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White Knights

Middle-age Anglo-Saxon males vie to make Utah’s “most influential” list.


For its 100 Most Influential People issue, Utah Business magazine rounded up the usual suspects. Rich guys Spence Eccles, Bob Garff, Jon Huntsman Sr., Greg Miller and Earl Holding; public servants Gary Herbert, Mark Shurtleff, the Honorable Orrin Hatch, Ralph “Mayor Gump” Becker and Peter Corroon; ecclesiastical authorities Thomas Monson, H. David Burton, and Mark Willes (served as presiding bishop of Cheerios before ascending to the pulpit at Deseret Management).

Then, you’ve got a smattering of Influential Educators, people like Mike Young at the U, Cecil Samuelson at the Y, Michael Benson at SUU, F. Ann Millner at Weber State and Dr. Cynthia Bioteau at SLCC. A couple of media folks are thrown into the mix—Nancy Conway from the Trib, Clark Gilbert at the D-News and Bruce Reese at Bonneville radio. (I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that John Saltas is not included. Many of the Influential probably wish he would just stay in Santorini.) The rest are an assortment of CEOs—builders, bankers, venture capitalists and medical-device entrepreneurs.

A worthy list, no doubt, and at first glance, the assembled movers and shakers appear to be Influential. They are “individuals who are key to shaping the economic, political and social climate of the state.” But the more you study the list of Most Influential People, the more you begin to notice omissions of various sorts.

Why, for instance, aren’t there more Influential Women? Of the 100 Influential People, only 10 are of the female variety. Granted, Utah is a state dominated by the XY chromosome, but surely XX-chromosome carriers exert more influence than the list indicates. Just off the top of my head, several come to mind who should have been on the list. First and foremost, may I introduce the charming and lovely Gayle Ruzicka? You may not like the powerful scourge of Capitol Hill, but who says Influence has to be positive? Any way you look at it, Mrs. Ruzicka has “shaped the economic, political and social climate of the state.”

Other women come to mind: Rebecca Lockhart, speaker of the House; Stephenie Meyer, author of the scandalous Twilight novels; Pamela Atkinson, advocate for the homeless; Terry Tempest Williams, environmental activist and essayist; the imposing Sheri Dew, who, despite not holding the priesthood, strikes fear into the hearts of the General Authorities on Temple Square; and last, but not least, Hope Woodside, the Fox 13 anchor who has inspired millions of viewers to take more than a passing interest in the economic, political and social climate of the state.

Just as telling as the scarcity of Influential Women is an almost total lack of ethnic diversity. The only notable exceptions to Anglo-Saxon Middle-Age Male Majority I could discover were Dinesh Patel, Stan Nakano and Fred Lampropoulos (who as a Greek Mormon is a bit of a hybrid). Again, Utah is proud, male and white, but you would think a few minorities might sneak into the tent of Influence. It seems to me that France Davis has not just shaped the economic, political and social climate of the state, but has also profoundly changed it. Jennetta Williams should make the cut, as should Luz Robles and Jani Iwamoto, and Mia Love. And what about the iron man of Utah politics, Randy Horiuchi?

Another mysterious omission from the 100 Most Influential list is the sports sector, which surely shapes the economic, political and social climate of the state. Not just Jerry Sloan and Kyle Whittingham, but everyone from Karl Malone to Deron Williams, and including former Jazz players such as Ron Boone and Thurl Bailey who have transitioned from the basketball court to the broadcasting booth.

And much as it pains me to say it, is there at the moment a more Influential Utahn than James “The Jimmer” Fredette?

Perhaps the most glaring omission from the list of Influential Utah People is Robert Redford, whose Sundance Festival has shaped the state’s economic climate for 30 years. And I will get a phone call from my old missionary companion Mit Romney if I don’t at least give him a shout out for being Influential, political-wise.

We conclude with a random list of Utah worthies who also deserve mention for being Influential: former Mayor Sparky Anderson, TV inventor Philo Farnsworth, Elizabeth Smart, song stylist Rod Decker, cold-fusion pioneers Pons and Fleischman, Utah booster Roseanne, man of conscience Pat Shea, basketball great Billy McGill, master forger and murderer Mark Hofmann, weather wise man Sterling Poulson, acting great Billy Barty and Gordon Hinckley’s checkers’ pal, Larry King.