Huntsman School Honors Gary E. Stevenson With Top Honor
The Jon M. Huntsman School of Business has presented its highest honor, the Distinguished Executive Alumnus Award, to Gary E. Stevenson, cofounder of Icon Health & Fitness, Inc., and the presiding bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Mr. Stevenson graduated from the Huntsman School of Business in 1979, and while he was there he cofounded Icon Health & Fitness, Inc., a firm that went on to become the world’s largest developer, manufacturer, and marketer of fitness equipment.
Douglas D. Anderson, the dean of the Huntsman School of Business, said that Bishop Stevenson has been a successful, effective leader and exactly the type of person the school wants to hold up as an example.
“Bishop Stevenson pays attention to the individual and has demonstrated that one who leads with integrity can succeed in today’s global marketplace,” Dean Anderson said. “In his church service he’s put his business skills to work, literally benefiting the thousands of people in need he has served. This award is the highest honor we can bestow, and we are proud we can recognize Bishop Stevenson as one of our graduates who has accomplished great things.”
Gary E. Stevenson talks with friends before he was presented the award.
Picture by Sara Eaton
Mr. Stevenson has been refining his business skills since he was about 10 years old, when he said he started selling programs at the Nelson Field House and at the old Aggie football stadium. In college he soon became a part of the Huntsman School of Business, known then as the College of Business. That’s when he and Scott Watterson, a grade-school classmate, teamed up, Mr. Stevenson said.
He and Watterson both served LDS missions in Asia, and so they decided to take advantage of that experience. With the help of another friend and Huntsman student, Brad Sorenson, they launched a new business importing kitchenware, tableware, and marble products from Taiwan in 1977. Several ventures later, in the 1980s, they began manufacturing trampolines, starting on the path that led them into the health and fitness industry.
In November 1994 their company became ICON Health & Fitness, Inc. Some of the company’s best-known brands include NordicTrack, FreeMotion Fitness, ProForm, Weider, Health-Rider, Image, iFit, Weslo, Tour de France, and Boston Marathon.
Mr. Stevenson served as ICON’s president and chief operating officer until his call into full-time church service in 2008. He is still a member of the company’s board of directors. Mr. Watterson has served as chairman and chief executive officer since the firm was founded.
Mr. Stevenson said that his roots run deep when it comes to USU and that he has fond memories of his time there and feels an allegiance to the Huntsman School of Business.
“It was in some of those classes that our minds were stimulated to the extent that we thought we wanted to apply these business principles that we were learning ourselves in a practical way, so we started a business,” he said.
He said he feels “honored and undeserving” of the award.
“I am impressed with the progress and direction of what is now the Huntsman School of Business, and I think there is a great level of respect it is receiving,” he said. “I think its stature just continues to grow and increase under the leadership of Dean Anderson and the great faculty, and students who are there now.”
Bishop Stevenson was asked to serve the LDS church full time in 2008 as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. He was president of the Asia North Area of the LDS church in March 2011 when the massive earthquakes and tsunami hit. He was deeply involved in the relief efforts that followed there.
In March 2012 he was named the presiding bishop of the LDS church, and he now oversees many of the physical affairs of that worldwide organization, including the relief efforts the church launches after natural disasters strike. Between 1985 and 2011 the church reports that it spent $1.4 billion on humanitarian assistance in places like Japan, Haiti, Chili, Pakistan, Samoa, Ethiopia, and the Philippines. Some 179 countries have received humanitarian aid from the Utah-based church since 1985, according to church sources.
Bishop Stevenson also has responsibility for the distribution and accounting of member contributions, including tithing, offerings, and other donations. He oversees programs that assist the poor and directs the design, construction, and maintenance of places of worship.