Ernest Leroy Wilkinson was an American academic administrator and prominent figure in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was president of Brigham Young University from 1951 to 1971, prior to this, Wilkinson was a lawyer in Washington, D. C. and New York City. Wilkinson was born in Ogden, Utah and he graduated from Weber Academy in Ogden in 1917. He was then a student at Weber College, which was the school now having expanded to offer collegiate level courses. After a year at Weber College Wilkinson became a member of the Student Army Training Corps unit located at BYU, after the war, he became a regular student at BYU and among other things served as the editor of the weekly newspaper. He earned his bachelor of degree at BYU in 1921. At graduation, Wilkinson began teaching at Weber College and he married Alice Valera Ludlow, a native of Spanish Fork who he had met while they were both students at BYU. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple on 16 August 1923, the ceremony was performed by James E. Talmage. Ernest and Alice would have five children, among other subjects, Alice had studied drama at BYU, which led to T. Earl Pardoe stating she was his most talented student up to that time. Also in 1923 Wilkinson was involved with the campaign of William H. King for United States Senate and he then earned a law degree from George Washington University and a doctorate from Harvard Law School in 1927. While in law school Wilkinson taught high school in Washington, D. C and he also was for a time on the faculty of the New Jersey Law School. In 1950 this suit was upheld by the United States Court of Claims and as a result, Wilkinsons share of the settlement as the plaintiffs attorney made him independently wealthy, and allowed him to give up his law practice to pursue his interests in education. Wilkinson lobbied LDS Church leaders to be appointed as president of BYU and was offered the position in July 1950, when Wilkinson came to BYU he replaced the interim administration of Christen Jensen. Under Wilkinsons administration, BYU expanded in all ways, the number of students increased from 5,000 to 25,000. He instituted aggressive recruiting methods where faculty would accompany general authorities on visits to stake conferences and this changed BYU from having a student body mainly from Utah to having a student body from virtually every state in the nation. Under his administration the number of buildings on campus grew tremendously, BYU also for the first time granted Ph. D. s. Wilkinson considered the most important accomplishment of his term as president to have been the organization of student wards, Wilkinson was the ninth Commissioner of Church Education of the LDS Church. During his tenure, he bore the title Administrator–Chancellor of the Unified Church Schools System
Wilkinson pictured in The Banyan 1952, BYU yearbook
A hallway in the Wilkinson Center at BYU, named after President Ernest L. Wilkinson.