1 of 12
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon M. Huntsman Jr., left, hugs his father, Jon M. Hunstman Sr., after a swearing-in ceremony at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017.

SALT LAKE CITY — The death of billionaire businessman Jon M. Huntsman Sr. Friday drew condolences from faith leaders, elected officials and many others.

They praised Huntsman's philanthropic efforts and his dedication to finding a cure for cancer, with several calling him a mentor and noting his humble beginnings.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert called Huntsman "one of the greatest Utahns ever to live" and "a tremendous champion of our state." Herbert said Huntsman was fiercely loyal to his close-knit family and did not shy away from wading into issues of the day.

Through the Huntsman Cancer Institute, he helped others battling the illness that he also faced himself, Herbert said.

Carine Clark, CEO of high-tech company Banyan, said she knew from personal experience that Huntsman "created a culture of care" in the institute named for him.

"I’m probably still here because of the passion Jon M.Huntsman had for finding a cure for cancer," said on Twitter. "You changed the world for so many of us. I’m honored to be a #survivor who was treated @huntsmancancer."

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a statement that it shares the Huntsman family's grief following his death. Huntsman, who died Friday at age 80, was a former Area Seventy for the church.

"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," the statement reads. "We express our love to Karen, to their children and family. Jon's legacy of faithful leadership, generosity and goodness stands as a beacon for the entire Huntsman family and many others throughout the world."

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, praised Huntsman as "a committed public servant, a visionary businessman, and perhaps the greatest philanthropist our state has ever known. He was also a trusted confidante and a dear friend. Utah has lost a lion today."

Mitt Romney, former GOP presidential candidate and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics, similarly called Huntsman "a lion of Utah."

"Jon raised an extraordinary family, built one of America’s most prominent corporations, and contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to heal the sick, provide relief to the injured, and bring hope to future generations. From providing care and employment to people in earthquake-ravaged Armenia to building libraries of learning here at home, Jon was relentlessly devoted to helping others."

Romney said Huntsman's greatest legacy will be as a "healer of men."

"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."

Officials of organizations helping homeless and vulnerable Utahns also said they were grateful for his longtime support, including YWCA Utah, Catholic Community Services and the Road Home shelter in Salt Lake City.

"Jon Huntsman and his family have had an incredible impact on our community," Catholic Community Services spokeswoman Danielle Stamos said in a statement. "Their support allowed CCS to serve our homeless, low-income, and refugee friends in a way before only dreamed of. We hope to continue their great legacy of serving others."

Road Home Director Matt Minkevitch said that in addition to matching donations to the shelter's fundraiser, he "demonstrated an on-the-ground radical kindness for everyone we served."

He also was a friend, adviser and confidant to Utah's Miller family, Jazz owner Gail Miller said, and a friend to her husband Kim Wilson.

"He was also a faithful supporter of the Jazz and his presence in our lives and at the arena will be greatly missed," she said.

Higher education officials also spoke of his commitment to their universities.

Mary Beckerle, CEO and director of the Huntsman Cancer Institute, said, "I can still hear Mr. Huntsman’s words: 'Cancer moves fast … and we have to move faster.'" She said that other than his family, eradicating cancer "was the greatest passion of his life."

University of Utah President David Pershing and the school's Athletic Director Chris Hill said Huntsman and his wife, Karen, have given enthusiastically to the university.

Huntsman's "vision and generosity will benefit cancer patients, students, faculty, researchers and people throughout Utah and the nation for generations to come," Pershing said. "We remain committed to Jon’s goal of eradicating cancer and the success of the remarkable institute that bears his name. It is his legacy and one that will benefit generations to come."

Hill said the philanthropy of Huntsman, whom he considered a close friend, "seemed to know no bounds."

Utah State University President Noelle Cockett called Huntsman "a tremendous benefactor to our campus community," demonstrated by the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, which opened in 2015. Cockett said Huntsman "was a model of ethical leadership himself," and his love for USU students was clear.

Harry Reid, the former Nevada congressman and U.S. Senate majority leader, said he has "never known anyone more generous with his time and resources."

Huntsman's generosity and philanthropy predated his wealth, Utah's newest member of Congress, Rep. John Curtis, said.

And Curtis' predecessor, former Utah GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz, tweeted that Huntsman's "impact on Utah and the fight against cancer shall never be forgotten."

Rep. Mia Love and Sen. Mike Lee, both R-Utah, said Huntsman came from humble beginnings to embody the American dream. Love said she is grateful for the advice Huntsman gave her, adding that she believes "thousands of lives have been blessed" by his investment in efforts to eradicate cancer.

Rep. Chris Stewart said he was saddened to hear of Huntsman's passing, adding that Huntsman's legacy of service, charity and dedication to cancer research will not be forgotten.

Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera called Huntsman "my biggest supporter and mentor." He attended her swearing-in ceremony as sheriff last year even though he was not feeling well.

Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said he was "devastated" by Huntsman's death, calling the businessman "a dear friend and an incredible mentor." Hughes said he will miss Huntsman's grit and compassion.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said he won't forget the time Huntsman took him by the arm and walked slowly around the Grand America hotel, imparting wisdom.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said Huntsman's impact on Utah, its capital city and across the world are "immeasurable," saying his commitment to saving lives inspired others.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams recalled Huntsman as "very engaged in what happened in our community, our state and our country. I appreciated that he would pick up the phone occasionally and share his thoughts with me on topics of the day."

House Minority Leader Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said Huntsman leaves behind a "remarkable legacy," calling him "wise, passionate and committed to the commonwealth. We are grateful for his life."

2 comments on this story

"Jon Huntsman Sr.'s contribution through philanthropy, business and church are at a level unparalleled in our state," said Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jenny Wilson. "His impact through the establishment of the Huntsman Cancer Institute has resulted in thousands of lives saved and real progress made toward a cure."

Salt Lake Chamber President Lane Beattie called Huntsman an "icon," who along with his wife Karen was "a stimulus" to families and businesses whose "generosity has lifted the needy, blessed the sick and inspired us all."

The benefactor and his family also were active with Intermountain Healthcare's board of trustees and charitable foundations. The hospital system said he was selflessly devoted to cancer patients and driven in pursuing world-class facilities in Utah.