LeRoy Hafen, a proficient in history, has contributed an abundance of information on the histories of Nevada, Colorado, and Utah. A native of Nevada, Hafen was born in the town of Bunkerville on December 8, 1893. His family was Mormon, and polygamous; his father, John, had at least two wives, the second of which was mother to LeRoy. The Hafen family dwelt in an experimental commune of thirty-seven families, and this was the environment that LeRoy Hafen was raised in. Hafen worked hard on his family's farm during his youth, but also found the time to become an accomplished violinist. He greatly desired to futher his knowledge and education; his two-year high school education in Cedar City, Utah, was only the beginning of a full and dedicated learning experience. In 1913, he graduated from two years of schooling at St. George Stake Academy (St. George, Utah). Hafen continued his education in Utah at Brigham Young University, where he discovered a taste for debate and obtained his bachelor's degree. It was at Brigham Young that he met his wife, Ann Woodbury, whom he married on September 3, 1915. Following his marriage and the birth of two children, Hafen
received his master's degree in history from the University of Utah (1919), and a Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Berkeley (1924). His definite interest in history paved the way toward his innumerable works as a historian.
LeRoy Hafen was just as tenacious in his career as in his education; and his many occupations were by no means trifling or unvaried. A seasoned farmer from many years on his family's own farm, Hafen payed for his college studies by laboring on cantaloupe farms in Overton, Nevada, and on a ranch near Las Vegas. He also had the privilege of teaching school off and on througout his life: he taught high school history in his hometown of Bunkerville (1916-1918); served as principal at Virgin Valley High School (1918-1920); taught private school in Berekeley, California (1923-1924); was a professor at the University of Denver (1933-52); visited and taught at the University of Glasgow, Scotland (1947-1948); and served as professor of history at Brigham Young University (1954-1971). In 1924, on July 1, Hafen began his thirty-year career as State Historian and director of the Colorado State Museum in Denver. In this honorable position, LeRoy was responsible for numerous tasks, such as coordinating exhibits for the Colorado State Museum, preparing historical markers, editing the Colorado Magazine. On top of his position as State Historian, Hafen was supervisor over about fifty individuals in one of President Roosevelt's New Deal employment programs. This project was right in Hafen's niche, as it consisted predominantly of compiling historical data for the State Historical Society of Colorado.
It was during his service as State Historian that Hafen stepped out as a historical writer. He wrote voraciously, penning more than fifty articles and numerous histories over several decades, not to mention the works that he edited or wrote as joint projects with other authors. His writings concentrated mainly on Western American and Mormon history. Hafen's wife, herself a talented, published poet and writer, was his constant writing colleague. Together they wrote volumes of history, along with an autobiography of their marriage and diary records of their world-wide travels. Acting upon their passion for history and education, LeRoy and Ann donated a staggering amount of nearly 5,000 volumes and pamphlets from their private collection to Brigham Young University between 1954 and 1965. Ann Hafen died shortly thereafter in 1970, and on Ann's previous instruction, LeRoy married her sister Mary Woodbury Adams the following year. Aside from his writings, Hafen was honored with several awards, such as various service awards, a fellowship at Huntington Library, the Jew Oratorical Medal, and a Litt.D. from both the Universities of Colorado and of Zurich. In 1985, at ninety-one years of age, LeRoy Hafen died a highly applauded writer, and a devotee and proponent of history and education.
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