Tom Guinney, a remarkably successful Utah businessman and philanthropist, has been extremely generous to the University of Utah for many years, including donations of delicious food for campus events from his exceptional Gastronomy restaurants. His latest gift, however, is unique—a century-old and exquisitely restored vintage 1913 Steinway grand piano. Deliberately housed in the recently-renovated Thomas S. Monson Center, previously known as the Enos A. Wall Mansion, on South Temple, the gift was celebrated at an event on June 13, and honors the longtime friendship of the two men—Tom Guinney and Thomas S. Monson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
The pair first met in 1980. Guinney and his two business partners had just opened the first Market Street Grill in a renovated building in downtown Salt Lake City. A mutual friend introduced the two men when Monson was a counselor in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They became friends, and Guinney would often stop by for a visit and to drop off gift certificates so Monson could treat his staff to their favorite lunch of spaghetti and meatballs at Gastronomy’s Bacci Restaurant. Over the years, the Guinney-Monson friendship grew stronger, and Guinney was a frequent guest at LDS General Conference. “The gift [of the piano] has a very personal meaning to me because of the president. Obviously it truly does,” says Guinney.
A generous and longtime advocate of the arts, Guinney made just two requests regarding the gift—that the piano be tuned every four months, and that each year, the piano be available for 10 days to the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition. The two conditions are sure to be honored.
Coincidently, the construction date of the distinctive piano dates back to the first renovation of the building where it now resides. When mining magnate Enos A. Wall bought the then-25-year-old home in 1909, he began a renovation that was completed in 1914. At about that same time, in 1908, the first layers of wood used to construct the Steinway were curved into shape and it was completed and ready to ship in 1913. Today, the piano has found a new home in a building its same age.
Guinney’s longtime friend, Natalie Gochnour, director of the U’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, reflects on lessons she has learned from him: Share your luck and be generous… Respect the local culture—you should know and understand the community you live in…learn about it. Small things matter, you must sweat the small stuff. “He gives, to get, to give again,” she says.
And then there’s the Gastronomy food—as consistent as it is delicious. “Have fun along the way,” says Guinney. “Life is short, let it happen, be you, love others, share your gifts, and live with confidence.”
The University of Utah is grateful to Tom Guinney for his remarkably generous and thoughtful gift of the new Steinway and his enduring excellence, selflessness, and friendship.