PROVO, Utah — The story of L.W. “Pete” Harman is somewhat well-sung. After striking up a deal with Colonel Harland Sanders, the two opened Harman’s Cafe, which became one of the first fast food restaurants in existence. The two soon began the franchise KFC, and Harman takes credit for the development of the bucket packaging and his emphasis on the “Finger-lickin’ good” motto.
But his origins begin with someone whose story has gone mostly unsung. Caroline Hemenway Harman — or Aunt Carrie, as she was known in the community and to Pete Harman — was such an example of self-reliance and service that a building on the Brigham Young University campus bears her name.
“As I read about her and learned about the type of life she lived, I was truly impressed by the Christlike attributes this wonderful woman held,” said Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “The records written by people who were related to her indicate that she was courageous, intelligent, very kind, full of charity and love and goodness, and would bring sunshine everywhere she went and would always stand up for the weak and the unfortunate.”
Originally dedicated in 1982 by President Gordon B. Hinckley, the Caroline Hemenway Harman Continuing Education Building reflects the often unsung monumental impact this woman had on her family and community.
In his rededication remarks on Feb. 5, BYU President Kevin J Worthen briefly outlined the life of Caroline Harman. She saw much adversity in her day, while also serving others without complaint. She was a widow three times over, raised 14 children (including her sister’s children after she died), and suffered from sugar diabetes, all while taking responsibility for a 300-acre farm as well as serving as Relief Society president for 18 years.
After most of her children had married, Caroline Harman continued to be productive. She began a chicken farm that soon had 1,000 chickens. As one biographer put it, “Aunt Carrie expected everything around her to be productive, and she would not have a lazy chicken. A hen who lacked commitment was invited for Sunday dinner.”
It was the way Aunt Carrie cooked chicken that helped inspire Pete Harman to begin Harman’s Cafe.
President Worthen described Caroline Harman as “unsung, resourceful, hard-working.”
These same attributes apply to the Division of Continuing Education, he said. “It’s sort of unsung. It doesn’t often become the prominent feature of our university presentations. But in terms of its impact, because of the hardworking people who are here, it is without rival.”
In 2017, over 260,000 people were enrolled in some kind of Division of Continuing Education program, including evening classes, independent study classes, Especially For Youth, and much more. “That’s seven times what we have here in our student body,” President Worthen said.
“So it is fitting as we think about this and engage in this rededication that we remember Caroline Hemenway Harman for her example of being someone who is resourceful, who worked hard, who worked through adversity, who is unsung.”
Following in the footsteps of President Hinckley, Elder Soares offered remarks at the rededication of the historic building. Shortly before, he had spoken at a devotional in the Marriott Center.
Elder Soares joined other Church leaders who have paid tribute to Caroline Harman.
The original construction of the Harman building was made possible by Pete Harman, her sister’s son who Harman raised as her own after her sister died soon after childbirth. Elder Soares quoted him, saying, “She did more for people than anybody I know. … Aunt Carrie asked little of life. She gave much. This new building is my way of showing my gratitude and love for her.”
Future generations of students will be benefited not only by the well-equipped facility, but also inspired by the history of love and sacrifice Harman was known for, Elder Soares said.
Expressing his deep gratitude for all who, in one way or another, are part of the “wonderful things that happen in this building,” Elder Soares told them, “What you do affects the lives of all those who pursue their education here in the marvelous university. ...
“What I most admire at BYU is the combination of opportunities for lifelong learning experiences linked with consistent gospel vision and standards.”
BYU’s Continuing Education program formally began in 1921 to expand education opportunities for those not enrolled in regular daytime classes. Since that time, it has grown to more than 450,000 enrolled worldwide.
President Hinckley previously dedicated the Harman building on April 13, 1982. Ground was broken on June 24, 2016, to begin construction of the Harman Building addition, and remodeling of the rest of the building began. The new wing added 109,806 square feet to the building, resulting in a total 142,693 square feet, and room to better house the independent study program.