Verl Phillips Allman
Long-Time Scientist & BYH Science Teacher

My Years at
Brigham Young High School

Verl Allman, BYH science teacher
Verl P. Allman

One of the favorite teachers at Brigham Young High School in the 1950s and 1960s was Verl P. Allman, who taught Biology as well as many additional subjects. In 2004 the Brigham Young University Press published his 367-page autobiography titled "Through the Years" -- a handsome hardback volume with many photographs. Particularly interesting are his accounts of his time roaming the country as a hobo, and of his lifelong affinity for snakes. For alumni his passages about his work at BY High are especially interesting. Excerpts follow:


What a joy to drive a new car again after six years, and after driving that terrible old Ford for two years. Alas, out in the desert about 100 miles, the Pontiac stopped dead. I hiked back about a mile to a ranch house and called the dealer in Globe [Arizona], who finished his lunch and drove to my rescue. I was glad it happened, since while I was waiting for the dealer, I was able to collect some very interesting cactus wood with the myriads of holes that made it so attractive for taxidermy and other uses.

[After graduating from BYU in 1948] (First photo upper left), I returned to Provo to work on my thesis. On arriving in Provo, I was informed that a new biology teacher was needed at the BYU Laboratory School, and that I was being recommended for the position. There was a problem, however; the university was between presidents, and there was no final authority to hire me.

The acting president, Christian Jensen, wanted to wait for the new president. Finally, with only two weeks before school was to start in Snowflake [Arizona], I was offered the position.

BYU did not want to hire an unmarried person, so I was told I would have a more likely chance of getting the position if I were married. Since such thoughts were going through my head even before BYU mentioned this, I told BYU that I had a girlfriend that I was trying to convince to take this significant step. While living in Sam Henrie's home in Provo, I had dated Lula Marchant, who was living in the upstairs apartment.

I continued the courtship with Lula after returning to Provo to work on my thesis for my master's degree. It seemed to me the best thing I could do was to convince her to take this important step. After deciding in the affirmative, Lula and I, along with my mother and her father, Alonzo J. Marchant, journeyed to the Logan Temple to get married. The Salt Lake Temple was closed at the time. El Ray Christiansen performed the wedding on August 31, 1950. It was a beautiful occasion, and after returning her father to his home and my mother to where she was staying, we started on our honeymoon.

We spent the night at the Temple Square Hotel and the next morning started for Yellowstone in our bright new Pontiac. We found some good hotels and some not so good, but otherwise had an enjoyable trip. We returned to the home of my sister Venna and Eldon Reese in Springville for a night or two until we were able to get an apartment. We obtained one in the upstairs of cousins Earl and Blanche Conant's home in Provo. I began teaching at BYU Laboratory School. Lula continued working at Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph, having transferred from the Salt Lake office doing payroll and personnel work.

At BYU Laboratory School, I was assigned to teach biology, general science, and New Testament. During the years that followed, I taught all junior high grades of general science, 7th, 8th and 9th. I taught driver's training, mathematics, Spanish, eugenics, biology, health and advanced biology. A seminary program was later set up, and only seminary-trained teachers taught the religion courses.

After living temporarily in the Conant home, we moved to the home of Doren Boyden on 445 North 100 West for the summer. Then we moved to a basement apartment in the home of Mrs. Anderson, 364 North 300 West, and later into a nice basement apartment on 315 East Center Street belonging to a Mrs. Richardson. We liked it there and attended the Provo Seventh Ward. I was scoutmaster for a time, and Lula and I were ward dance directors.

After four years working on my master's degree, this day finally came [1952]. After my BS degree, I started taking classes towards my masters, and in my spare time, studying the plants in an acre of ground behind Squaw Peak mountain. I could only work on this study during the summer when the weather permitted. After the study was done and the information collected, there was the work of writing up the thesis, title: "A Preliminary Study of the Vegetation in an Exclosure in the Chaparral of the Wasatch Mountains, Utah."

