Obert C. Tanner

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Courtesy Tanner Humanitarian Center

Obert C. Tanner was a entrepreneur, philanthropist, and scholar. He was born on September 20, 1904, in Farmington, Utah, to Joseph M. Tanner and his second wife, Annie Clark Tanner.

Tanner earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah in 1929, paying for his education by rising early each morning to make furnace fires for customers in the affluent Federal Heights neighborhood near the university. One of his customers offered him a job as a clerk in his jewelry store, and Tanner learned from this opportunity and established his own business in 1927. He began manufacturing commemorative pins and rings for high school students in his mother’s basement. The O. C. Tanner Company now designs and implements employee awards and recognition solutions for clients worldwide. The company provided medals for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games and since then has an alliance with the U. S. Olympic Committee. O. C. Tanner provides commemorative rings for U. S. athletes since 2000. The company also provides beautiful jewelry, timepieces, and gifts.

Tanner earned an LLB degree from the University of Utah, a master’s degree from Stanford University, and a juris doctor degree from the University of Utah. He was also honored with seven honorary degrees from most of Utah’s universities and colleges. He first was a Seminary instructor in Springville, Utah, and then became a professor of philosophy and religious studies and taught at Stanford and the University of Utah. He held fellowships at Oxford and Cambridge. At Stanford he was also the acting chaplain.

He was chairman of the commission that planned the construction of the Utah Symphony Hall (now Abravanel Hall), the Utah Art Center, and the restoration of Salt Lake City's historic Capitol Theatre. He served as chairman of the Utah American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, board member on the Utah Symphony Board and was member of the Executive Committee, White House Conference on Children and Youth, and the National Commission of the Bicentennial Celebration of the United States Constitution. He and his wife were patrons of Utah Symphony, Ballet West, and the Utah Opera Company. They endowed the biennial “Gift of Music” concerts of the Utah Symphony and Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He was awarded the national Medal of Arts and the United Nations Peace Medal.

Tanner has donated more than forty fountains to hospitals, college, universities, and communities. He funded the construction of the Adams Shakespeare Theater at Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah, the O. C. Tanner Amphitheater near the entrance to Zion National Park, and philosophy library rooms at universities and colleges. He endowed lectureships, including the “Tanner Lectures on Human Values” given annually at the University of Utah, University of California, Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge, Michigan, Stanford, Yale, and Princeton universities.

Tanner was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served a full-time mission to Germany from 1924 to 1927. He authored, coauthored, or edited ten books, including The New Testament Speaks and Christ’s Ideals for Living; he edited A Mormon Mother: An Autobiography by Annie Clark Tanner. He coauthored Toward Understanding the New Testament. His autobiography is titled One Man’s Journey: In Search of Freedom.

He married Grace Adams in 1931 and they were the parents of six children, including three sons who preceded him in death.

He died on October 14, 1993. He presided over and directed the growth of his company since its founding.