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Huntsman and his wife, Karen, initially pledged $100 million to construct the institute, and later added another $125 million to the effort. Now, nearly two decades later, the Huntsman Cancer Institute is a National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center, meeting the highest standards for cancer care and research.
“Cancer is the second-leading cause of death worldwide,” says Dr. Mary Beckerle, CEO and director of the institute. “Jon Huntsman does not shy away from big problems.”
She says that under Huntsman’s leadership, the Huntsman Cancer Institute has experienced dramatic and unprecedented growth. “We have been able to recruit and retain some of the best doctors and cancer researchers from around the world,” she says. “We have been able to build world-class facilities for cancer care and cancer research, and we have been able to build research tools like the Utah Population Database, which gives us an unprecedented capacity to make discoveries about cancer genetics.”
The institute completed a major expansion in 2011 and now has 100 inpatient rooms and more than 100 exam and procedure rooms. It provided 11,500 chemotherapy sessions and 22,700 radiation treatments in 2011. Huntsman Cancer Institute boasts 159 distinguished faculty researchers who garnered $79 million in cancer research grants in 2011.
The institute serves two purposes, both providing leading-edge cancer treatments and undertaking vital cancer research to find a cure for the disease. In fact, the institute has about 200 clinical trials underway at any one time. And it has the only early-stage clinical research program between San Francisco and Denver.
All of this activity is driven by Huntsman’s strong sense of urgency, says his son, David Huntsman, who serves as president of the Huntsman Cancer Foundation. “My father doesn’t look back and say, ‘Look what we’ve done.’ He’s constantly looking forward and saying, ‘What more can we do? What’s left undone? How can we take that next step?’” says Huntsman, who adds, “He doesn’t want to wait. Tomorrow is too late.”
The fight against cancer is personal for Jon Huntsman, who lost his mother to cancer and has battled the disease himself.
“My father has a real connection with those people who suffer from cancer,” says Huntsman. “There’s many times on stressful days for my father when he just disappears. We used to worry about where my father was, and now we know that there’s a pretty good chance that if you walk over to the infusion suite at the cancer institute, he’s probably sitting over there holding somebody’s hand who’s suffering from cancer, and I think that builds him up—it gives him courage and it gives him energy at the same time he’s lifting somebody else.”
Jon Huntsman has leveraged his considerable business success into numerous philanthropic efforts. He is founder and executive chairman of the Huntsman Corporation, a global manufacturer and marketer of specialty chemicals that saw $11 billion in revenues in 2012. In addition to cancer research, Huntsman has contributed to many causes that help homeless and other under-privileged people—in total, his lifetime charitable contributions top $1.4 billion.
“My father is a good-natured person, and he has a sensitive heart and he has a compassionate spirit. He is always mindful of the people around him who may not be as fortunate as he is, and he has always been quick to divert the attention to those people who need a helping hand,” says the younger Huntsman.
“He’s incredibly humble; he’s incredibly appreciative,” agrees Dr. Beckerle. “Every time he comes over to the Huntsman Cancer Institute, he calls by name everybody he sees in the elevator and thanks them for the work that they’re doing. He’s really a people person and someone who really values the many myriad contributions of everyone.”
Service to a Private Company
David B. Winder — Director, Alsco, Inc. Board of Directors
David Winder had a lengthy, 34-year career as a certified public accountant. He was a managing partner with KPMG’s Seattle, Washington D.C. and Salt Lake City offices, where he offered business and tax advice to organizations of all types and sizes. But the end of this career only marked the beginning of a new career: public service.
He joined the cabinet of Gov. Michael O. Leavitt in 1997 and later, in 2002, he spent two years working for Leavitt and Gov. Olene Walker as a special assistant for post-Olympic projects.
“While serving in Governor Leavitt’s cabinet as the executive director of the Department of Community and Economic Development, I was automatically a board member or board chair of numerous citizen advisory boards ... During these years of public service it would be a conflict of interest to serve on a for-profit company board, but after my retirement from government service I was invited to serve on the board of Alsco, Inc.,” explains Winder.