1997 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Those who are successful have a mandate to take at least some of their earnings and reinvest them in humanity."
Jon Huntsman was born in 1937 in Blackfoot, Idaho. His rural home had no indoor plumbing and Huntsman was raised learning to fish and hunt to put meat on the table. When he was 13, his father, a public school music teacher, decided to use the GI Bill to return to college to get his doctorate at Stanford. The Huntsmans moved to Palo Alto, California, and lived in a World War II Quonset hut, which they shared with eight other families separated only by cardboard walls.
Responsible for his family's medical bills and the upkeep of their car, Huntsman worked as a dishwasher/waiter and held another janitorial job. In high school, he worked at JC Penney. His excellent grades earned him two scholarships to the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Finance. He later earned his master's degree from the University of Southern California. After college, he served in the Navy until 1961.
After he completed his service in the Navy, he entered the egg business with his wife's uncle in California. Looking for an egg container that was stronger than cardboard, Huntsman pursued the idea of a plastic carton. By 1967, he was made president of the carton venture, which included Dow Chemical as a 50 percent partner. In 1970, he formed his own company, mortgaging his home for his start-up money. Once his company was up and running, he took a break from his business to serve the Nixon administration as an associate administrator with the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Seven months later, he was invited to work for the White House as the President's staff secretary. A year later, exhausted from his long hours of work and worried about his ailing company back home, Huntsman left Washington two months before the Watergate break-in to return as CEO of the Huntsman Container Corporation.
Under his guidance, a plastic clamshell container was developed and sold to McDonalds to package their hamburgers. Huntsman's company went on to develop about 70 other major packaging products, including the first plates, bowls, dishes, and carry-out containers made from plastic. His next step was to buy businesses that manufactured the basic raw materials that went into his products. Today, Huntsman Corporation is the largest privately owned chemical concern in the world and a global manufacturer of petrochemicals, rubber, soaps, and packaging products.
A strong believer in giving back to his community, Huntsman, a cancer survivor, gave the largest single gift, $225 million, to fund medical research for the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Utah.