When Jon M. Huntsman came to Utah State University last December to make his big announcement, the university wanted everything to be perfect.
Jon M. Huntsman leaves Taggart Student Center with his sons, David Huntsman, left, and Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr.
The program, the food, the place settings, the lighting, the video and the choir music had all been carefully planned. The visit would bring to the Utah State University campus Huntsman and his family, including Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr. Four apostles, President Boyd K. Packer, '53, Elder M. Russell Ballard, Elder L. Tom Perry, '49, and Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were also in attendance.
That's to say nothing of the many local and state leaders who were among the 500 guests packed into the Evan N. Stevenson Ballroom. Feeding them all and putting together a program with multiple speakers that would go like clockwork and finish in about 90 minutes was no small task.
And yet the highpoint of the event, for many, was something that wasn't even planned. Outside of the ballroom, across the hall in the Sunburst Lounge was an overflow gathering of 400 students who watched the program live on a big screen. When the amount of the gift was announced, they cheered just as the people in the ballroom did.
When the program was over, however, they were not content to let the moment pass without making their presence known.
The students gathered outside the ballroom, crowding the hallway. As Jon M. Huntsman Sr. came out of the ballroom with President Packer, the students began to applaud. The applause continued as the Huntsmans made their way out of the building. The scene played out like the emotional ending to a powerful movie, but there was no script.
"We have the greatest students in the world," Dean Douglas D. Anderson said. "They made it clear to the Huntsmans that they understood what the donation was all about. Jon said he hopes that men and women from the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business will be people of integrity who demonstrate graciousness and kindness."
The event was unlike any before on the USU campus. It featured comments from Jon and Karen Huntsman, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., President Packer, USU President Stan Albrecht and Dean Anderson.
President Albrecht's speech was interrupted with a standing ovation as he began to explain that the gift would be $26 million, with $25 million going to the College of Business and about $1 million going for scholarship support for the university's Armenian students.
"This truly is a most memorable day in the history of this university," Albrecht said. "Today's announcement will forever change our institution. We are deeply humbled by the opportunity to partner with the Huntsman family in building a school of business that will become one of our country's finest."
Gov. Huntsman talked about the importance of teaching students how to be competitive and ethical.
"As our next generation of students filter through these halls, they are going to learn all the great lessons of technology, of economic integration, of governance, but they darn well better learn the important messages of ethics as well," he said, "because if there is one thing in this world of globalization that will always provide that steady keel and steady ballast as a nation, as we move forward, it will be our sense of ethics and nowhere is this more important than in the business community."
President Packer talked of his time at Utah State and gave some advice to President Albrecht. He said that as they carefully decided where to invest the funds they should not lose sight of the struggling students. He said the impact of the Huntsman's contribution "will be best measured in the lives of those who come here to study."
Dean Douglas D. Anderson said the gift represents a tipping point for the college.
"As we celebrate this milestone, in the history of the college, we are also celebrating the life of Jon M. Huntsman," Anderson said. "His biggest contribution to us this day may well be the gift of his name. During his extraordinary career his name has grown to represent integrity and excellence. As the school takes on his name, we will build our own reputation and raise the bar as we transform this college into what it will become tomorrow."
A former dean from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Thomas P. Gerrity, also spoke.
"You are extraordinarily fortunate to have not just Jon's fortune behind you but Jon Huntsman, the man, behind you," he said, "because I can attest first hand that he knows how to build world-class business schools. Jon has been the key driver behind Wharton's move towards preeminence over the last 25 years."
Jon Huntsman Sr. was introduced by his wife, Karen.
She told a story about attending a high school awards assembly led by Jon Huntsman when they were still in high school. She said at the end of the assembly he called up each of the school custodians, talked about them and presented each of them with a gift.
"The custodians opened those boxes with tears streaming down their eyes as Jon hugged each one of them and thanked them for making a difference in the student's lives," she said.
At the luncheon, Jon Huntsman said these events create "a sense of nervousness. It's a lot easier to slip a check under the door and run."
"Karen and I, together with our entire family, wish to express gratitude and thanksgiving for the magnificent opportunity to be affiliated with one of the finest institutions of higher learning in America, Utah State University," he said. "We are indeed sensitive and respectful to those who have gone on before us and provided a remarkable foundation and reputation for the College of Business."
He talked of the global changes now under way and said students must understand the role of emerging nations in this economy.
"Truly the School of Business on this beautiful and unique campus should strive to teach not only the latest, state of the art business practices, but the inculcation of ethics in all of its forms to ensure that each graduate is a man or woman of unquestioned integrity," he said. "At the end of the day our character, together with our charity, will determine our ultimate destiny."
View the Dec. 3, 2007, Huntsman announcement at www.huntsman.usu.edu/video. A video about the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business may be seen on the Huntsman School home page at www.huntsman.usu.edu, in the upper right corner of the page.
Photos by Adam Phelps