When Jack Noel Gerard was a young boy, less than 12 years old, his father came home one day and announced to the family that they were now in the dairy business. His dad had sold a combine harvester to a local farmer, who was unable to make the payments for it. Rather than take the machinery back, his father graciously asked the farmer what he wanted to do to work it out. The farmer offered a small herd of dairy cows.
Soon thereafter the Gerard patriarch took his four sons, including young Jack, to the local bank and created Gerard Brothers Dairy. From then on, Jack and his brothers took turns waking up around 5:30 a.m. to milk the cows and care for them again after school.
They converted an old house into a makeshift barn, which didn’t quite keep out the icy, southeast Idaho wind during winters that could reach 20 below zero. Every day, rain or snow or sunshine, the animals had to be cared for. “You never had a day off,” Elder Gerard recalled.
Those experiences shaped his life in many ways, said Elder Gerard, who was sustained in April general conference as a General Authority Seventy.
His father, James Gerard, a John Deere tractor dealer, and his mother, Cecil Gasser Gerard, a schoolteacher, began raising their six children in a two-bedroom house near Mud Lake, Idaho. The girls slept in one room, his parents in the other and the four boys slept on the floor in the living room. Despite not having much in worldly possessions, Elder Gerard said he experienced a “very blessed childhood.”
“We all had to work hard but those are good memories,” he said. He and his siblings grew up playing basketball, football and running track and finding creative ways to have fun — like driving a pickup truck down the banks of the irrigation canal to water ski.
Life in Mud Lake — slipping hay, driving tractors, shoveling manure and milking cows — not only taught him hard work, diligence and responsibility but also provided fertile ground for growing his testimony of the gospel.
Elder Gerard remembers going to sacrament meeting as a young boy with his family shortly after his father joined the Church and hearing the testimony of a weather-beaten farmer. He was hunched over from age and years of manual labor, but as he spoke, “you could feel the Spirit and the great warmth and strength that came from a humble man that knew the Lord.”
Being raised in that culture of pure and simple faith has shaped Elder Gerard’s thinking in many ways, said his wife, Sister Claudette Gerard. It doesn’t matter if he’s meeting with the president of the United States or his best friend from Mud Lake, he treats everyone with equal respect. “I think it taught him the principle of all being of worth,” she said.
“I think those early informative days were very helpful to be able to see through the cares of this life and to see the divine nature and real worth of all individuals,” Elder Gerard added. “A lot of that was taught in the early days when you could see that everyone had a role to play and every one was here for a purpose.”
It’s a principle that’s played an important role in his career in which he’s had the opportunity — in engaging in public policy discourse in the nation’s capital — to associate with individuals from all walks of life holding equally diverse sets of opinions.
In dealing with institutions and issues that are often divisive, Elder Gerard has tried to uphold two virtues he learned in his youth. “Hard work and integrity is what generates respect,” he said. “Even though you may have a difference of opinion on an issue, on a direction, there can be mutual respect which allows people to disagree without being disagreeable. Those are two very important principles I’ve learned in life and tried to apply.”
They’re also qualities that can be hard to find in today’s political forays in Washington, D.C. “I hope people would see us as an honest, honorable advocate,” Elder Gerard said. “I try to instill that in the people that I work with as well. That if we work hard and are honorable and have integrity in our work, then people respect us for what we do. They might not agree with us … but they will respect us for being honest and honorable and willing to work hard.”
Elder Gerard served a mission in Sydney, Australia. Following his two-year service, he attended the University of Idaho where he completed an internship for an Idaho congressman in Washington, D.C., and was asked to stay on as a full-time staffer.
He met Claudette Neff one day as he was delivering documents to the office of Sen. Orrin Hatch where she was working as a staff assistant. Fortunately, she was also in his singles ward. In meeting her, Elder Gerard said, he found “someone who radiated the light of the gospel.”
The two were married on April 4, 1984, in the Salt Lake Temple. They have eight children and four grandchildren. As a family, they love to spend time together, especially exploring new destinations. They’ve taken family trips to Israel, Greece, Peru, Australia and Japan. Elder Gerard said his wife has instilled in their children an appreciation for art and history so they usually balance their time between museums and learning about the local culture and outdoor activities.
Elder Gerard completed both his undergraduate and Juris Doctor degree from George Washington University. During his career, he has worked as president and CEO for several entities, including McClure, Gerard & Neuenschwander, Inc.; the National Mining Association; the America Chemistry Council; and, most recently, the American Petroleum Institute.
In this new call to full-time Church service, Elder and Sister Gerard said they are honored to have the opportunity to consecrate their time and efforts to the work of the Lord. “I would hope when our service is complete and time has moved on that people will know, as inadequate as we are, that we were devoted and we gave it all we had, every ability the Lord has given us or will yet give us was used for His purposes,” Elder Gerard said. “Our goal is just to do the Lord’s will.”