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Sen. Reid remembers Aggie days

Alumnus makes waves in the political world

Published: Friday, April 27, 2012

Updated: Friday, April 27, 2012 11:04


Years before he had his own office in Washington, D.C.’s Hart Senate Office Building, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was an Aggie and fondly remembers the people who impacted his life while at USU

      Reid attended USU with football legend Merlin Olsen, and recalls taking classes with him. Reid and Olsen were both teaching assistants to Professor Leonard Arrington, who worked at USU from 1946 to 1972, and now has an annual lecture named for him called the Leonard J. Arrington Mormon History Lecture Series.

Reid received his bachelor’s degree in political science from USU in 1961 with a minor in economics. His service in the political realm began at age 28 when he was elected to the Nevada State Assembly, returning to the state he grew up in. He then became the youngest lieutenant governor in Nevada’s history at age 30. Reid was first elected a Nevada senator in 1986 and is now serving his fifth term.


US: Did you always want to be involved in politics?


HR: I wanted to be a big athlete, but that didn’t work out ... I went to Southern Utah University — then called the College of Southern Utah — to play football and baseball, and it didn’t take long for me to realize I wasn’t big enough, fast enough, or frankly, good enough. And I got hurt, so I started studying — and I had never done that before — and made good grades, and got a scholarship to go up to USU.


US: Why did you choose a bachelor’s degree in political science? 


HR: I’d been involved in student government in high school, I was student body president and I was class president in college my freshman year. I had a government teacher in high school named Mike O’Callahan and he became the governor of Nevada and that’s probably one of the reasons I did it.


US: Who was your favorite teacher or mentor at USU?


HR: I had a number of very, very outstanding teachers. Dr. Merrill was a political science teacher, he was an old man at the time, but he was a very fun teacher … Another teacher I loved that died recently was Judd Harmon. He was in the political science department, and the reason I so appreciate him is it was my first quarter and we had taken a test and he took me in his office and said, “You are obviously very smart, but you better do something about your grammar because it’s about as bad as anything I’ve ever read,” so as a result of that I took a whole bunch of courses, English courses, diagramming sentences and as a result of that I speak fairly well.

There was another teacher, Dr. Bright, a history teacher, but what I remember most about him is his hobby was going around and looking at graves and trying to get something historical out of that. My all-time favorite teacher — and we remained friends until he died — his name was Leonard Arrington and he was a great, very wonderful teacher. He taught in the economics department, and I had a minor in it, so I graded tests for him along with the great football player who was all-American — Merlin Olsen — and he, of course, played in the pros.


US: How did you meet your wife?


HR: In high school, she was a sophomore and I was a junior. We went to the same high school in Henderson, Nev., and we have been together ever since.


US: Were you involved in any clubs or organizations at USU?


HR: I was married when I got there, so the only thing I was involved in was a number of academic things. I don’t remember the names of them, but I was in honors society for political science and history.


US: Do you have a favorite USU tradition? Are you a True Aggie?


HR: It didn’t interest me at the time; I had somebody at home to kiss, I didn’t have to do it some place else.


US: What did you and your wife do on the weekend in Logan?


HR: If you look into my office on my credenzas I have a hand-carved ivory statue of Mohandas Gandhi. It’s wonderful, it’s so fine. He has a staff in his hand the size of two or three toothpicks. We lived at 303 S. 400 West in Logan, Utah. We lived in a basement apartment of some people called Birds. I would drive to school in these winters that were so bad, as you know, and I would give these Indian students rides to school. When I got ready to leave they asked if my wife and I could stay over. They wanted to do a traditional Indian feast for us. They cooked this wonderful Indian meal for this. They gave me a number of things, but the thing I still have after all these years is this hand-carved statue of Gandhi.

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