Tom Smart, Deseret News
Fred Lampropoulos

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake Chamber named its 40th "Giant in our City" during a sold-out banquet Friday evening.

Fred Lampropoulos, inventor and founder of medical industry giant Merit Medical, received the award meant to honor "exceptional and distinguished public service" and professional achievement, according to the chamber.

"When you consider that Utah's life sciences sector accounts for almost 8 percent of the state's GDP, about $13 billion annually, you see just how big of an impact Fred Lampropoulos and Merit Medical have on Utah's economy," said Derek Miller, president and CEO of the chamber, in a statement.

He said in addition to Lampropoulos' drive and leadership skills, his "mission to build people up" has helped lead to his success.

During the banquet, Michael Ninivaggi said Lampropoulos became like a father to him when he was a young boy. "He knows what it’s like to go through hard times, to not have a home. … Now he does all he can to make sure others don't feel the way he did."

Lampropoulos, born in Boston to a Greek immigrant family, moved to Salt Lake City with his family at age 14. The family spent their first week in the city living out of their car at Pioneer Park, according to a biography provided by the chamber. The city's Greek community stepped in to help.

Lampropoulos later joined the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and rose to the rank of a second lieutenant, Special Forces officer and Green Beret. He says it was there that he developed his leadership skills.

After serving in the Army, he eventually got involved in the medical device field and became CEO of then-struggling Utah Medical and helped the company become profitable, the chamber said.

His wife, Anne-Marie Lampropoulos, said "I’m amazed every day at who he is and what he does."

"He is constantly educating himself and he’s always forward thinking," she said.

"He’s the ultimate 'caddy daddy' to his 12-year-old son who loves to play golf," according to Anne-Marie Lampropoulos, adding that he’s "never too busy" for their family.

Lampropoulos came up for the idea for Merit Medical in 1987. The company now has facilities around the world and holds over 800 patents.

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When learning he was being named a Giant in our City, Lampropoulos said in a statement, "I am honored and humbled to be recognized with such a wonderful award. I am grateful to my business partners and board members for their assistance and guidance over the years. I feel fortunate to have been able to improve people's lives with medical products and to help provide jobs for many of our citizens."

Past recipients of the award include former Sen. Orrin Hatch; Gail Miller, chairwoman of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies; former Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt; businessman Kem Gardner; and Gordon B. Hinckley, former president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, among others.

During Friday’s ceremony, philanthropist Pamela Atkinson became the first recipient of the chamber’s new Lane Beattie Utah Community Builder Award for her service to Utah.