Utahns were saddened to hear of the passing of billionaire philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. on Friday.
Huntsman, a petrochemical tycoon who founded a cancer institute in his name and gave away hundreds of millions of dollars to needy causes, died Friday afternoon. He was 80.
“Jon Huntsman Sr. was a committed public servant, a visionary businessman, and perhaps the greatest philanthropist our state has ever known,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. “He was also a trusted confidante and a dear friend. Utah has lost a lion today. Elaine and I send all our love to the Huntsman family at this difficult time.”
The First Presidency of the LDS Church said it shared in grieving with the Huntsman family.
“We honor Jon as a cherished husband, father and friend, esteemed as a leader for his exceptional capacity, commitment, philanthropy and service throughout the world. We express our love to Karen, to their children and family,” the church’s leaders said in a statement. “Jon’s legacy of faithful leadership, generosity and goodness stands as a beacon for the entire Huntsman family and many others throughout the world.”
Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential nominee, said Huntsman’s legacy will be as a “healer of men.” The two are cousins and Huntsman recently urged Romney to run for the Senate.
“In founding and personally guiding the Huntsman Cancer Center, he opened the path to cures that have extended life for thousands and may someday defeat cancer for millions,” Romney said. “Jon and I have been friends for decades; our families have been friends for generations. He generously gave to the Salt Lake Olympics and provided me with essential counsel. He was the first to volunteer financial support for my campaign for president of the United States. Ann and I will profoundly miss our good friend’s broad smile, his hearty handshake and his example of faith, honor and integrity.”
Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, said his wife, Sue, and he offered their prayers to the Huntsman clan.
“Words fail to describe the impact of Jon Huntsman Sr.,” Curtis said in a statement. “Though his legacy of service, charitable causes and commitment to cancer research will live on his loss is heart breaking.”
Spencer Checketts, a longtime friend of Huntsman and host on sports-talk station 1280 The Zone, tweeted, “If not for the Huntsman Cancer Institute, I wouldn’t be alive. RIP, ‘Big John.’”
Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican and now a Fox News pundit who was then-Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.’s chief of staff, said he was saddened to hear the news. “
“His impact on Utah and the fight against cancer shall never be forgotten,” Chaffetz said. “He cared deeply about his family and the greater good of our community. God bless the Huntsman family.”
Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes said he was “devastated” by the news.
“Mr. Huntsman has been a dear friend and an incredible mentor,” Hughes said in a statement. “He counseled me often and taught me the true meaning of service. To say I will miss him, his grit and his incredible compassion would be a gross understatement. My thoughts and prayers are with his great family at this time.”
Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, said she knew Huntsman as a “friend, family man and a mentor” and that she would miss him. She called him a “giant in the state of Utah.”
“I thank him for the advice, love, and support he provided both to me and to our state,” Love said. “My family and I have been deeply blessed by his friendship and owe him a debt of gratitude.”
Utah Democratic House Leader Brian King said that Huntsman was more than just an “inventive businessman and entrepreneur.”
“He was a compassionate philanthropist who improved the quality of huge numbers of Utahns, Americans, and citizens of the world,” King said. “He was wise, passionate, and committed to the commonwealth. We are grateful for his life. We will miss his influence very much. He leaves a remarkable legacy.”
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said he and his wife, Jeanette, were “deeply saddened” by the passing of Huntsman, calling him “a visionary man with a strong personality” and “one of the greatest Utahns ever to live.”
“Jon was not only a champion of business and philanthropy, but also a tremendous champion of our state,” Herbert’s statement read. “His loyalty to Utah was remarkable.”
Huntsman, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said, “had an immeasurable impact on Salt Lake City, Utah, and the world as a whole.”
“His personal commitment to philanthropy saved lives and inspired others to do the same. Our deepest sympathy is with the Huntsman family, and with all of those who were personally touched by Jon’s legacy,” Biskupski said.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes called Huntsman “a friend, an iconic leader, and a man of great faith dedicated to his family and his work.”
“Most know him as a titan of business, philanthropy, and his church,” Reyes said in a statement. “Few realize, however, his incredible service to our country, from his time in the White House as a young man to advising multiple presidents throughout the years. He also possessed numerous other talents and engaged in countless other acts of service that were not public.”
Reyes said he especially appreciated Huntsman’s “willingness to take time out of his busy schedule to call or meet with me.”
“His personal advice, wit, wisdom and encouragement will be dearly missed. I will never forget one night he took a detour from his scheduled appearance, to take me by the arm, walk slowly around the Grand America and provide his perspective on several issues as a mentor. The legacy that he leaves as a businessman, philanthropist, and committed servant is a testimony to his character of kindness, goodness, and his deep love of community and country.”
Utah Rep. Rob Bishop said, "Today, we mourn the passing of one of Utah’s greatest. The legacy Jon Huntsman Sr. leaves will bless Utah and the world for generations to come. My heart is with his wife and the entire Huntsman family.”
Jenny Wilson, a Salt Lake County Council member and a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Hatch, said “Utah’s loss is deep today.”
“Jon Huntsman Sr.’s contribution through philanthropy, business, and church are at a level unparalleled in our state,” a statement from Wilson said. “His impact through the establishment of the Huntsman Cancer Institute has resulted in thousands of lives saved and real progress made toward a cure.”
The University of Utah, to which Huntsman had donated a large share of his fortune, heralded Huntsman’s friendship with the university.
