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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Charleen and Jeff Kahn of Provo. Jeff Kahn was recently honored with the Alumni Legacy Award from UVSC.

PROVO — When industrialist Lee Iaccoca, later known for reviving Chrysler Corp., told a group of students to expect to change careers at least four times in their lives, Jeffrey Kahn took that message to heart.

Now vice president and sales manager of Southwest Trust Co., Kahn has over the last four decades been a college professor in Texas, a genealogy researcher for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a director of libraries for Weber County and a trust officer.

"I've always remembered Lee Iaccoca's words," he said.

Kahn was recently honored with the Alumni Legacy Award from Utah Valley State College after years of voluntary service. He served the alumni association as a member and chairman.

Years earlier, Kahn graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor of arts and master's degree in French literature. He received his doctorate from the University of Utah in medieval French literature. So how was it this Jewish boy from Southern California became so closely associated with a college he never really attended?

"It's kind of a funny story," he said.

In 1989 his background in fundraising and investment management collided with his love of speed. He ended up taking a three-Saturday course in defensive driving from UVSC to keep his driver's license.

Kahn was known on campus because of his fundraising service. When he was asked to serve on the alumni board, he reminded the board that he'd never attended UVSC.

"That's OK," he was told. "You're taking a defensive driving class here, we'll count that."

So he accepted the post and later served as chairman. That opportunity spun off into other avenues of voluntary service. In 1999 he was asked to serve on the UVSC Foundation Board to expand the school's outreach into fundraising. He served as chairman of that organization. Currently he is on the Foundation Board but that ends in November. Additionally Kahn has served twice on the Board of Trustees.

He has also been a member of the Provo planning commission and was chairman of the city library board when the Provo City Library at Academy Square was built.

Kahn started his college career at the University of California, Los Angels, as a premed student, not faring well with his studies. One Sunday afternoon he was watching College Bowl on television when one of the contestants was from BYU. That was his first introduction to the university and led him to investigate the campus.

While a student at BYU he met Bonnie Bowlin, whom he later married. At her urging he investigated the LDS faith and a year later her father baptized him. They were married and had four children, divorcing 20 years later.

As a young man growing up near Southern California beaches, Kahn became interested in body building. In his 40s, he took it up again at a Provo gym. There he met Johnna Jackson, who subsequently introduced him to her mother, Charleen Cook.

A long-distance relationship began that led to marriage. All the children in the blended family are now grown. They are Scott Kahn of Saratoga Springs, Melissa Hanson, Tiffany Kahn and Justin Kahn, all of Salt Lake City.

His wife's children include Steven Cook of Carlsbad, Calif. Her daughter now lives in Loomis, Calif.

Now approaching retirement, Kahn continues his volunteer efforts, mentoring five students and tutoring four French students. He's also on a steering committee to raise money for a new UVSC fine arts building.

Additionally, Kahn chairs the advisory council for America's Freedom Foundation currently considering how to expand Provo's Freedom Festival across the United States.


E-mail: rodger@desnews.com