The Jon M. Huntsman School of Business honored Elder L. Tom Perry with the Distinguished Executive Alumnus Award on Sept. 14, but it wasn’t easy.
Elder L. Tom Perry.
Elder Perry, who is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had different ideas about his role at the Annual Fall Awards Banquet. He kept changing the focus to the students, Utah State University’s Jon M. Huntsman School of Business , and the importance of training leaders who will demonstrate integrity in the workplace.
While Elder Perry is better known for his leadership role in the LDS church, at the banquet Douglas D. Anderson, the dean of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business , also talked about the good example Elder Perry set before he started his full-time church service.
"Our recognition tonight of L. Tom Perry continues our tradition of honoring alumni who have shown great integrity, set a good example, demonstrated powerful leadership and given valuable service to their community," Dean Anderson said. "In honoring him, we declare our own firm intention to emulate the example he set."
Elder Perry graduated from Utah State Agricultural College with a degree in finance in 1949 and started to work as an internal auditor at C.C. Anderson Company of Allied Stores. Promotions and new positions led to him eventually serving as the treasurer of R.H. Stearns, a department store chain in Boston, when he was called in 1972 to full-time church service as an assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve. He was called to be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve in 1974, and he said many of his duties since have involved guiding the business end of the LDS church.
Elder Perry urged those in attendance to be supportive of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business .
"This recognition tonight is greatly appreciated," he said. "Its value, however, is only in generating enthusiasm and support for the continued growth and development of this special business school here at Utah State University. I hope we have pride in this school and what it is accomplishing. How the world needs those who have the integrity, the enthusiasm, and the desire to increase and accomplish the things that this world so desperately needs."
Before Elder L. Tom Perry spoke at the Annual Fall Awards Banquet, he sat down with the BottomLine and talked about his days at USU and the vocational challenges he faced before he became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He arrived early with his wife, Barbara, and they sat in the Evan Stevenson Ballroom at the Taggart Student Center for a brief interview. He laughed about past experiences on the USU campus and told stories about growing up in Logan.
"This will always be my home," he said. "I love Cache Valley and the people in Cache Valley."
He talked of being on campus as a child and said he remembered going to sporting events in Logan.
Elder L. Tom Perry and his wife, Barbara, talked
with USU student Paul Rollins..
"Listen, when I grew up in Logan, from the time I was young, I don’t think I ever missed a football game or basketball game," he said.
He attended the college for one year in 1940-1941, went on a mission for the LDS Church, and then served in the Marines for two years.
He said that when he came back the standards at the college had changed, and students were allowed to smoke on campus. A group of his friends had different ideas about the way things should be.
"When we returned, we determined to take back the campus," he said. "We literally went after it. We elected a student body president, a vice president, a secretary, and I ran for student council and lost."
"This school is tremendous," he said. "It has produced great leaders all over the world - leaders of integrity; leaders of great industry; leaders with great creative ability..."
– Elder L. Tom Perry
That effort was successful, and those who wanted to smoke ended up restricted to a designated area that Elder Perry said was nicknamed "nicotine point."
Elder Perry laughs about the fact that he lost his bid to be on the student council and admits he was also part of an unsuccessful push to see the name of the school, Utah State Agricultural College, changed. He was, apparently, ahead of his time because he graduated in 1949, and the name wasn’t changed until 1957.
He said his vocational career taught him skills he’s been able to put to use in his church service. He talked of the importance of having integrity and said here were times when making the right choice in his vocational career was not the easy choice.
He said that once he worked on a merger between his company and a larger firm.
"I was asked to sign a five-year contract to give continuity in the management," he said. "About six months after the merger, the management of the new company asked me to find a way to get rid of one of the former owners of the business. To me, this was an act that violated my integrity. I flatly refused. It immediately separated me from the new management, and I finally decided that this was not a good arrangement and offered my resignation and left."
Elder Perry said it troubles him to see the lack of integrity that is sometimes evident in the business world. He said, however, students from the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business have demonstrated ethical leadership in the workplace.
"This school is tremendous," he said. "It has produced great leaders all over the world - leaders of integrity; leaders of great industry; leaders with great creative ability, and I think because of that we need to spend our time bringing along the next generation to enjoy the great blessings we’ve had."
Elder L. Tom Perry was not the only one recognized at the Annual Fall Awards Banquet.
The event also proved a way for the college and students to thank dozens of college supporters who have funded scholarships for the students. More than 2,000 students attend the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business , and about 300 of them have earned scholarships. At the banquet, donors shared tables with the scholarship recipients. The names of all the scholarships and recipients were announced.