Monday, January 13 2014, 08:45 AM MST
Person 2 Person: Jon Huntsman Sr.
Jon Huntsman Sr. is one of the wealthiest people in the country; he has donated a large portion of his wealth to build the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City. Shauna Lake sat down Person to Person to find out the motives behind his charitable giving.
Shauna Lake: Well thank you so much for creating the time. I know you are such a busy person and Im excited to be able to sit down with you.
Jon Huntsman Sr.: Thank you, Shauna. Its my honor to be here and thank you for the kind invitation.
Shauna Lake: You are too humble to say, but I read in the Times article that $1. 4 billion you have donated to cancer in Utah and that's astounding.
Jon Huntsman Sr.: Research alone cost us about $120 million dollars a year. We have one of the largest cancer research facilities in the world and it is the largest genetic cancer research facility anywhere in the world.
It's hard to be a Good Samaritan without somebody finding out about it.
We have no records at all, but Forbes does it and they chronicle philanthropy. Every time you write checks you slip them under the door and run and think boy Im glad I got away, nobody knows about that. Next thing you know you read about it 3 months later in some magazine because everybody has to report their income.
In the early days when I had my prostate cancer operation, I dropped by the homeless center and gave them a million dollar check. Well they thought it was a 10 dollar check. They had never seen anything like it. And then I went to father Terry Moore at St. Vincent and gave him a million dollars just on the way up to the hospital because you know with cancer you don't know how it is going to go.
Shauna Lake: What does it feel like to be able to give those kinds of amounts of money to charities that you believe in?
Jon Huntsman Sr.: As a kid I was very poor and our family didn't have anything and so you feel really honored to do it, but on the other hand you feel a real duty; kind of an obligation.
Shauna Lake: Tell me about your upbringing. I didn't know that you were poor as a child.
Jon Huntsman Sr.: My father was a rural school teacher in Idaho and we lived in a little home with outside plumbing.
During my 8th, 9th, and 10th grades I would work 3 jobs after school literally until midnight and all the medical bills and automobile bills were my responsibility as a teenager and I thought that everybody had the responsibility.
But those years had significant impact years later on how I view the poor and underserved and the needy.
Shauna Lake: Did your parents live to see some of your success?
Jon Huntsman Sr.: My mother didn't. She died of breast cancer quite young, and then my father unfortunately drank quite a bit and so he never carried on a conversation with me dealing with my business or with what I had done in life.
Shauna Lake: When did he pass away?
Jon Huntsman Sr.: He passed away about 25 years ago. He died of prostate cancer. My mother died as I mentioned of breast cancer.
Shauna Lake: Which would explain why you are so committed to fighting cancer and why Utah is the benefactor of that.
Jon Huntsman Sr.: It's one of the reasons. I think the fact that Ive had cancer on 4 occasions and so many of my family members. When you see the impact it has on families its easy for me to determine that thats worth fighting for. Its worth giving every ounce of energy that's worth building business and turning over all your money, everything you can make and everybody you can influence and its why I get so emotional about cancer and why quite frankly each year we're determine to kill this disease.
Shauna Lake: I read somewhere that you hate people who put all their money in a will. What did you say?
Jon Huntsman Sr.: I didn't use the word hate because my wife's maiden name is Haight. I would say disrespect is the best term.
I've been part of the Bill Gates and Warren Buffet's group that is trying to see that all the wealthy people give half their money to charity. And we've met with most of them. My expression to them is why give 50% give at least 80 or 90%. It's so easy to say Ive left it in my will and what they are really saying is I don't really want to give my money to anyone while I and alive. I want to keep it and thats not a good spirit at all to have.
Shauna Lake: They say behind every successful man is an incredible woman. I know that you've had an incredible marriage with Karen. How long have you been married?
Jon Huntsman Sr.: We've been married 54 years. And Karen is a very astute, bright, smart, articulate woman. I've been in love with her since she was in the 7th grade and I was in the 8th grade.
Shauna Lake: How many children?
Jon Huntsman Sr.: Well we have 9 children; most of the public would know Jon Jr. who has been our Governor. Who called a few minutes ago during our interview. He probably wanted to talk to you as a matter of fact. He always thought so highly of you and Mark and your team at Channel 2. Our youngest son is severely handicapped. He has about a 3-4 year old mentality and he's 39.
Shauna Lake: What has that taught you?
Jon Huntsman Sr.: Well Markie, that is his name; he judges people from their hearts. He doesn't know what their income is or what their religion is, what their background may be. He just knows if they have a good heart and he's taught me probably more than any other living soul in the fact that you accept everyone, and you love everyone and you put your arms around everyone and you don't make judgments about people.
Shauna Lake: That's an excellent note to end on it's so nice to get to know you better person to person.
Jon Huntsman Sr.: It's been an honor to be on your program.
-Written and produced by Angie Denison
(Copyright 2014 Sinclair Broadcasting Group.)