Many, no doubt, would call Jon M. Huntsman Sr. a self-made man, though U.S. Vice President Richard Cheney said in 2002, "I have never known him to apply that label to himself. He is a modest man with a grateful heart, grateful above all to the Maker of Heaven and Earth."
President Gordon B. Hinckley, last year's recipient of the Salt Lake Chamber's "Giant in Our City" award, gave the keynote address at a March 9 dinner at which Elder Huntsman was honored as this year's recipient. He described Elder Huntsman, an Area Authority Seventy, as "a most remarkable man" who "has not waited until he died to make it possible for many others to benefit from his philanthropy."
It reaches back to his high school days, the Church president said, recounting that as student body president at Palo Alto High School, Jon Huntsman with his own funds bought ties for the school custodians and honored them at an assembly. Also, he befriended a sickly boy who would not live for long, an action that led to the boy becoming very popular.
President Hinckley traced Elder Huntsman's career, noting that he distinguished himself at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, where he received a Navy ROTC commission along with his diploma, and in later life, gave $40 million to his alma mater. President Hinckley also mentioned his service as White House staff secretary and special assistant to President Richard M. Nixon, his leadership of the American Red Cross, and his establishment of the Huntsman Cancer Institute and Hospital, having seen his own parents die of cancer and having been himself beset with the disease.
In his response speech, Elder Huntsman recalled the first time he kissed Karen Haight, his wife to be, after they had dated for several years. She is the daughter of the late Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve. He said it was her father who put the plan into her mind to put a flower lei around his neck after the Haight family's return from a trip to Hawaii and to observe a Hawaiian custom by kissing him.
"So I've always been grateful to Elder Haight," he commented. "You probably wonder why we were always so close during all of those years; it was because of his handiwork!" He credited his wife for motivating "an otherwise rather common man."
He quoted poet John Donne as saying, "No man is an island" and applied it to himself and his accomplishments.
In brief remarks, Sister Huntsman said, "Those who do good when opportunity offers are sowing seeds every day, and they need not worry about the harvest. Since marrying Jon, I have not needed to worry about the harvest." She said their harvests over the years have taken them around the world, "but the greatest harvest of our lives have been the nine children that stand before you."
Each of the nine spoke in turn, including Jon Huntsman Jr., who was inaugurated in January as governor of Utah. He marveled at his father having managed to achieve success in business, as a religious leader, as a philanthropist and in public service. "None of us could ever blend it all as he has in his life," Gov. Huntsman commented.
E-mail to: [email protected]