Legendary philanthropist and businessman Jon M. Huntsman Sr. died Friday at age 80, leaving a remarkable legacy that is saving lives. The absence of his presence will be felt across the state, around the world and in the organizations he founded and led.
His life and his life’s work are a monument to the power of singular focus in the pursuit of excellence and what one person can achieve through hard work, vision and shear will. Whether in his companies, his church or his causes, his focus produced extraordinary and lasting results.
Every business leader recognizes that focus always precedes success. Huntsman had a clarity of purpose and vision that concentrated his efforts as he tirelessly worked to inspire, drive and push his companies toward global market success. The results created an international business empire that made him a billionaire, while providing job opportunities for employees around the world.
Similarly, in his service to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Huntsman was a force to be reckoned with. He served as an Area Seventy in the LDS Church from 1996 to 2011. He was also a regional representative, stake president and president of the Washington D.C. Mission. He offered his corporate jet to speed senior church leaders to gatherings. From his own humble beginnings, Huntsman understood the value of good people doing good things in their neighborhoods and communities.
Those noteworthy achievements and a record of service would be enough to top any list of those worthy of respect. But Huntsman will forever be synonymous with the cause to eradicate cancer. It was his cause and curing; it was his magnificent obsession. With his trademark single-mindedness of purpose, he launched the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Even more than his tremendous investment of money, he invested his time, passion and emotional energy into his cause. He changed the patient experience for thousands of cancer sufferers and their families because he had been in their shoes. The process and procedures mattered greatly to Huntsman, but making it all more positive for the individual mattered even more.
Such focus and will in one person can create challenges for those who lack either attribute. Huntsman was relentless in pushing, pulling and even cajoling, if necessary, to get others to catch the vision of his business and philanthropic obsessions. He would never allow a bruised ego or a stepped-on toe to get in the way of accomplishing his purposes in his companies, the church or his fight to cure cancer.
With a finite amount of time to produce results, there was always an urgency to Huntsman. Having cheated cancer multiple times, he knew he did not have unlimited time to achieve his goals. That sensitivity to the clock and calendar hyper-focused his efforts at Huntsman Cancer Institute over the final years of his life.1 comment on this story
The life and legacy of Jon Huntsman Sr. might well be summed up in the words of William Morris, who said, “One person with an idea in their head is in danger of being considered mad: two people with the same idea may be foolish, but can hardly be mad; 10 sharing an idea begin to act, a hundred draw attention … a thousand and the status quo begins to tremble, a hundred thousand and the cause has victories tangible and real; and why only a hundred thousand? Why not a hundred million and more? You and I who agree together, it is we who have to answer that question.”
Huntsman transformed his ideas and vision into reality by getting others, tens of thousands of others, to join him in his work and mission. He was indeed a force to be reckoned with — a force of focus and will. He will be missed, but his force for good will remain.