, 1958
Ph.D., Chemical Engineering, University of Washington, 1960
Senior Technical Specialist, Lockheed Propulsion Co., 1963-1967
Visiting Assistant Professor, California Institute of Technology, 1966-1967
Founding Director, ACERC, Brigham Young University
Dean Emeritus, College of Engineering and Technology, Brigham Young University
Assistant, Associate, and Professor, Brigham Young University, 1960-1963; 1967-2006.
Author: The Miracle at Academy Square, 590 pages, published May 2003 by BYU Press. This book documents the amazing battle that saved the Brigham Young Academy building.
L. Douglas Smoot was set apart as an LDS Area Authority in the Utah South Area in 1995 and ordained in April, 1997 to the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy, completing that service in 2000.



Restoring a Dream

The Miracle at Academy Square


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