The 1959 Wharton graduate and namesake of Huntsman Hall at 37th and Walnut Streets, Jon Huntsman Sr., has died at age 80. The Utah billionaire, who was one of the most generous donors to Penn, died after a battle with prostate cancer, reported The Salt Lake City Tribune.
Peter Huntsman, Huntsman Sr.'s son and the current CEO of Huntsman Cancer Foundation, which was founded in 1995, said “The most effective way to honor our founder and chairman is to carry on his passion and vision until we accomplish our objective, the eradication of cancer.”
Huntsman Sr. had charted a remarkably successful career for himself after graduating from Wharton, purchasing over 30 companies in his lifetime. He started out at an egg-producing company called the Olson Brothers Inc., before moving on to companies in packaging, petrochemicals, and private equity.
As of January 2018, Forbes had listed his net worth as around $1.2 billion.
In 1998, he offered Wharton a large donation to thank the school for its contributions to his lifetime of success. This donation was used to build Huntsman Hall, though Huntsman Sr. was initially reluctant to have his name on its front entrance.
“He insisted that it not be named for him,” said Tom Gerrity, the then Wharton dean in a 2014 interview with The Daily Pennsylvanian. “But I was clear, a number of the overseers were clear and Judy [Rodin, then Penn’s president,] was clear: There’s no way in the world we can see any other name but Jon M. Huntsman go on that building.”
While the Huntsman building is the most visible sign of the Penn graduate's philanthropic efforts, it's far from his only contribution. As of 2014, Huntsman Sr. had donated at least $50 million to Wharton.
His philanthropic efforts also extend beyond Penn. Of the 1,200 living billionaires in 2011, he was one of only 19 who had donated more than $1 billion in his lifetime, Forbes reported.
“Many of my great friends on Wall Street spend hundreds of millions of dollars for art, and I guess that brings them some type of joy. I don’t comprehend it at all,” he said in 2014. “My feeling is no, money is for helping somebody else reach their goals and have a better life and have an opportunity to achieve their dreams.”
At Penn, Huntsman Sr. was president of the senior class and of the Sigma Chi fraternity. The high-achieving student was also a member of the Undergraduate Council, Sphinx Senior Society, and the Kite and Key Society on top of being the head lacrosse manager.
In 1955, Huntsman Sr. had been personally recruited by 1917 Penn graduate Harold Zellerbach of Zellerbach Auditorium to enroll in Wharton.
“He came to school with a suit that his parents bought that sort of glowed in the dark,” Alvin Shoemaker, a close friend of Huntsman and a former chair of Penn’s Board of Trustees, said. “He was anything but an Ivy-Leaguer.”
His son, Jon Huntsman Jr., is also a Penn graduate, and was sworn in as the U.S. ambassador to Russia in October 2017.
This is a developing story that was last updated at 6:35 p.m. Check back for updates.