Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
Jon M. Huntsman Sr.

Jon M. Huntsman Sr. gave away enough money in 2007 to earn him a spot as No. 2 among the nation's top 50 givers.

In a list compiled by Washington's The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Huntsman's total of $750 million in contributions and donations falls $450 million short of the No. 1 giver in America, William Barron Hilton, a hotel mogul who pledged more than $1.2 billion in gifts last year.

Most of America's top givers are philanthropists who donate money to various health-related causes, including Huntsman, who pledged more than $700 million to support cancer research and treatment. However, Huntsman and his wife recently announced a $26 million installment to Utah State University's College of Business.

"We certainly attest to the generosity and giving nature of Jon M. Huntsman," USU President Stan. L. Albrecht said Monday. "His recent gift of nearly $26 million demonstrates his generosity, vision and confidence in Utah State University. We know his donations are made with an eye to the future."

The Huntsmans also gave smaller gifts to charities in Idaho, Pennsylvania and Utah.

Nearly 45 percent of the nation's top donors this past year live in the Western United States, while 90 percent of their donations went to organizations in the Northeast, according to the Chronicle, an independent national newspaper reporting on philanthropy and charitable organizations. Huntsman's money, however, pretty much stayed in Utah, while its impact reaches worldwide.

Huntsman, 70, whose net worth hovers around $1.9 billion, as reported by Forbes in September, tends to support causes that reflect his interests in business education, cancer research, underprivileged populations and in moving the U.S. economy forward.

"The role of business schools in shaping the future of America's economy cannot be overstated," Huntsman said at a ceremony announcing his gift to USU. He hopes the money will build programming there, producing more business leaders in Utah.

In addition to his nearly $26 million gift to USU, he gave $1 million to the Utah State Department of Health to fund the Human Papilloma Virus vaccination awareness program in 2007. Other gifts were given to causes responding to the needs of those who are hungry, homeless or abused. Huntsman Corp. spokeswoman Jannie Spader said Huntsman doesn't keep a running list of money he gives away, but he's always keen to giving more.

Huntsman could not be reached for comment Monday because he was traveling for business.

The Chronicle reports that although Bill Gates, the country's richest man, didn't make any significantly large donations during the year, most of the charitable gifts came from the nation's billionaires. Twenty-eight donors on the list were counted among the 400 wealthiest Americans.

The 50 most generous donors of 2007 gave away a total of $7.3 billion to charities and foundations, according to the Chronicle's "Philanthropy 50" ranking.

As No. 1, Hilton, 80, continues a trend set by his father in 1944 with the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which supports multiple and various programs. Among the causes supported by Hilton are preventing and treating blindness, improving water-sanitation systems in developing countries, curbing drug abuse among young people, providing early childhood education to disabled children and helping the homeless. Hilton serves as the foundation's chairman.

Nineteen of the donors on the list are newcomers, and 23 have appeared before. Celebrities on the list include New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, at No. 7, and Oprah Winfrey, who ranked No. 36.

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com