“He was a passionate supporter of the U. and his generosity and vision will benefit students, faculty, researchers and people throughout Utah and the Intermountain West far into the future,” the U. said in a statement.
A. Lorris Betz, the interim senior vice president of the University of Utah Health Sciences, praised Huntsman for his charitable giving and support.
“His incredible generosity to the health sciences has improved the lives of the people of Utah for generations to come,” Betz said. “Huntsman Cancer Institute will continue to shine as a beacon of hope for those suffering from cancer and our faculty and staff are exceedingly grateful for his legacy.”
The university’s athletic director, Chris Hill, said Huntsman was a “good man who made the world a better place.”
“Jon has always been an incredible friend and contributor to the university and community at large for many years,” Hill added. “His philanthropy seemed to know no bounds.”
Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham in a tweet shared similar thoughts about Huntsman’s generosity to the university.
“He was instrumental to the growth of the University of Utah and his kindness and generosity is appreciated,” Whittingham said. “He will be greatly missed.”
Douglas D. Anderson, dean of the Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University and longtime friend, said the college is “much better institution because of his generosity, friendship, and love.” Huntsman had contributed more than $56 million to the business school and directed the creation of a Huntsman Scholar program there.
“Jon Huntsman believed in us. He saw in Utah State University an institution that he admired and that he thought he could help aspire to a higher level of performance. He didn’t just slide a check under the door and then leave us alone. He was our partner every step of the way. He was totally aligned with our vision, but he constantly encouraged us to reach higher, dig deeper, and accomplish more. He met with our students and faculty regularly. He loved them, and they returned his love. ... If I were dean for 100 years, I doubt I could find another partner of such surpassing gifts. I will miss him greatly.”
Rabbi Benny Zippel of Chabad Lubavitch in Salt Lake City said Huntsman was a “role model of philanthropy” for all Utahns to emulate.
“His love and concern for the well-being of humanity were larger than life and his legendary contributions to the betterment of this world were extraordinary,” Zippel said. “A huge loss to God and to mankind. May his memory be for a blessing.”
Imam Suaib Udin of the Utah Islamic Center offered condolences from himself and the Muslim community.
“May God give them patience and walk with them in their sorrow. Amen!” he said.
Bishop Scott Hayashi of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah said Huntsman touched countless lives.
“He was an inspiration to all,” Hayashi said. “We see it in his gifts that have saved lives of those with cancer. Beyond the magnificent cancer institute, there were equally profound however perhaps lesser known gifts that will live on for ever. He was incredibly generous and offered passionate leadership in helping the homeless and impoverished. We are a much better community because of his efforts in building relationships among all in the faith community, especially between Mormons and non-Mormons. We are a better people in a better place because of his life.”
Rabbi Ilan Schwartzman of the Congregation Kol Ami offered his condolences to Huntsman’s family.
“Jon Huntsman, Sr. along with his wife Karen built a successful life for themselves and their family all the while acting as models of philanthropy,” the rabbi said. “In the Salt Lake community, we have benefited from the Huntsman commitment to health research and education. Jon Huntsman, Sr.'s name will be remembered for all the good he did. May his memory be a blessing."
The Rev. Oscar A. Solis, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, said the Catholic Community Services of Utah has been “uniquely blessed” because of Huntsman.
“His foresight, generosity, and concern for the common good have benefited the most vulnerable, the seriously ill, and the suffering,” Solis said.
Lane Beattie, the president of the Salt Lake Chamber, which had awarded Huntsman its “Giant in Our City” award in 2005, said Utah and the world lost an “icon, a generous champion and example” to all.
“Jon and Karen Huntsman, with their commitment to Utah, have been a stimulus to many families, businesses and corporations that make our state their home,” Beattie said. “Their compassion and care has given people the confidence and determination to succeed. Their generosity has lifted the needy, blessed the sick and inspired us all. Jon was a true beacon on the hill, and his passing is a loss to so many of us that called him a friend. Jon wasn’t only a Giant in our City, he was a Giant to all mankind.”
Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera called Huntsman her “biggest supporter and mentor,” adding that he was “a true example of integrity, honor and faith.”
“I have cherished his advice and wisdom throughout the years. I feel blessed that he was able to attend my swearing in as Sheriff, it was apparent that he was not feeling well but he made it a priority to be there. I will always be grateful for his friendship and support. I am so blessed to have known him.”
The Miller family, which owns the Utah Jazz as well as an auto sales empire in Utah, expressed its love for and sadness about the death “such an incredible friend.”
“Jon was a close friend, advisor and confidant to Larry and me as well as our family,” Gail Miller said in a statement. “He and Larry spent countless hours discussing items both business and personal. After Larry passed away, Jon continued this support and met with my family and me many times. He was also a faithful supporter of the Jazz and his presence in our lives and at the arena will be greatly missed. Jon added so much to our family and faith.”
Former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid spoke highly of Huntsman’s compassion and goodness, particularly his enduring legacy in the Huntsman Cancer Institute.
“I’ve never known anyone more generous with his time and resources than Jon Huntsman, Sr.,” Reid said in a statement. “Jon was the epitome of the American Dream – a self-made man and selfless philanthropist who made the world a better place with his unparalleled generosity and commitment to helping those in need.”
Courtney Tanner, Bob Mims, Paul Rolly and Larrisa Beth Turner contributed to this story.
Correction: Feb. 2, 9:51 p.m.: An earlier version of this story misidentified Democratic House Leader Brian King.