Huntsman Post

Karen Huntsman surprises students at Huntsman School of Business graduation

Jon and Karen Huntsman

Photo by Steve Eaton

One of the largest graduating classes in the history of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University got a little more than it expected May 7 when the students ended up with two, not just one, commencement speakers.

It was Karen Huntsman, the scheduled commencement speaker, who decided to suddenly draft her husband, Jon M. Huntsman, to say a few words. Mrs. Huntsman, vice president and director of the Huntsman Corporation, received an honorary doctorate at the Utah State University Commencement ceremony Saturday morning.

More than 830 students graduated from the Huntsman School of Business this spring. May 7 was the first time that Karen and Jon Huntsman had addressed the school since it was renamed after Jon Huntsman in 2007. The Huntsmans donated $26 million to USU and the Huntsman School of Business in December 2007.

Dean Douglas D. Anderson talked about Mrs. Huntsman, saying that she has played a vital role in expanding the family business. He said Forbes Magazine once called her the “Chairman of the Chairman.” Dean Anderson talked about the causes that Mrs. Huntsman has supported and noted that, in April, the Huntsmans announced $41 million would be added to the $300 million they have already contributed to the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Mrs. Huntsman talked about the challenging path that she and her husband have traveled since he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School. She said that even in their early married days, Mr. Huntsman found ways to give and help people in need. She said he would tackle problems, one at a time, and was optimistic about their ability to overcome challenges.

“You know what Jon had going for him was an incredible work ethic,” she said. “He wasn’t afraid to be the first at work and the last to leave.”

Mrs. Huntsman said that when she travels with her husband to speaking engagements he will often call on her to speak; so, on May 7, she turned the tables and asked him to talk to the students, family and friends in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.

“I don’t know that we could have achieved some of the things in life unless we worked as a team,” he said. “Karen was always at my side. She always offered wonderful sound advice, and she was a remarkable consultant in every way. We have built what we built as a team and we’ve done it together.”

Mr. Huntsman said he’d once been asked to write a book about ethics and leadership. He told of a talk he had with the leader of what was the largest company in the world, at the time, as he was interviewing people for the book.

“We discussed integrity and honor because without integrity and honor we have nothing,” he said. “Unless we have a sense of fair play and a moral compass in our hearts, we have nothing.”

He advised the graduates not to cut corners but to be ethical, honorable and to “play by the rules.”

Mr. Huntsman called Dean Anderson the “most outstanding business school dean in America.”

Jenna Jardine, gets a graduation-day reward from her parents, Jill and Dee Oldroyd.

Photo by Steve Eaton

Dean Anderson urged the students to be committed to values greater than self.

“You seniors have demonstrated your investment in knowledge by immersing yourselves in all a Huntsman School education can offer,” he said. “As you leave our beautiful campus, I challenge you to dare mighty things and to make them happen. You are the vanguard of our revolution.”

The valedictorian of the Huntsman School of Business, Curtis Fairbourn, also spoke to the students.

He told of an experience where a student noticed a problem as the class was reviewing their corrected papers with a teacher. A student in the class realized he had missed a question on the test that had not been marked wrong and asked the professor how he might rectify the error even though it would negatively impact his grades.

“That, to me, was an incredible act of integrity,” Mr. Fairbourn said. “I’ll always remember that he showed me what integrity is all about.”

He talked about the importance of integrity, creativity and kindness.

“I hope that as we graduate, we can really graduate in the sense that we can better the world through our new-found understanding, our new-found knowledge and that we can truly make a contribution to show the world what graduated Aggies can do,” he said.

Byron Burnham, the vice provost and dean of the School of Graduate Studies, spoke to students at the Graduate Commencement and Hooding Ceremony on May 6 and offered them five pieces of advice.

  1. Look for the teachers around you wherever you are.
  2. Don’t be worried about disagreements; use them to your advantage.
  3. Listen honestly to others.
  4. It does matter what you make, so make a difference.
  5. Beware of the possibilities of error.