Jon Huntsman Sr: Remembering a giant of charity

SALT LAKE CITY -- Jon Huntsman Sr. tells a story in his biography that is well-known in his home town.

On his way to surgery for prostate cancer in 1992, his family caravanned through town handing out checks.

One million dollars to the Traveler's Aid Society Homeless Shelter, another million to the St. Vincent DePaul Soup Kitchen, and half a million to the LDS Hospital where he took the PSA test that diagnosed his cancer.

The $2.5 million drive was entirely unexpected by the recipients of the largesse. The priest at St. Vincent said there were too many zeros to count.

But Huntsman's later giving dwarfed that day.

The Huntsman Cancer Institute above the University of Utah was founded with a half-billion dollar gift from Huntsman.

When Fraser Bullock's 18-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer, they made a beeline for HCI.

"Jon Sr. started calling me and following, and I would meet with Jon, and the thing that he exuded was complete love," Bullock said.

When Huntsman Sr. died, the word went out and the staff at HCI reacted for the loss of a colleague as much as a benefactor.

"I think the whole community felt that moment of loss," said Sara Salmon, an Adolescent and Young Adult Patient Navigator at HCI.

Among the staff drawn to the Institute from around the world is a Neurosurgeon named Richard Schmidt, an M.D. with a PhD. (HCI is one of the few places in the world where there are a lot of folks who can brag about that combination of degrees.) Schmidt stopped to talk about Huntsman on his way home from work.

"As a man I think he set an example of how I'd like to live my life and how I'd like others to live their life," Schmidt said.