Throughout the hallowed halls of the University of Pennsylvania, one of America’s original colonial colleges, the school’s ancestors and benefactors are honored, their legacies carved in concrete. The Huntsman family, whose roots extend from UPenn to Utah, represents a tradition of honesty, excellence, and integrity. In 1959, Jon Huntsman Sr. graduated from the Wharton School of Business before embarking on a career as a pioneer in plastics manufacturing and industrial chemistry.
Beyond his decades of business success, his legacy as a philanthropist is beyond reproach, setting an inspirational standard of giving. His son, Jon Jr., who graduated from Penn in 1987 with a degree in international politics, has built upon his father’s legacy to construct one of his own as a public servant, a rare political paragon of virtue. As a result of the father and son’s achievements and generosity, their association with UPenn evokes pride in students and alumni alike.
Before his death in 2018, the elder Huntsman was renowned as a prolific philanthropist, especially in the fight against cancer, having committed over $1.5 billion in his lifetime to humanitarian causes. In 1995, with his wife Karen, Huntsman Sr. launched the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, the town his family has called home for decades. A four-time survivor himself, in 2008, he was presented with the Medal of Honor for Cancer Philanthropy by the American Cancer Society, a small token of gratitude for his contributions.
Then in 2002, the Wharton School at UPenn dedicated their new primary building in his name, and Jon M. Huntsman Hall is its main building to this day. The family also contributed an endowment for the namesake Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business, an undergraduate curriculum that combines business education with a liberal arts concentration.
Although his father left rather large shoes to fill, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr. has blazed his own trail of excellence and integrity, both within UPenn and without. The lifetime statesman has served honorably in nearly every U.S. presidential administration in the last 40 years, most recently as U.S. Ambassador to Russia from 2017 to 2019. His political campaigns (including a short-lived run for president) have been notably forthright and honest, with the candidate refusing to compromise his values for negative rhetoric. Huntsman Jr. served two terms in the seat of Utah’s government and narrowly lost a 2020 primary to return to the office for a third term.
Both father and son have etched indelible legacies of ethics and inclusion, representing a profound example to the next generation of the University of Pennsylvania that will live on for years to come.