John W. Tucker
Grocer, Butcher, Medic, Missionary,
Educator, Administrator, Clinical Psychotherapist

John W. Tucker, Seventeenth Principal of BYH
Dr. John W. Tucker

Seventeenth Principal
Brigham Young High School

John W. Tucker served as Principal XVII of Brigham Young High School, in the 1957-1958 academic year.

John Winn Tucker was born on January 10, 1926 to Wilhelm Paul "Bill" Tucker & Doris Marie Winn in Salt Lake City, Utah. John was the third child in the family. Paul, the oldest, died when he was just ten days old. His sister, Veloy, was two years old when John was born. Then came three more boys, Keith, Clyde and Wilhelm, “Billy.”

John’s father, Bill Tucker, was a grocer and a butcher. The family leased a store in Salt Lake and the family lived in an apartment above the store. John “helped” the family with the store starting at a very young age. His mother made him an apron and he polished apples and placed soup cans on the shelves. He also bagged potatoes and hated getting the dirt under his fingernails.

The Tucker family eventually lost the store and the apartment. Bill extended credit to his customers, but, it was the Depression era and many couldn’t pay. The family made ends meet by selling produce door to door. Bill was able to pick up by working daily, and running a produce stand on the west side of town. Bill eventually got a job as a butcher, and John learned that trade too.

The family moved to Mesa, Arizona in 1942 hoping the climate would improve Doris’ health. Bill opened a butcher shop and meat locker in Mesa. John had attended South High School in Salt Lake, and finished his senior year at Mesa Union High School. The school superintendent in Mesa, Harvey L. Taylor, became John’s mentor.

In high school, John was Colonel of the Mesa High ROTC, member of the Victory Corps Council, and he played the cello in the orchestra.

After graduation he had his heart set on going into the Navy Aviation Program. To his dismay, he was given 4F status because of a perforated eardrum.

He moved to Tucson to start school at Arizona State Teacher’s College. Later, the Navy reduced their physical requirements and he was accepted as a medic.
John W. Tucker, USN Medic
John W. Tucker, USN Medic

John served all of his military duty in California.

John served a two-and-a-half-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Sweden from 1947-1949. After his release he was allowed to stay in Sweden for a period of time, and he obtained a job teaching English at the University of Stockholm. He returned in the fall of 1949 to attend Brigham Young University.

John loved his years at BYU. He was selected as a "Preferred Man"; he crowned the Banyan Ball Queen; and he served as the campus branch YMMIA President. He graduated in 1951.

John W. Tucker, BYU 1951
John W. Tucker, BYU 1951, Bearded!

He immediately went to Arizona State University to work on his Masters Degree and he completed it in one year.

In the fall of 1952, John accepted a position as Dean of Men at Dixie College in St. George, Utah. There he met LaVora Murray, a Physical Education Instructor at the college. They were married on May 26, 1953.

In the fall of 1954, John obtained a Kellogg Foundation Scholarship to complete his Education Administration doctoral studies at Harvard. While completing his degree, he worked as an Assistant to the Superintendent of Winchester Public Schools. In Boston, two of their five children were born, Kerstin and Shawna.

On completion of his doctorate from Harvard, John was offered a position at the Winchester Public School. However, John felt that his place was in the west.

In the fall of 1957, John W. Tucker accepted the position of Principal at BY High. He loved the atmosphere at BYU. He also liked the fact that his mentor, Harvey L. Taylor, was now at the Y. His wife remembers that he was very busy and she saw little of him. When she did see him, his conversation was mainly concerned with the students.

John W. Tucker, BYH Principal XVII
John W. Tucker, BYH Principal XVII

He left BYH and Provo in the fall of 1958 to take the challenging position of Superintendent of the Idaho Falls School District.

He went on to earn his PhD at Columbia Pacific. He also did post-doctorate studies at Oxford, after which he went on to navigate the difficult waters of college administration on the campuses of the 1960s and 1970s.

He was devoted to the idea that learning should be a joyous experience and, that given time, "anyone can learn anything if you want to bad enough."

He was named President of the College of Eastern Utah in 1962 and served through 1970.

John Tucker, President, College of Eastern Utah
John Tucker, President, College of Eastern Utah

Later he served as Executive Vice President at the University of Utah. Dr. Tucker was singled out by the popular Salt Lake Tribune columnist, Dan Valentine, as “Best Dressed Educator in Utah.”

He served as Chancellor of Purdue University North Central from 1972 to 1979, where he also taught until 1991.

His tenure as Chancellor saw the approval and implementation of six technology AS degree programs and an AS degree Nursing program, all in 1972. A Library-Student-Faculty building (LSF) was constructed under Tucker’s leadership. On March 21, 1975, the new building, with library space for 125,000 books and 1,000 periodicals, was dedicated.

The campus grew from 1,354 students in 1972 to 2,015 students in 1979. Dr. Tucker also served the North Central campus as Professor of Educational Administration teaching in the Organizational Leadership and Supervision program from 1979 through 1991 when he retired from the academic world.

John and LaVora have five daughters: Kerstin Tucker Severin, Shawna Tucker Monson, Travis Tucker Gunnell, Stacy Tucker Andrew and Mylese Tucker Reyes.

In his retirement years, while living in Michigan City, Indiana, he remained active in a clinical psychotherapy practice in Chicago. He was a diplomat of the American Board of Medical Psychotherapy.

In 2001 John W. Tucker was one of seven BYU graduates honored with that year's Emeritus Award, for making a significant difference in his community, state and beyond.

Emeritus Award recipients included Andrew H. Barnum, Elder Eran A. Call, Grace Guymon Jones, Robert J. Matthews, John W. Tucker [BYH Principal XVII], Max J. Berryessa [BYH Principal XVIII], and Grant M. Wilson.

A devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, he served as a missionary, during his life as high priest, high counselor, and branch president in addition to many and varied church positions.

After his retirement, he commuted to the LDS temple in Chicago over a period of seven years to do volunteer work there. At the time of his death he and his wife were completing a full time 18-month mission at that temple.

Dr. John Tucker had been a member of Kiwanis Club and Rotary Club, where he served a term as president. He was a member of the board of the Barker Foundation in Michigan City, and was appointed by the governor of Indiana to the New Harmony Historic Commission.

Dr. John W. Tucker died on December 18, 2001 in Wheeling, Cook County, Illinois. His funeral was held on Saturday, December 22, 2001, at the Valparaiso Chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Valparaiso, Indiana. His interment, Michigan City, La Porte County, Indiana.

His long career in education had taken him to positions in St. George, Utah; Idaho Falls, Idaho; Provo, Utah; Price, Utah; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Westville, Indiana. His positions included classroom instructor, high school principal, school superintendent, dean of students, college president, university vice president, and university chancellor.

Dr. John Tucker, Chancellor, 1972 to 1979
Purdue University North Central

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