A Self-Made Man

Photo of Stan Katz
Stan Katz

Stan Katz came from meager beginnings, but he developed lofty ambitions early in life. Even as a boy shining shoes and selling newspapers on the streets of New York, Stan dreamt of playing the drums. Despite his family's poverty, Stan's older brother helped him finance drum lessons—and so began Stan's lifetime love of music. At 18 years old he was invited to tour the country with the Benny Goodman Band, playing the popular big band dance music of the time.

In 1948 Stan was hired by Maestro Maurice Abravanel to play classical percussion for the Utah Symphony. At 26 years old Katz enrolled at the University of Utah, where he enjoyed taking classes in philosophy and political science. Among his favorite professors were Sterling M. McMurrin and Dr. Francis D. Wormuth. Stan says he felt "indebted" to these choice professors who "elevated all that was within me." Stan had been an average high school student, but he had a very positive experience as a student at the U.

In addition to a love of the arts and humanities, Stan Katz also knew the value of a dollar. One of Stan's earliest childhood memories was "...shivering with terror under a kitchen table while I witnessed the repossession of my parents' furniture." In that moment Stan resolved that he would, "one day escape the clutches of poverty." Stan claimed it was through real estate along with a strategic mix of careful investing and initiative that he gained financial independence.

On December 18, 1972, Stan Katz reached his goal of retiring at the age of 50 and began to travel—meeting his wife Gloria at an opera in Prague, Czech Republic. In 2003, Stan received one of the first Distinguished Alumni Awards from the College of Humanities. Stan was deeply honored by the recognition. Even after extensive travel and worldly experiences, he considered himself to be a Utah man.

When it came time to prepare his will, Stan chose to give back to the University of Utah by establishing the Sterling M. McMurrin Presidential Endowed Chair in Philosophy and the Francis D. Wormuth Presidential Endowed Chair in Political Science. Stan says, "I hope that the study in these two disciplines will inspire future students to think deeply and perhaps establish new paths that will inure to the benefit of society as a whole." Stan Katz died July 22, 2010. A permanent plaque commemorating his contribution hangs in Orson Spencer Hall on the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Wall of Honor.

Questions? Contact Karin Hardy at 801-585-6220, 800-716-0377 (toll free), or karin.hardy@utah.edu.

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