Andrew B. Christenson

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Andrew B. Christenson was principal of Ricks Academy from 1914 to 1917. While principal, he was instrumental in adding a year of college work to the curriculum, bringing water to the campus to beautify the grounds, and beginning the construction of a new gymnasium.

He was born Andrew C. Christensen on June 6, 1869, in Manti, Utah, and later changed his name to Andrew B. Christenson to avoid confusion with another Andrew Christensen who lived in his town. He left home at age 13 to hire himself as a laborer to help contribute to the family income. He worked herding sheep, and his descendants remember an incident from his history:

Father was ambitious for an education and kept books in a box in the sheep wagon, which he studied at every opportunity preparing for a day when he could go to school. One day, he had climbed to a high ledge on a slope overlooking the sheep herd and was deep in study, when his attention was drawn to a disturbance in the flock. Looking down, he saw a huge grizzly bear coming up the slope toward him. He was unarmed, and although bears were not uncommon in the Henry Mountains, this one seemed to have one object in mind—father. He first shouted, and then threw stones, but the bear came steadily onward. In desperation, he looked around for some means of defense, when he noticed a deep crack in the ledge upon which he stood. Bracing himself against the mountainside, he placed his back in the crack and strained with all his might. Slowly the crack began to widen, and just as the bear reached the bottom of the ledge, a great section broke loose, crashing with a thud in front of the beast and followed by a shower of rocks and dirt. The bear rose on his haunches, turned and headed straight down the mountain, with the rock bounding close behind and gaining speed at every turn. Father said that he had never seen a bear run so fast. And the last glimpse he had of the beast was as it was headed into the scrub oak and quaking aspen, with the rock speeding unchecked, crashing trees and brush in its path. The sight hit father’s “funny bone,” and he literally rolled on the ground with laughter. Father had many hair-raising stories which he used to tell us before the fire on long evenings. He was a marvelous storyteller, and we children would sit entranced reliving such experiences with him.[1]

He graduated from Brigham Young Academy in 1895 and accepted his first teaching position in Kanab, Utah. In 1901, he earned his bachelor’s degree in literature from the University of Michigan and took an assignment to teach at the Woodward School in St. George, Utah, where he stayed through 1903. He then studied for a year in Berlin. He taught German and French at LDS High School (now LDS Business College) where he stayed for six years, later serving as principal. He then took his family to Europe while he studied in Oxford, England, and Paris, France from 1910 to 1911. Returning to Utah, he served on the faculty of BYU for a few years prior to his appointment to Ricks.

Christenson had been called by the Church leadership to act as principal of Ricks Academy for two years and prepare it to become a junior college. He had bought land near LaVerkin, Utah, and the family moved to southern Utah in 1917, where Andrew was involved in investments and developments that left him in debt due to harsh winter weather. While in southern Utah, he had taken a position as head of Millard Academy in Hinckley, Utah, briefly in 1918, but his heart was no longer in teaching or administrating.

The family returned to Salt Lake City in 1923 and Christenson took work as a principal and advisor. He traveled frequently, working on developing his investments. He died in 1931 from diabetes complications.

He and his wife, Sarah, were the parents of eight children.