My mother and my stepfather Rusk Simons were present at the "Seventy-Seventh Commencement" and President Ernest L. Wilkinson conferred my degree. My mother and stepfather were very happy, which made it unanimous.

Teaching at BYU High School was no picnic. My varied assignments and preparations meant that I had to work hard. We had some students that had been expelled from other schools who came to BYU High School and lived with their older siblings who attended BYU. Controlling them was not easy. There was a severe lack of equipment, such as microscopes and supplies, and an inadequate plant in which to teach. This made teaching even more difficult. Eventually, however, the school started restricting these wayward students, and some money was forthcoming for supplies and equipment. It was still a far cry from adequate to do the job that was expected.

My good friend Richard L. Gunn and I combined our New Testament classes in order to make better use of the New Testament films that were available to us from the visual aids department.

Richard L. Gunn, BYH Art Teacher
Richard Gunn, BYH
Art & Religion Teacher

There was a shortage of young men available for LDS missions because of the Korean War. The Church was, therefore, calling married couples without children to help fill this need.

We decided to accept the call. President Wilkinson gave me a two-year release from BY High with his blessing, and we were subsequently called to the Uruguay, South American Mission. Our mission call is dated May 26, 1953, signed by President David O. McKay. It was no coincidence that we were called to Uruguay. There was a space on the missionary forms asking where we would like to go. After having done some serious investigating, we had decided that Uruguay would be a fine place to go and entered it as our preference. Since I had taught Spanish in both Snowflake Union High School and BYU High School, it was a logical assignment.


[After our mission and] Upon our arrival in Provo, we rented a home in the Seventh Ward about a block from Mother and Rusk, who were taking care of the Blumenthal apartments. I continued my teaching at BY High, and Lula returned to work at Mountain Bell Telephone Company, doing payroll, personnel, and secretarial work.

As a returned Spanish-speaking missionary, I was soon asked to teach Spanish at BY High School. During my years at BY High I was asked to teach different subjects, for which I had no special training. I was trained, however, in biology and the biology part of general science. [During this time Bro. Allman was also called as bishop of the Provo Seventh Ward.]

I applied for a Fulbright Scholarship to teach abroad. Of the places available, my first choice was Africa, which seemed to be a fantastic place for a biologist to spend a year. My second choice was Australia, for the same reason, and my third choice, Spain, since Lula and I both spoke Spanish. After making application and being called to several interviews at the University of Utah, I was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to teach in Nigeria, West Africa.

I received a modest salary plus one-half of my BYU salary, which is given if the applicant improves his teaching ability while away. I was very happy to get this appointment. President Wilkinson congratulated me, saying this is exactly what he wanted teachers to do.

At the sacrament meeting in the Seventh Ward on the evening of my release as bishop, July 27, 1958, President [Aura] Hatch joked that he had many bishops move out of the stake to get out of the bishop's job, but this was the first time one had gone to Africa.


Returning to Provo in August 1959, we moved into a duplex on 1501 North and 300 West near the Provo River and the old brickyard. It was on the ground level and had two bedrooms, bath, living room and kitchen. The best thing about it was the fenced backyard, where Dwight [son] could play with his new pedal car. Winston Mercer, a friend and fellow teacher at BYU High, lived across the street.

Winston Mercer, BYH Teacher
Winston Mercer
Class of 1949 Reunion in 2003

I continued my teaching at BYU High School, and Lula went back to work for Mountain Bell. Dwight attended a preschool and continued to grow and develop. He became a skillful driver of his pedal car.

I got involved at school in a program of science fairs that was beginning to become popular throughout schools in the nation. Again, this was an aftermath of the Russians beating us to outer space with their rockets and a renewed emphasis on science in the nation's schools. I worked with Reese Bench from Provo High School in organizing the first local science fair.

My students at BY High were involved. One, Earl Jackson, got a second prize in the Utah State Science Fair, and another, Bert Eastmond, a first prize. Another student, Larry Ford, presented research at the Utah State Science Fair, receiving first place, which enabled him to take his project to the National-International Science Fair, all expenses paid. At this Fair, he received a first place for his fantastic project and several thousand dollars for further research on his project.

