John Lawrence Walkup was born in Missouri in 1914. His father was a farmer and a stockman, and both of his parents had college educations. Walkup graduated from high school in 1932, as salutatorian of his class. He earned his bachelor of science degree in 1936 from Central Missouri State College and embarked on a career as an educator. He quickly rose from teacher to principal to superintendent in Blackburn, Missouri. In 1942, Walkup received a master's degree and entered the Navy as a course analyst for cadet training.
In 1948, Walkup--who had recently been awarded a doctorate in education--accepted a position as Dean of the Education Department at Arizona State College [Flagstaff]. He became acting president during President Lacey Eastburn's illness in 1957 and two months later was appointed president upon Eastburn's death. One of his first presidential responsibilities involved handling the furor over a bill proposed by Senator Robert Prochnow to establish a school of forestry in Flagstaff. Despite objections by the other state schools and their supporters, the bill passed in 1958.
ASC's enrollment soared in the early 1960s. In response, Walkup initiated an extensive building program. Throughout his presidency, he emphasized the importance of maintaining the spirit of a small, collegial campus. He proposed the now famous school motto "to be educated is to become more human." Pleased with the array of quality academic programs and ever-growing student body, the Arizona Board of Regents recommended that ASC become Northern Arizona University effective May 1, 1966. In 1968, NAU received authorization to offer Doctorates of Philosophy and Education, with the first doctoral candidates graduating in 1973. Two years later, NAU celebrated the dedication of Ardrey Memorial Auditorium. In 1977, crowds cheered as the Lumberjacks beat the Montana Grizzlies in the first football game played in the new indoor stadium, which was named the Walkup Skydome upon the president's retirement in 1979. Dr. J. Lawrence Walkup remained an active member of the Flagstaff Community until his death on August 7, 2002.
Condensed from Platt Cline, Mountain Campus: The Story of Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff: Northland Press, 1983), chapters IX and X.