43. Utah : Jon Huntsman
Jon Huntsman has given away hundreds of millions of dollars–to his alma mater, to his church, to his research center–but he’s still a wealthy man thanks to the stake he still holds in his eponymous chemical company. A descendant of Mormon pioneers in Utah, he grew up poor but hardworking, mowing lawns and picking potatoes for six cents a sack. Hue earned a degree from Wharton (though he hadn’t heard of it before his recruitment interview), married a girl from his congregation and went to work for his in-laws’ egg business. He expanded the company into making egg cartons through a joint venture with Dow Chemical. In 1982 he started Huntsman Chemical and showed he had the right chemistry to make deals, acquiring downtrodden businesses at cyclical lows with borrowed money in the junk-bond boom. In all, he purchased 34 companies. Perhaps the most notable: 1994’s $1.06 billion deal for Texaco’s petrochemicals operation.
By the ’90s he started focusing on donating his money. A two-time cancer survivor, he founded an institute to find a cure for the disease. He’s also given money to Wharton and signed the Giving Pledge: “The people I particularly dislike are those who say ‘I’m going to leave it in my will.’ What they’re really saying is ‘If I could live forever, I wouldn’t give any of it away.’” His son Peter has been CEO of Huntsman Chemical since 2000.