During my years at BYU High School, I spent several years as the Central Utah Science Fair Director and several years as the Utah State Science Fair Director. This enabled me to make trips to many National-International Science Fairs, all expenses paid.

One of our students was Wayne Young, who began working with Dr. Kent McKnight of BYU. He developed an antibiotic from a species of mushroom that had a promising future. He was given a first prize at the National-International Science Fair. He received an award of $100 or a free trip to the National Pharmaceutical Association's convention in Miami, Florida. When he asked me what he should do, I told him I thought he should go to Florida, since it would do him much more good than the money. He later told me how happy he was to take this advice, since he received several other trips to various cities to present his research.

Some of the cities I have visited in conjunction with Science Fairs and Science Teachers Conventions have been New York City, Baltimore, St. Louis, San Francisco, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Indianapolis. I have been fortunate to have traveled to many areas of the nation and world, all paid for by either private or government organizations.

After we moved into our new home in September 1961, the next exciting event in our lives was the arrival of another member of the Allman household, a beautiful child we named Mark Gregory Allman, born in April 1962.

During the school year 1962-63, the BYU Laboratory School was doing research on teaching methods, an important function of a laboratory school. At the same time the Bassett School District in the Los Angeles, California, area wanted to build a very special high school where no bells rang and students were able to proceed at their own pace. We had a similar program at our school, except that only several subjects were included in the program. In our program, the students worked in carrels, small individual work spaces, where they studied. When they arrived at a point where they needed help, an instructor arrived to answer their questions. If at the end of the day several students needed special help in a particular area, these students left their carrels and went to a classroom, where an instructor worked with them until their problems were solved.

Our research seemed to suggest that for some students, a self-paced program was effective, because a whole year's material could be mastered in about one-half the time. They were not bored by being held back at the pace of the whole class.

In other cases, self-pacing allowed students to move along slower than they would when not faced with the pressure of a regularly paced program. These students might do only one-half a year's program in one year.

In other cases, some students could go slowly at their own pace, but master the work and receive an "A" grade, instead of being forced along at a faster pace than they were capable of, and doing lower quality work and receiving a "C" grade.

For the Bassett project, Brigham Young University agreed to contribute $250,000, and the Bassett School District agreed to donate $200,000 toward the curriculum-writing project. We were to write the curriculum in several areas; English, math, biology and social studies, as I remember. The curriculum was to be written for a student proceeding at his or her own pace through the study.

BYU provided a private home it had bought on Phillips Lane, the Peterson Home, which was furnished with desks and other needed equipment. We spent the entire school year of 1962-63 writing the programs, while substitute teachers were hired to take our positions at the Laboratory School. During the year, all the teachers -- Lowell Bennion, Wallace Allred, June Whiteford, Royce Flandro, and myself -- took a BYU vehicle to California to interview specialists in our various fields in order to write a more effective program.

At Berkeley at the University of California, we consulted with specialists. We proceeded down the coast, consulting with a biology specialist at Stanford in Palo Alto. From there we proceeded to the coast to Santa Barbara, where we noticed that the tide was out, exposing many rocks, where we could collect marine life. We proceeded down the coast to the University of California at Los Angeles where we met with professors who gave us good advice. We obtained a lot of useful information from consultants, and then returned home to continue our curriculum writing.

By the end of the year, we had finished the writing. At the Bassett School District, some surprises surfaced. It seems the school board had decided on this very different kind of school without the approval of the patrons in the district. A vote of the district families rejected the new program and the building of a new kind of high school. As a result, they now came up with some complaints about the written curriculum in hopes of having their money returned. Alas, they should have had the project approved before writing the project and spending the money. They were unsuccessful in getting their money refunded.

I was happy to learn that there was no criticism of my program. Some maintained that some of the other programs reflected too much the philosophy of the Mormon Church and was not relevant to the local [Bassett] culture.


