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Cyrus McKell papers, 1947-2009

Identifier: 09-01---Unprocessed

Scope and Contents

Collection contains documents and objects from Cyrus McKell. It includes Cyrus McKell's publications and records related to his consulting work, maps and plats, portrait of Science Building, plaque, and framed photo with autographs.


  • Creation: 1982-2008
  • Other: Date acquired: 2012-07-06


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Biographical or Historical Information

Cyrus Milo McKell, Ph.D. 1926 ~ 2009 Cyrus McKell was born in Payson, Utah, in March, 1926, the son of Robert Dewey McKell and Mary Cecelia Ellsworth. He was the second of three sons and an older daughter. When he was only nine years old, his father died unexpectedly. His mother raised the young family as a single mother, during the Depression, working afternoons and evenings as the Librarian for the Payson City Library. Cyrus attended school in Payson. Upon graduation from high school in 1944, he entered the U.S. Army Air Corps as an aviation student in Texas but he did not finish his training before World War II ended. He then returned to Utah to attend college at University of Utah. He married the love of his life, Betty Marie Johnson, in 1947, after meeting her through his sister, Jean Marie, who was Betty's supervisor. They had three boys and two girls. One son and one daughter did not survive the birth process. Cyrus earned a B.S. degree in Biology and a M.S. degree in Botany and Geography, at the University of Utah. He was a member of ROTC. In 1952, President Dwight Eisenhower awarded him his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. He completed Medical Service Officer Training, becoming an Administrative Officer of the Air Force Base Hospital in Ft. Worth, Texas. After the war, he was the Principal of Tabiona Schools in Tabiona, Utah for a year. To fulfill his goal of higher education, he and Betty moved to Corvallis, Oregon, where he earned a Ph.D. in Plant Ecology, Range Management & Soils at Oregon State College (University). He gained wide experience and professional contacts in his subsequent employment as a USDA Range Plant Physiologist at the University of California at Davis campus, where he also did postdoctoral work in Crop Physiology. From there, he was invited to be the Chairman of the Agronomy Department at University of California at Riverside, where he attained full professorship. After almost a decade in Southern California, he returned to his Utah roots in 1969, accepting the Chairmanship of the Range Management Department at Utah State University. From 1971-1975, he was Director of the Environment and Man Program, a grant program funded by the Ford Foundation, also at Utah State University. After that, he directed the Institute for Land Rehabilitation from 1976 to 1981 at Utah State University. Cyrus never "applied" for jobs, he merely had to decide among the myriad employment offers that constantly came to him during his career. From Utah State University, he moved into the business world, where he served as Vice President for Research at NPI, a biotechnology company, in Salt Lake City. Cyrus returned to academia, this time at Weber State University, where he fulfilled his dream of serving as Dean of the College of Science. He continued his involvement with Weber State long after his retirement, establishing a botany scholarship there. Though always modest of his accomplishments, his research has resulted in over 230 peer-reviewed scientific publications, including editor or co-editor of 7 books. He received a Rockefeller Foundation Travel Grant to Nigeria in 1965, a Fulbright Academic Fellowship to Spain in 1967-68, a six month project in Kenya with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Governors Medal in Science and Technology in 1990, and in 1999, he received the Willard Gardner Prize for Distinguished Accomplishments in the Sciences. He has served as a member of the Utah Governor's Science Advisory Council and a member of Cache County Planning Commission. During his academic career, he served as a member or chair of scientific consulting groups to foreign countries, being sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, United Nations FAO, USAID, American Academy for the Advancement of Science and the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. He consulted on agricultural field work and environmental development problems in over 30 countries, including, but not limited to, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Mexico, China, India, Israel, Pakistan, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Malaysia, Australia, and Cyprus. Retirement was anathema to Cyrus. He told everyone that he "would never retire;" that he "would work until he died." In fact, this is exactly so, because at the time of the circumstances leading to his passing, he was repairing the sprinklers for his condominium complex, a volunteer position that he joyfully performed. Though he officially retired from Weber State in 1995, he continued to head various community enrichment projects, as well as serving as a consultant with Applied Ecological Services, Inc. as well as Oasis Industries, Inc. His last community service included membership on the Holladay City Planning Commission, a position he has held since 2003. He also served as Editor of the Sons of Utah Pioneers monthly newsletter. He was working on the next newsletter at the time of his passing. He remained active in the LDS Church. Cyrus was a teacher, mentor, role model, and counselor to many people in his life. He had hundreds of students who benefited from his guidance. As a husband, father, and grandfather and great-grandfather, he was the most loving and beloved of all-"the Best Daddy, Grandpa and Great Grandpa Ever." His love of education and personal advancement left a lasting legacy on the world. He was truly a force for good in the world and always looked for the positive in everyone and everything. Dr. McKell established a Botany Scholarship at Weber State University. The family would like to invite all those who valued Dr. McKell's influence to join him and his love of education by supporting his scholarship program. Published in Deseret News from May 17 to May 18, 2009 - See more at: written by Deseret News


37.85 Linear Feet (29 RC boxes, 5 document case, 2 coroplast boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection maintains the original order where possible. Loose documents are grouped according to content.

Physical Access Requirements

There are no physical access restrictions.

Technical Access Requirements

There are no technical access restrictions.

Custodial History

Material was acquired from the family of Cyrus McKell (2011-034).

Source of Acquisition

Family of Cyrus McKell

Method of Acquisition

Acquired from the family of Cyrus McKell, 2012.

Accruals and Additions

Accruals are not expected.

Publication Rights

Materials may be used for non-profit and educational purposes, please credit the University Archives, Stewart Library, Weber State University. Reproduction for publication, exhibition, web display or commercial use is only permissible with the consent of the University Archives, Stewart Library, Weber State University.

Brian Simmons
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Weber State University Archives Repository

3921 Central Campus Drive Dept 2901
Ogden UT 84408