Nibley vs. Wilkinson

Interview, 1983

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.]

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About Hugh Nibley

Hugh Nibley, 1910-2005, was simultaneously the LDS Church's greatest intellectual defender from attack from the outside and Mormon culture's strongest critic from the inside. This blog is composed mainly from Nibley's unpublished writings, letters, interviews and conversations, with occasional posts from associates who had personal interactions with him.
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