In the spring of 1965, it was again close to sabbatical leave time, and I started to plan for another sabbatical. I was invited to submit an application to the African-American Institute for a two-year program in Northern Rhodesia, Zambia, a program funded by the Agency for International Development, another US Government program. Max Berryessa had recommended me to his friend, Tom Turbyfill, who was to be the new director of the program.

We lived, or existed, in the servants' quarters with stoves and refrigerators for a couple of months until our new home was ready in the latter part of March. The snakes had scared everyone to death except the Allmans. We had green mambas, black mambas, puff adders, twig and vine snakes, spitting cobras, burrowing vipers, gaboon vipers, and several other kinds of poisonous snakes. We encountered huge pythons occasionally, the large ones dangerous, since they could suffocate a man. I collected a great many of these poisonous snakes, which I preserved for the BYU herpetology collection at the Bean Museum. If you were to find 20 snakes in this area of Zambia, probably 15 of them would be poisonous. At home in Utah, out of 20 snakes, you would probably find only one that was poisonous, and it would be carrying a rattle.

We had told our Provo neighbors, the Gunns, before leaving home that we would meet them in Africa whenever they brought a tour there. We started out from Mkushi for Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, on a 3,000-mile trip over terribly wash-boarded roads.

We picnicked along the way at times, as well as eating in hotels and rest houses. We stayed in hotels, rest houses, motels, and national parks. We stopped in Tanzania to visit our sister refugee school and to tour its campus. We stopped at Lake Manyara at a motel and visited a fantastic game reserve on our way to Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. We were warned to be aware of a female elephant with young, so kept the car running while observing them. They will charge if they feel their young are in danger.

The next day we arrived in Ngorongoro. We obtained lodging at the headquarters, and while the family was inside I decided to take a walk. We knew when the Gunn tour was to arrive and had hoped to meet them here. As I was walking down the road, a bus came along, and as the bus passed I heard Bishop Clyde Crockett shout, "Stop the bus; there's Brother Allman!"

On the bus were the Gunns, the Crocketts, and Anna Boss Hart, a colleague from BYU High School, and others. They were amazed to see me and our family, and we had a nice visit.

Verl Allman caricature on paper airplane Student artist Karl
Thomas depicts the
beloved "Coach Allman"
in the 1960s, first
on a paper airplane,
and then on the back
of a report cover.
Verl Allman caricature on student folder

Upon returning to our home in Provo, we found that the Coveys had bought the Harston home and had moved out of our residence. We bought a lot of new furniture, including sofa, chairs, drapes and rugs. Soon we bought a new 1968 fastback Volkswagen for about $2,500. I returned to work at BY High School, and Lula started working for BYU as a secretary in the College of Family Living and part-time in the Art Department.

At BYU High School, I was able to teach a class I had always wanted to teach there -- a class in advanced biology. In the class was Larry Ford, who had received a first award in the National-International Science Fair.

I came back to BYU High thinking: I have heard the expression "I want to always want and I don't want to be satisfied with being satisfied," or some like expression*, but I was perfectly happy here. I love the school, the administrators, who were my personal friends, Lowell Thompson and Wallace Allred. I love the students, and I love Provo and my home on the hill. What more could one ask?

Verl Allman demonstrates his great sense of humor.
Verl Allman shares his sense of humor

Everything seemed to be going fine, and then one Friday morning, December 8, 1967, we met in a special 7 a.m. faculty meeting along with the Elementary School faculty. At this meeting, we were told that the BYU High School would close permanently at the end of the present school year, 1967-68. Some of the faculty were in tears, and others horrified at the prospect of trying to find another job.

Later in the afternoon, a special assembly of students was held in which they were informed of the closure. Again, many students were in tears, some of them having attended the school from kindergarten to their high school years.

