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Learn, Earn, Return: A Family’s Culture of Giving

Read Time: 3 minutes

Chris and Erlynn Lansing
Chris and Erlynn Lansing

More than 20 years ago, J. Christopher “Chris” and Erlynn Lansing made a business decision guided by an encounter with Jon Huntsman. They discussed whether or not they should sell their successful business, Lansing Building Products, so they could support their church and other causes important to their family.

Mr. Huntsman’s advice was an emphatic “No way.” He further advised they should continue to build the business, spread their positive influence to employees, vendors, and suppliers, and watch for opportunities to help those around them.

The Lansing family lives in Virginia, but Utah is their second home. They had been looking for the chance to get involved in philanthropy in Utah. So, in 2020, they made a $2.5 million gift supporting the new Kathryn F. Kirk Center for Comprehensive Cancer Care and Women’s Cancers at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI). They did this to honor dear friends of theirs who have also made the Kathryn F. Kirk Center a central focus of their giving.

The Lansing family chose to make the gift for multiple reasons, including that long-ago guidance from Mr. Huntsman. They are motivated to contribute because of the impact cancer has had on their family, including Chris’s mother and sister, and close friends. But more than that, they have subscribed to a lifelong philosophy: learn, earn, and return. The Lansings are in the “return phase” of life, Erlynn says.

From the first weeks of their marriage, Erlynn and Chris committed to giving back. In the beginning, giving was in the form of time. As their business grew, they began to give financially as well.

Erlynn and Chris passed along this idea to their children and grandchildren. Erlynn says, “Giving is part of the Lansing culture.” They provide a small stipend to each of their grandchildren for Christmas and task them with donating that sum to charity. They know the specific memories of gifts will fade, but the ability to help someone will stay with them.

“We’ve seen HCI do tremendous work,” Erlynn says. “To see people doing the research to cure cancer is amazing. That was Jon Huntsman’s dream. The fact that he was willing to put so many resources, support, time, and love into it is such a marvelous thing. And we want to be just a small part of that. We are delighted to have this opportunity.”

The Lansings hope their donation to HCI will help people. “Who knows—it might be helpful to us one day,” Chris says. And they have already seen HCI help a loved one who travels from Idaho to HCI to receive treatment, including cutting-edge reconstruction surgery that isn’t offered anywhere else in the region.

Lansing Building Products has been in business for 47 years. The Lansings say Mr. Huntsman was right. They took his advice and haven’t looked back.

Cancer touches all of us.