Who Was Emma Eccles Jones

Emma Eccles Jones with children
Emma Eccles Jones surrounded by her students.

The Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services took its name from a longtime friend and philanthropist. Her ties to the College extend to its very beginnings.

She became Northern Utah’s first Kindergarten teacher in 1926, after her former geography teacher, Miss Edith Bowen, persuaded her to put her new degree from Teachers College at Columbia University to use.

Emma agreed and donated her own salary. Since little desks could not be found, tables’ legs were shortened and little chairs were hunted up. The next year, easels were added to the classroom. By then, the class was full and a waiting list started for parents who wanted their children to attend.

“Our room was just wonderful, like walking into another world,” recalled Barbara Budge Howell, one of those early students. “It was a happy classroom, yet it was a tight classroom. You were welcome to anything you wanted, but when you were done with it you had to put it away.”

In 1927, Utah State University started a school of education. In 1928 it established a teacher training school, absorbing Whittier into its program. It became a place where student teachers could experience hands-on learning.

Emma continued on as a teacher while the program evolved. Her dedication continued long after she stopped teaching and would later result in enormous support for the College which now bears her name.

Over a period of 41 years she and the Emma Eccles Jones Foundation contributed a total of $45 million to education programs at the College. These funds helped build both the former and current Edith Bowen Laboratory School, the Emma Eccles Jones Education Building and the Emma Eccles Jones Early Childhood Education Building.

In addition, she established a distinguished professorship and endowed chairs in early childhood education, supported programs and supplied equipment.

She passed away in 1991, but her legacy—and her influence in early childhood education—lives on.