The BYU Botany Department chairman, Earl Christensen, told me that there was a spot for me in the Botany Department. I also learned from Lester Allen, chairman of the Zoology Department, that I could be employed in his department. The following week I met with the dean of the General College and was told that I could teach biology and Book of Mormon. In talking with the university vice president, he informed me that I could go wherever I wanted, but he wanted me in the General College. That settled it, and I was assigned an office in the Gibbons house on Phillips Lane. My friend Owen Bennion was also hired by General College. We were good friends.

[Note: The Allman autobiography continues on for more than 100 pages, but this ends his references to BY High. One interesting sidelight: Notice the ever-evolving name of the telephone company in this account.]

*Possibly: “As long as I have a want, I have a reason for living.” ― George Bernard Shaw, Overruled

The Verl Allman family, Provo, Utah
The Allman Family: Mark, Verl, Lula & Dwight

~ In Memoriam ~

Verl Phillips Allman, 91, of Provo, passed away peacefully on October 11, 2008. At the time of his death, Verl Allman was a resident at the Seville Retirement Residence in Orem. His long and eventful life was an inspiration to family and friends, who will dearly miss his happy countenance and generous spirit.

Verl was born on May 12, 1917, in Mammoth, a small mining town in Juab County, where his father worked as hoist engineer in the mine. He grew up in a large family of six boys and two girls during hard economic times that made it necessary for him to work to support himself from an early age.

Verl graduated from Orem's Lincoln High School in 1935, along with his twin sister Venna. Enrolling at BYU, he eventually earned both bachelor's and master's degrees in Botany and Zoology, becoming the first member of his family to obtain a college education. During the war years, Verl worked in San Diego in an aircraft factory helping to build B-24 bombers and PBY-amphibian planes.

Verl Allman was a member of the Brigham Young University High School faculty from 1950 until its closing. In 1968, he was selected as Outstanding Biology Teacher by the National Association of Biology Teachers. That same year he joined the faculty of the General College at BYU. In 1971, he moved to the Department of Zoology, where he worked until his retirement in 1982.

Verl married Lula Marchant in the Logan Temple in 1950. Together they served an LDS mission in Uruguay in 1953. Upon their return, Verl was called as bishop of the Provo Seventh Ward. Verl and Lula visited over 40 countries during their life's travels together. On two occasions, they moved their family to Africa for extended stays.

In 1958-59, Verl was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, which took him and his family to West Africa. He taught at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science & Technology in Enugu, Nigeria. From 1965-67, Verl and his young family lived on the campus of the Mkushi International College in Zambia, where he had charge of the science curriculum.

In 1973-74, he again took leave of his teaching responsibilities at BYU to spend a year in LDS-sponsored schools across Mexico, working with faculty at each school to improve instructional skills.

Verl was a lifelong gardener, celebrated for his fruits and vegetables "especially his tomatoes" who once grafted ten different kinds of apples onto a single tree.

At an early age, he taught himself to play the piano and became an accomplished musician. He excelled at dancing as well. He was also a founding member of his Oak Hills neighborhood organization; a skilled fisherman and outdoorsman, who worked for several summers as a ranger for the National Forest Service; and a landscape architect, who collected over a hundred boulders for landscaping projects during what he jokingly referred to as his "rock and roll years."

He was affectionately known by generations of neighborhood children as "Uncle Bug." In retirement, Verl and Lula especially enjoyed researching family history and genealogy. He wrote two books on family history, one devoted to the "Thomas Allman Family History" and the other to his autobiography.

Verl is survived by his brother, Samuel Allman, Jr., of Bountiful; many nieces and nephews; his two sons, Dwight D. Allman and Mark G. Allman; his daughters-in-law, Wendy and Kathy; and three grandchildren, Alissa, Anthony, and Sebastian.

Funeral services were held Thursday, October 16, 2008, at the Oak Hills Sixth Ward Chapel, 1900 N. 1500 E., in Provo. Interment, Provo City Cemetery.

[Provo Daily Herald, Tuesday, October 14, 2008]

Verl P. Allman, BYH 1950 to 1968

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