In honor of our beloved founder and dear friend, the late Hyrum W. Smith and his wife Gail, an endowment has been established for Tuacahn Center for the Arts. A financially healthy community asset, Tuacahn’s mission is to present uplifting professional family entertainment and quality education, something Hyrum and Gail have championed over the years. Hyrum and Gail have made many major contributions to organizations in Utah, with their largest gift given to Tuacahn Center for the Arts, which they consider their family’s legacy.
We appreciate your willingness to participate in contributing to this endowment to ensure that the Smith's legacy at Tuacahn remains in perpetuity. To contribute click on the button above. For more information contact Tony Piersanti (775.338.9803; [email protected]).
When it comes to narrowing down the myriad ways in which Hyrum and Gail Smith have impacted Tuacahn Center for the Arts, it’s impossible to speak too highly of their contributions — more than 23 million of them.
Hyrum was known to be somewhat jocular at times about his original $10 million donation that turned into an eventual $23 million, calling Tuacahn founder Doug Stewart “a very expensive friend.” However, without the financial support and business acumen of Hyrum and Gail Smith, Tuacahn simply wouldn’t exist.
Born in Centerville, Utah, Hyrum spent most of his childhood in Hawaii, while his wife Gail Cooper, grew up in Washington City, Utah. The couple met while serving missions in London for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although they eventually settled on a beautiful 2,000-acre ranch in Gunlock, Utah, Hyrum wasn’t originally much of a rancher, in fact, he’d never seen a horse up-close until he met Gail.
“I had to learn to ride for my courtship,” Hyrum joked.
Gail’s version of the story has Hyrum falling in love with a particular stallion and he started taking riding lessons. Before long he traded that stallion for two other horses and from there the herd grew.
The Gunlock ranch felt like a natural progression to Hyrum, and it put him in a place he had adopted as his home: the rugged red rock beauty of Southern Utah.
Known for his role in launching the successful Franklin Quest Company and his masterful public speaking style, Hyrum touched thousands of lives in his professional, ecclesiastical, philanthropic and personal pursuits.
“He was a bigger-than-life kind of guy,” said Kevin Smith, Tuacahn CEO and nephew of Hyrum. “He had a big heart, very enthusiastic, very optimistic.”
Both Hyrum and Gail lived with what Hyrum called “the abundance mentality,” a philosophy Hyrum explained on several occasions.
“The minute we are able to look into the mirror and honestly say ‘I have sufficient for my needs’ at that point, you are wealthy,” Hyrum said in an interview in 2017. “Why? Because we have enough.”
Hyrum went on to explain that if a person is smart enough or lucky enough to create more than they need, that surplus is “a stewardship that God has given me to do something with that matters.”
It was this mentality, along with a strong affection for the arts that prompted Hyrum and Gail to donate both money and time to keep Tuacahn progressing toward its goals, something Hyrum did right up until his death in November 2019 and something Gail plans to continue doing.
Theater had long been a big part of both Gail and Hyrum’s lives. Both grew up with parents who appreciated music and theater and they each tried to instill that love in their children.
“We always had Broadway musical albums, records and tapes,” said Joseph Smith, son of Hyrum and Gail.
The couple made it a priority to take their children to New York City to see Broadway productions of The Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, Les Miserables and others. And whenever a big musical came through Salt Lake City where they were living, the Smith family tried to go.
Hyrum and Gail’s decision to donate to Tuacahn also had to do with their views on building things to benefit others.
“My dad used to tell me there is nothing more patriotic than to create jobs and careers for other people,” Joseph said. “He was so grateful to be able to give that to Southern Utah.”
During peak season Tuacahn employs close to 300 people, generating a product enjoyed by over 300,000 people.
“They get to come and forget about life for three hours or so and create wonderful memories and feelings through performing arts and musical theater,” Joseph said. “That’s a huge benefit.”
In addition to substantial monetary backing, Hyrum served on the Tuacahn board of directors for 25 years, in the position of vice chair during much of that time.
“Tuacahn is just one of a number of projects that we believe matters. We think it has changed lives,” Hyrum said. “It’s been a fabulous experience to do that.”
On Sept. 27, Utah Governor Gary Herbert declared that date to be known as Tuacahn Day in the state of Utah, as a way to honor Hyrum’s lifelong contributions.
“He will be missed. It’s hard to imagine Tuacahn without Hyrum,” Kevin said.
Fortunately, his influence will still be felt in a number of ways. Hyrum’s daughter, Stacie Shurtliff, will take Hyrum’s place on the Tuacahn board of directors. And Gail plans on attending every show and continuing to support Tuacahn’s mission in every way she can.
Tuacahn plans to dedicate the 25th anniversary season to the remarkable influence of Hyrum and Gail Smith.