When Leonard J. Arrington's "Great Basin Kingdom" appeared in 1958, one reviewer hailed it as "easily the most informative single volume yet published on the Mormons in Utah." Still another said it was "a masterpiece, done with admirable impartiality."

Today, the book is a classic, and its author a legend.Scholars were predictably excited when Arrington and his wife, Harriet, decided to donate their personal historical research archive - including personal letters, scrapbooks, clippings and 50 volumes of diaries - to Utah State University.

Even though Arrington was a BYU professor and LDS Church Historian in more recent years, he was a popular fixture on the USU faculty for 26 years.

When he moved to Salt Lake City, he said that his heart remained in Logan.

USU President George H. Emert and his wife, Billie, celebrated the donation on Wednesday by inviting many of the Arringtons' closest friends and supporters to a dinner at the Salt Lake Marriott Hotel. The audience included noted scholars, community leaders and LDS general authorities.

Emert graciously accepted the gift, promising that Arrington's long-established belief that "we have nothing to fear from history" would be the goal of the new archive.

Unquestionably, the donation will give USU's Merrill Library a major boost in becoming a "mecca for research."

Laurel Ulrich, LDS Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian at the University of New Hampshire, was scheduled to be the major speaker but was unable to attend at the last minute.

Two of her closest friends, Emma Lou Thayne, noted local poet, and William Mulder, retired U. English professor, acted as her collective voice, with some witty comments of their own thrown in.

Mulder expressed his mixed feelings at seeing the collection go to USU since he serves as chairman of the U. Library Acquisitions Committee and admitted the U. had "lusted after the Arrington papers."

Calling Arrington "the dean of Mormon historians," Mulder commented insightfully on what one colleague called "his avuncular beneficent presence."

Mulder then read Ulrich's faxed remarks, in which she recalled that Russian leaders had long ago recognized historians as "dangerous to the State." But, she said, "the most dangerous thing historians do is put things in boxes. They know that today's trash is tomorrow's history."

Looking squarely at Arrington on the dais, Thayne said, "It must be awesome to be archived before you're dead." Then she praised him for always recognizing "the thing that matters most - human relationships." Thayne remembered Arrington's 10-year tenure as LDS Church Historian as "Camelot years."

Then she quoted Ulrich saying that Arrington "has written short books, tall books - and a few tall tales - but always with footnotes." Ulrich corrrectly called him "the father of contemporary Mormon history," who caused "LDS history to leap off the book shelves and into our lives."

When Arrington's turn came, he was characteristically epigrammatic.

He expressed gratitude to all, including some former students present, such as Elder L. Tom Perry of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve.

"I'm especially proud of Elder Perry, who received an A grade in my Economics 51 course."

Arrington noted how inspired he had been by his research resulting in the definitive 1985 biography, "Brigham Young: American Moses."

Speaking reverently of Young, Arrington said, "He loved birds and had an orchard full of them behind the Lion House. One day a pigeon blundered into his office. Young asked the pigeon, `What message do you have forme, little one?"'

The message was "Be kind to your brothers who love you but do not always agree with you."

"That," said a visibly moved Arrington, "is my message to you."