Church News and Events

Elder Gay of the Seventy Earns Distinguished Utahn Award

  By Marianne Holman, Church News staff writer

  • 13 May 2013

Elder Robert C. Gay, right, of the First Quorum of the Seventy is presented with the 2013 Distinguished Utahn Award Tuesday, April 30, 2013, by Brian C. Dixon during a dinner at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City.  Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.

Elder Robert C. Gay of the Seventy is known for his success as a businessman and for his humanitarian efforts that “go to the rescue of the lost.” Because of that service, he was recognized as the 20th recipient of the Distinguished Utahn Award, given by the BYU Management Society’s Salt Lake Chapter. Friends and members of the society honored Elder Gay during a dinner held in a ballroom at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City on April 30.

Whether in the business world, in his calling as a member of the Seventy, in his role as committee chairman for the Perpetual Education Fund, or in his home, Elder Gay is known for his ability to build relationships and better the lives of others around him. 

“In a world that we can all observe … that people are often wandering from sea to sea not knowing where to go, it is uplifting and refreshing to find someone who knows the greater path,” said Brian C. Dixon, chairman of the Distinguished Utahn Event Committee. “In a time when many people are self-centered, it is enlightening and inspiring to find someone who is not self-centered but others-centered.”

Upon receiving the award, Elder Gay reflected on an experience he had as a young boy while visiting another country with his father. As he looked around at the people’s living conditions he saw poverty and hardship.

“That deeply affected me,” he said. “Looking out my window watching women and children, … I said to myself, ‘You have to do something about it.’ ”

Recognizing he was only one person, he felt a little overwhelmed at that young age. It was a few years later while attending Brigham Young University that he realized the importance of faith and that with faith all things are possible.

“It doesn’t matter if you are in business, whether you are in education, whether you are a professor, or whether you are a General Authority, if we are [the Savior’s] instrument and do His will—whatever that will is—He will speak to our heart through His Spirit. … It doesn’t matter if it is big or small; it is His work.”

Lester W. B. Moore, a business associate and friend of Elder Gay, said that it is his friend’s ability to “listen to the voice from within” that makes him stand out.

“The more time we spent together the more impressed I became with him,” Moore said. “I was amazed at his countenance and his presence. I knew I was in the presence of a principled leader and a transcendent figure who has made the world a better place.”

Brother Moore said he has seen Elder Gay face difficult decisions in his work where others question or ask why he came to a certain conclusion. His response was always, “I have pondered and prayed about it, and I strive to listen to the voice from within.”

Another business partner and friend, Elder Merrill J. Bateman, emeritus General Authority, said that it is his friend’s ability to develop relationships of trust that he most appreciates. 

“When others have failed to carry their share, [Elder Gay] has stepped up to carry their load,” Elder Bateman said. “He has given much to better the lives of others. He is disciplined, cares for others, and knows how to build relationships.”

Former NFL football player Steve Young was the evening’s master of ceremonies. He called Elder Gay a “spiritual athlete,” focusing on his commitment and dedication to care for others. Remembering a time when he visited Elder Gay in Ghana, Africa, as Elder Gay served as a mission president, Brother Young said that he saw the difference Elder Gay had on the missionaries, the community, and Church members.

The BYU Management Society is a worldwide organization founded in 1977 that champions moral and ethical leadership throughout the world. 

Previous honorees include community advocate Pamela Atkinson, former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt, R.C. Willey Co. CEO William “Bill” Child, philanthropists Spencer F. Eccles and Jon and Karen Huntsman, President Gordon B. Hinckley, and President Thomas S. Monson.