Ernie and I, we really went round and round on a numbers of occasions. The very first faculty meeting we had a showdown. Everyone was scared to death of him. He came in raging, fuming. They had sent around a petition — it wasn’t a petition, they had made an objection to him. He was giving a doctor’s degree to a personal friend of his back east. The first thing he did, he’d only been in the school a week, you know, [and] he was giving doctors’ degrees to his friends back there that nobody had ever heard of here. Some of the faculty objected to the degrees: doctor’s degrees had to be bestowed by the faculty, with the agreement of the faculty. They’re given by departments, they’re given by colleges, they’re not [something where] the president decides to give a degree, he’s just the administration. So he came in and he was furious. “Who said this thing, whoever agreed to such a thing? I’m not interested in whether it’s right or wrong, that has nothing to do with it! Is it legal?” They insulted him as a great legalist. “Is it legal? Is there anyone agrees it is not legal?” And so I stood up. There was dead silence. Nobody would stand up but I had agreed that it was so. “Come and see me in my office,” he said. I came to see him in his office and he was sweet as pie. He wouldn’t mention what I was talking about because I immediately went over and got plenty of evidence to show that it was so, he couldn’t do it. And I had the documents and everything and went loaded for bear, but he was so sweet to me. He was a lawyer and he expected an adversary relationship. Everybody was afraid of little Ernie, but he never took it too hard, he would never hold it against you, you see.
[For more on Nibley’s relationship with Wilkinson, see Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life.]