Each year, the Salt Lake Chamber honors extraordinary individuals who've shown exceptional and distinguished service in the community at the annual Giant in our City event. It's widely recognized as the most prestigious business award given in Utah.
This year's honorees are Katharine and the late Robert Garff.
"Utahns know the Garff name and the family's success in the business community. However, some may be less familiar with their rich legacy in our state of community service and charitable contributions that have blessed countless lives through the years," said Derek Miller, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance.
"For decades, Kathi and Bob Garff have been passionately dedicated to educational efforts and programs geared toward helping Utah students succeed, not only academically but in life. Without their influence, our students and community would not be the same, and we are delighted to be given the opportunity to recognize these and so many other contributions."
Here's a brief look at just some of the ways the Garffs have left a long-lasting impact on the community.
Successful business owners
After working with his father for many years, Bob became CEO of the Ken Garff Automotive Group. He helped the company grow until it eventually became the second largest privately-held auto group in the nation. Bob continued to work as Chairman of the Board for the company until his death.
Kathi Garff is now the chair of Ken Garff Enterprises and Ken Garff Automotive, filling in for her late husband. She has been a board member for many years and is committed to the company's continued growth and community service.
"Because our founder, Ken Garff, believed business is about people, his first dealership in 1932 quickly became a thriving company that embodied his trademark work ethic and values. We will continue that tradition to achieve higher levels of service," Kathi said.
Proponents of education
For Bob and Kathi Garff, education was always a philanthropic priority. The family's Success in Education Foundation administers the "Keys to Success," "Road to Success," and "Code to Success" programs. Each is geared toward helping Utah students succeed academically.
Bob and Kathi Garff also proudly supported their alma mater, the University of Utah. They helped fund a new building for the David Eccles School of Business, as well as the Ken Garff Red Zone expansion project at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
At the dedication ceremony of the Robert H. and Katharine B. Garff Building on the University of Utah campus, Kathi Garff spoke of making education a priority. She shared that the family had always lived by the tagline, "We want to change the world the best way we know how, through educating one child at a time."
Leaders in the community
Bob and Kathi loved being involved and giving back to the community in as many ways as possible.
In addition to her position as chair of Garff Enterprises, Kathi is also a director of the Robert H. and Katharine B. Garff Foundation and the Chair of the Success in Education Foundation.
Previously, she served as chair of the Utah State Board of Education and as a board member for the Utah Board of Regents.
Bob held multiple community positions, including former Chairman of the Board for the Deseret Book Company and board member for organizations such as Intermountain Healthcare, the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Utah Commission on Volunteers. He also served as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
Sen. Mitt Romney told the Deseret News last year that Bob's "genuine goodness, clear-eyed optimism and can-do management experience" helped make the 2002 Olympics a success.
"The Games were arguably the best ever," he said, "in large measure thanks to the character and care of Bob Garff."
Bob held various leadership positions during his career, including Speaker of the House of Representatives for the State of Utah, board member of First Security Bank, and chairman of the Salt Lake Chamber. He also served in many positions for the American Cancer Society.
Bob received many honors for his work in business and throughout the community. These included the Dealer of the Year from the American International Automobile Association, the Distinguished Utahn Award from the Salt Lake Chapter of the BYU Management Society, and most recently, the University of Utah's David Eccles School of Business inducted Robert into their prestigious Business Hall of Fame.
Bob and Kathi Garff will always be remembered for their lifelong dedication and service to individuals, their church, and the community at large.