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Academic, businessman Blaine Huntsman Jr. dies

Published November 12, 2012 5:38 pm

Career • Former business dean, company officer and developer had impact on Utah.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Alonzo Blaine Huntsman Jr., who engaged in successful twin careers as a businessman and an academic through four decades, has died.

A member of Utah's prominent Huntsman family, he died Thursday at age 76 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

He is the brother of Jon Huntsman Sr., the philanthropist and chairman of the Huntsman Corp., a petrochemical company based in Salt Lake City and Texas.

Jon Huntsman Sr. said when he left Dow Chemical in 1970 to form Huntsman Container Corp., which made the first plastic containers for McDonald's meals, his older brother joined him as chairman.

"He was a vital part of helping us get started," Huntsman said Monday. Blaine concentrated on the finance end of the business in which he had developed expertise while Jon ran the manufacturing operations as president and chief executive.

Blaine left the company in 1974 but continued other business pursuits and taught at the University of Utah.

Alonzo Blaine Huntsman Jr. was born on May 26, 1937, to A. Blaine and Kathleen Robison Huntsman in Fillmore. He was 13 months older than Jon and about 11 years older than a third brother, R. Clayton Huntsman.

Their father was a school teacher who moved the family to Idaho and then California.

"The two of us grew up pretty much as twins and partners and comrades in arms, if you will," Jon Huntsman Sr. said. "Everything one did the other did."

The two fished and hunted deer to help put food on the family table and worked closely in jobs and boyhood businesses they formed, Jon Huntsman Sr. said.

A noted athlete, Blaine attended the U. of U. on a basketball scholarship but switched to a Naval ROTC scholarship, then served in the U.S. Navy on the destroyer USS Hubbard for three years.

After the service, he became a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch and married Joan Moody, with whom he had seven children. He received a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School and accepted a job at Purdue University in 1967.

He left Purdue for the U. of U. School of Business where he became dean in 1975 and served in that post until 1980.

"Blaine began as a finance professor and I'd say it's very accurate to say over that period of time the finance department went from relative obscurity to one of the best in the country," said Taylor Randall, the current dean of the David Eccles School of Business. "He brought a Ph.D. from a renowned school and brought an incredible intellect."

As perhaps the youngest dean ever at the school, Huntsman transformed other departments as well, Randall said.

Jon Huntsman Sr. said it was Blaine's practical experience in business that helped make him a success in academia as well.

"He understood the practical as well as the scholarly side of things," Huntsman said, "and therefore his life was pretty well divided between both areas."

In the 1980s, Blaine Huntsman and his partners were major developers in Park City, participating in the syndicate that put together the Deer Valley ski resort. He also helped establish the Sundance Film Festival, the family said.

He became chairman and CEO of Prudential Federal Savings, which later was renamed Olympus Capital and was acquired by Washington Mutual in 1994. He served as director or trustee of Dean Witter Reynolds, ZCMI and Geneva Steel.

In 1981, Blaine Huntsman's first marriage ended and he married Nancy Lewis, with whom he had two more children.

He was a lifelong fisherman and became a restorer and protector of wildlife habitat at his ranch in Idaho's Teton Valley.

Blaine Huntsman contracted pancreatic cancer but it was not discovered until it had spread to his liver. He received the latest treatments from clinical trials at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, which was funded by donations from Jon Huntsman Sr., but the cancer was too far advanced, his brother said.

"He was always upbeat and positive and fun to be around and extremely witty," said Jon Huntsman Sr. "He loved a good cigar. A good Cuban cigar was the best thing he could enjoy."

An open house is set for the Orangerie at Red Butte Gardens Wednesday from 5 to 9 p.m., with memorial services Thursday at 2:30 p.m. at Libby Gardner Hall at the U. of U.

tharvey@sltrib.com

Twitter: @TomHarveySltrib