Jon M. Huntsman, Sr., Trustee

  • February 13, 2018
  • vol 64 issue 23
  • Deaths
  • print

caption: Jon M. Huntsman, Sr.Jon M. Huntsman, W’59, HON’96 and Emeritus Trustee, died February 2. He was 80.

Mr. Huntsman served on Penn’s Board of Trustees, 1987-1994. He was the Board’s Vice Chair, 2002-2007 and was a member of the Executive, Budget and Finance, Development, and Student Life committees. At the Wharton School, he was Chair of the Board of Overseers, 1999-2013, at which time he was named Chair Emeritus. He also served as Chair of Wharton’s Campaign for Sustained Leadership, which in early 2003 became the most successful campaign ever at a business school. He served as co-chair of the Campaign for Penn and as a founding member of the Penn Club of New York. 

For his many contributions as a volunteer, he received the Alumni Award of Merit and was named the Most Outstanding Alumnus of the Wharton School. As the single largest unrestricted donor in Wharton’s history, he made significant contributions that will continue to benefit students and faculty for decades to come. Penn is especially grateful for his endowment of the Huntsman Program in International Studies & Business, one of Penn’s flagship interdisciplinary programs. This unique joint offering between Wharton and the School of Arts and Sciences was the first to fully integrate international studies with a business curriculum at the undergraduate level. Penn also greatly appreciates his support of the Patrick T. Harker Professorship, named in honor of that former Wharton Dean. In recognition of his tremendous generosity (Almanac November 19/26, 1996), Wharton’s iconic Huntsman Hall was named in Mr. Huntsman’s honor when it opened in 2002 (Almanac November 5, 2002).  

Mr. Huntman’s accomplishments as an undergraduate garnered him the Spoon Award and the 1959 Alumni Award of Merit for Leadership in Undergraduate Activities. He was President of his class, the Sigma Chi fraternity and the Kite and Key Society. He also was a member of the Undergraduate Council, the Sphinx Senior Honor Society, the Varsity Club and the Athletic Managerial Board and served as head lacrosse manager.  After receiving a bachelor’s degree at Penn’s Wharton School, he entered the U.S. Navy and earned an MBA from the University of Southern California.

Despite a modest childhood, Mr. Huntsman went on to become one of the most successful —and generous—entrepreneurs in this nation’s history. He was a legend not just for the success of the Huntsman Corporation—which he grew from a small polystyrene container manufacturer into the world’s largest privately held chemical company—but even more so for the tremendous reach of his philanthropy. He gave more than $1.5 billion to education, health care, social services and the arts. He was chair of the International Services Committee for the American Red Cross and personally donated significant funds to rebuild Armenia after the 1988 earthquake, receiving the country’s Medal of Honor for his efforts. He also made a considerable pledge to aid survivors of a catastrophic tsunami in South and Southeast Asia in 2004. 

A cancer survivor, Mr. Huntsman established the Huntsman Cancer Institute and Hospital at the University of Utah, which has become one of the country’s major cancer research centers and care facilities. He continued his commitment to education in his home state in 2007 by making the largest gift in Utah State University’s history, which resulted in the renaming of its business college as the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business. He reflected on his experiences as an entrepreneur and a philanthropist in his second book, Barefoot to Billionaire: Reflections on a Life’s Work and a Promise to Cure Cancer.

A leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he was the co-founder of the Alliance for Unity, a group working to foster an acceptance of diversity in the state of Utah. Also devoted to public service, Mr. Huntsman worked in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in the early 1970s, served as a Special Assistant to President Nixon, and was White House Staff Secretary. A member of the Republican National Committee, he served on the national advisory board for Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign and served as National Finance Chair for Elizabeth Dole’s presidential campaign.

Mr. Huntsman’s numerous awards include the Kaveler Award as the chemical industry’s most outstanding chief executive officer, the Othmer Gold Medal of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, The Franklin Institute’s Bower Award for Business Leadership, the Philanthropy Roundtable’s William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership, Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the American Chemical Society Leadership Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Humanitarian of the Year Award.  In 2008, he received the American Cancer Society’s Medal of Honor for Cancer Philanthropy and in 2015 he received the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the University of Utah’s College of Science and its David Eccles School of Business and received 13 honorary degrees, including one from Penn in 1996 (Almanac April 16, 1996).

He is survived by his wife, Karen; children Jon, C’87, HON’10 (Almanac May 25, 2010), David, C’92, Paul, WG’00, Peter, Christena, Jennifer, James, and Mark; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his daughter, Kathleen.

A Penn memorial later this year will be announced as soon as details are made available.