Osh Begosh | Urban Living

Osh Begosh

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In 1976, I was accepted into the University of Utah. My dream was to become a medical doctor. I was lucky to get into student housing on campus, but I also pledged a sorority (our family tradition). Unfortunately in 1976, no sorority at the U was accepting any trans-looking LGBTQ person. I didn't have the clothes, hair or desire to dress up for formal tea parties, and wear white gloves at the different meet-and-greets. After a week of feeling like I was cast in an early version of Scream Queens, I went about my business focusing on school. And, no, I didn't get any invitations to join any sorority after rush week was over. Most of my first classes during that fall semester were in Orson Spencer Hall just south of the Student Union Building. I couldn't handle the huge campus and eventually transferred to Westminster.

OSH, as it was called back then, was already an older building on campus, built in 1955 and named after Orson Spencer—the first chancellor of the University of Deseret (which became the U of U). An Easterner, Spencer had graduated from Union College in 1824 in New York and took a teaching job in Georgia, where he joined the Baptist Church and became a pastor. He went back to New York to get his preaching credentials from Colgate University and then led three different congregations throughout New England between 1829-1841. His brother introduced him to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Spencer converted to Mormonism. He served as president of the British Mission, and was an editor and publisher for the church when he moved to Utah. He went on many missions, including one to the Cherokee Nation, where he contracted malaria and then died in 1855. He had six wives and was the father of Aurelia Rogers, who founded the LDS Primary for children.

When it was built, OSH was known for being the least expensive and having the best use of materials compared to other buildings on campus. But the poor old thing aged quite badly over the past 61 years. The lighting was poor, electrical outlets were almost nonexistent and cracks riddled the walls. The building has since been torn down to be replaced by the Carolyn and Kem Gardner Building to house many different colleges and departments. The sweet part of this new story is that the Gardners met at the U and later married. She became a school teacher and he became a successful real estate mogul. They've donated $10 million of the estimated $68 million in building costs. The new OSH is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018.

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