J. C. Moffitt, Ultimate Teacher

By Theron H. Luke

Provo Herald, Sept 14, 1980

J. C. Moffitt was an administrator as principal and superintendent for most of his career as an educator -- but he was a teachers teacher.

He taught in casual meetings or conversations. He taught in the restaurant breaks which he delighted to take with his staff, many of which I was privileged to attend.

His funeral last week had speakers who knew him well, perhaps better than I did, but I knew him well too. Ever since I started on the Herald in 1945, and we were consequently thrown together because of my work and his. But as time went by it became more than superintendent and newspaperman. It became a frendship which will always live with me, as if it never ended. The countless times he took me to lunch (Payola? Not with him. He was too genuine, and there was a tacit understanding that he had more money than I did.) The countless times I went out for the morning or afternoon break and libation with him and a few of his younger subordinates. And that numbers game they played to see who paid. I don't understand it to this day.

The breaks didn't stop after he retired as superintendent of Provo schools for 27 years ( a longevity record rare in educational circles as Allen West pointed out at the funeral) but continued with him picking up the others as long as he could drive, and them picking him up at his home after he couldn't.

J. C. Moffitt's deeds were well detailed at his funeral, but no one could ever list them all. He was essentially a quiet man who did countless things for countless people, and no one else but them ever knew about it.

Something he did that had to be public was to lead the fight for equal pay for equal work and ability among Provo teachers.

Men teachers used to get more than women in the Provo schools, when women were as well-qualified (perhaps better in some cases) and were doing the same work. It took a determined fight to end this traditional, male chauvinistic attitude and Moffitt was in the forefront of it. To him it was just plain wrong, long before women's lib or the ERA were heard of around here.

The subordinate told me this week, with tears in his eyes, how Moffitt literally saved his life and his future by understanding encouragement and patience while he recovered from a serious illness.

J. C. Moffitt was an instinctively tolerant man. All religions to him were important. He told me once of his lifelong fight to prevent teachers from often unconsciously asking their classroom: "Is there anyone who is not a Mormon?" thus making some scared, strange little child the off-color chicken in the flock. He realized he could never completely stop it, but he certainly stopped a lot of it.

Now he's gone I can reveal that he was very much opposed to extending LDS seminary down into junior high. Not that he had anything against LDS seminaries (his financial contributions to his LDS ward were far beyond the line of prescribed duty) but he felt the time was badly needed at that critical age for the basic three R's.

Many people know the story of how he got into teaching, but he loved to tell it. He was seventeen years old, just outof high school in 1913. He was atop a load of hay at his Uintah Basin ranch home when someone, probably a member of the school board, trudged across the field and told him he was needed as a school teacher in a tiny Uintah Basin school. It was the beginning of a career as an educator which included national recognition as an officer in several national educational organizations. He traveled the length and breadth of the nation for the PTA, working toward his goal of better relationshps between parents and teachers.

J. C. Moffitt loved children. He loved young people. He loved young teachers (and old) struggling to be better teachers. I think he loved me -- and it will be one of the greatest honors I will ever receive.

J. C. Moffitt was a fighter. He hated injustice (the unequal pay was a prime example) and was a formidable foe if he felt his cause was right and just.

But I never knew him to really hate anyone.

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