Southern Utah philanthropist Hyrum Smith dies at age 76

ST. GEORGE — A Southern Utah-based philanthropist, author and entrepreneur died Monday after he was diagnosed with stage 3 pancreatic cancer months ago.

Hyrum Smith speaking at an event, date and location not specified | Photo courtesy of Hyrum Smith, St. George News

According to a statement released by his family Tuesday, 76-year-old Hyrum W. Smith died Monday from health complications related to his earlier cancer diagnosis. He is most notably known for the founding of the Franklin Quest Company in 1983 and is one of the creators behind the commonly-used Franklin Day Planner.

Born in Centerville, Smith spent most of his childhood in Hawaii, where his father was president of the speech department at the University of Hawaii and his mother taught sixth grade classes at a local secondary school. Smith relocated to Washington, D.C., following his high school graduation, working for Daniel Inouye, the first congressman from Hawaii. He was later drafted into the U.S. Army after his return from a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in London.

After graduating from Brigham Young University in 1971, Smith worked with a data processing firm where he rose through the ranks to become the senior vice president of sales before forming his own sales management training company called Golden Eagle Motivation in 1981.

Until 2004, Smith served as vice chairman of the Board of Franklin Covey Company, filling the shoes of Franklin Quest, before stepping down and continuing his work at a keynote speaker, nationally acclaimed author and mostly anonymous donor.

Co-founder Hyrum Smith shares a poem by William Shakespeare during a presentation at Tuacahn High School for the Arts, Ivins, Utah, Oct. 21, 2019 | File photo by Ryann Richardson, St. George News

He married Gail Cooper Smith, a Dixie State alumna, in 1966. Gail Smith was born and raised in Washington City and introduced the Utah-born entrepreneur to the beauty of the red rocks and warm weather of Southern Utah. Hyrum Smith dove into the area, supporting the arts and the area throughout the rest of his life.

In Southern Utah, however, Smith is known not only for his intellect but also for his generosity. His exorbitant contributions to businesses and schools all over Washington County, including Dixie State University and Tuacahn Center for the Arts, have touched thousands of lives.

The couple’s generous donations to Dixie State helped fund the purchase of buildings that were constructed as part of the original Dixie Convention Center, including the M.K. Cox Performing Arts Center, Burns Arena and Smith’s Computer Center, which are now call the Avenna Center.

Jonathan Hafen, chairman of the board for the Tuacahn Center for the Arts in Ivins, worked alongside Smith since 1992. Throughout all his years of knowing him, Hafen told St. George News it was Smith’s unfailing optimism that set him apart from the crowd.

Hyrum Smith signing his book at an event, date and location not specified | Photo courtesy of Hyrum Smith, St. George News

“He was certainly the most optimistic person I’ve ever met,” he said. “He always felt like everything was going to work out.”

He was optimistic up until he died, Hafen said, even buying his 2020 planner only 10 days before his death.

Hafen said throughout the ups and downs of working to maintain a successful arts organization, Smith was never afraid to face uncertainties with an unwavering belief that something good would happen. The philanthropist never solely relied on this idea, however, and would work hard to ensure causes he cared about were successful.

“He was always the one that was up to have the hard conversation, to make the invitation, to approach people about an ask, to help us get through whatever we needed to,” Hafen said.

Smith wanted to change lives, and he did just that, Hafen explained, adding that Tuacahn gave him the platform to share the beauty of and talented residents within Southern Utah.

Smith was also the benefactor of Tuacahn, which has a positive economic impact in Washington County of over $100 million each year and brings an average of 300,000 people to Southern Utah annually.

Hyrum Smith speaking at an event, date and location not specified | Photo courtesy of Hyrum Smith, St. George News

He and Franklin Quest purchased the property at the foot of Snow Canyon, which was initially called the National Institute of Fitness, and donated millions of dollars to the founding of the arts school and amphitheater. Residents have realized his impact on the community, as Smith has received countless honors and community service awards in the years leading up to his death.

One of the last events at which he spoke was the reveal of Tuacahn High School’s new logo, where he spoke to the students about the importance of legacy. Hafen said Smith had an abundance mentality with a goal to give away everything he had one he had everything he wanted.

Smith and his wife retired to their ranch in Gunlock, Utah, where they enjoyed their time with their six children and 24 grandchildren.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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