More than 400 people gathered Wednesday night to honor University of Utah professor emeritus Royal L. Garff and the establishment of a $1 million College of Business chair in his name.
"It's a great privilege for our family to give this chair to Royal Garff," said J. Willard Marriott Jr., who presented the gift from the J. Willard Marriott Foundation. The Marriott family previously donated $1.1 million to the U. for its library development fund, and $2 million toward construction of a new dance building. The library was renamed in honor of J. Willard Marriott Sr. while the dance building was named in honor of his wife, Alice Sheets Marriott.Marriott said when he is asked who the most influential teacher in his life is, he always selects two people - one of them being his father.
"The other was my college professor, Royal L. Garff, my father-in-law," he said.
"Royal made you do it," said Marriott, a former U.
tudent of the emeritus professor of speech and marketing. "He taught you to stand up, to speak up and to shut up."
Marriott told the audience that classes taught by Garff helped him to meet and eventually marry Garff's daughter, Donna. After finishing a speech class from him, Marriott said he saw a "pretty, blonde girl" and was told she was the daughter of his former speech teacher. He approached her, practicing the skills he had been taught in Garff's class.
"I was smitten, but she wasn't," said Marriott, who added that he then decided to enroll in a Garff salesmanship class to help him sell himself to his future wife.
"It took an awful long time to bring her around," he quipped.
Marriott praised Garff for his inspiration and vitality. "How many can say they fell out of a tree the day after their 80th birthday?" he said.
Another former student, President Thomas S. Monson of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Garff went beyond the normal role of a teacher.
"Royal, you were more than a teacher. You were a friend, a confidant, and an adviser to each of your pupils," he said.
President Monson said he learned many important things from Garff, and wherever he goes to speak, a little bit of Garff goes with him. He said Garff's motto as a teacher was, "No one fails in my class. It is my responsibility to help every student succeed."
Monson described Garff as a "human dynamo second to none."
Even though he taught speech and wrote the popular book, "You Can Learn to Speak," Garff said he was so emotional from the honors given him that he was having a difficult time speaking to the audience.
"I've been a college professor for over 40 years and I'm still teaching," he said. "It's great to keep teaching at age 84 or 85, somewhere in there."
Garff said he tried to teach his students to have faith in themselves and in others and asked the audience to remember a saying from a former Nobel Prize winner - "Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark."
He also encouraged his friends and colleagues at the banquet to trust in God and pray to him every morning for guidance.
"We celebrate high standards, Royal, that you have set and you have created," said University of Utah President Chase N. Peterson. "We thank you for that high standard of critical and precious teaching."
An outspoken critic of the tax initiatives that will be on Utah's November ballots, Peterson briefly alluded to the initiatives between praises for Garff. He said everyone, including the university, is facing many challenges.