SALT LAKE CITY - Gary Neeleman has had an impressive career as an international journalist and diplomat. His journalism career began at the University of Utah where he majored in fine arts and received minors in journalism and history. During his studies, he worked for KSL Radio and Television and also had a reporting job with the Deseret News. Upon graduation, he was hired by United Press International (UPI) for his educational background and his ability to speak Portuguese, a skill he picked up while serving an LDS mission in Brazil. At the time, there were very few Portuguese-speaking, American journalists so he was the perfect man for an assignment in Brazil. While there, Gary and his wife, Rose, had three of their seven children, all three of which are dual citizens. During the 27 years that he worked with UPI, Gary had the privilege of covering several notable figures and events such as three Brazilian presidents, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Fidel Castro, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie who was visiting Brazil when his son orchestrated the coup that toppled his government, and Che Guevara’s activities throughout Bolivia, Argentina, and Southern Brazil. Following his time at UPI, Gary joined the Los Angeles Times Syndicate where he served as their Vice President for International Product Development for another 17 years. In 2002, Mr. Neeleman retired from the LA Times; however, retirement didn’t stop him from continuing to build his epic resume. Gary and Rose created Neeleman International Consulting that same year and continue to run it to this day.
In addition to his journalistic career, Gary has served as the Honorary Consul to Brazil in Utah since 2002. When he was first approached about being the Honorary Consul, the Brazilian Ambassador told him the position would come with “no money and no reimbursement, but we will give you a few things, a Brazilian coat of arms, flag, and 10,000 headaches!” After 15 years on the job, Gary says this is an accurate description except that instead of 10,000 headaches, he got 20,000! For all of his good humor, when asked about the most rewarding part of being an Honorary Consul, he had a simple response – service. He receives great satisfaction from being able to help those who cannot do some things for themselves. One touching story he shared with me was of a young woman who became quadriplegic after she was hit by a drunk driver in 2002. After the accident, she had to receive extensive medical treatment at the University of Utah hospital. Gary and Rose helped the young woman win a lawsuit against the company that served the driver alcohol. The money from the suit helped pay for hospital bills and travel expenses for her family to come visit. Even though it has been 15 years since the accident, Gary and Rose still remain close with this woman and her family and visit them every time they are in Brazil.
Aside from the rewarding experiences of helping those in need, Honorary Consuls also play a key role in facilitating cultural, athletic, business, and educational exchanges. Throughout his time as an Honorary Consul, Gary has advised many start-up businesses seeking to set up shop in Utah. He has also had the opportunity to travel with Governor Herbert and his team when they went on a trade mission to Brazil two years ago. On the athletic front, Gary has used his vast network and affiliation with the Brazilian Basketball Federation to help many Brazilian players come play at U.S. universities and has sent many U.S. players to semi-professional leagues in Brazil. Finally, on the education front, Gary and Rose served on a committee with former Mayor Ted Wilson, which helped to build 117 schools in Bolivia.
Gary and his wife, Rose, are both fluent in Portuguese and have a deep fondness for Brazil and its people. They travel to Brazil on a regular basis and have written 11 books, many of which are on Brazil’s history, and cuisine. One of their bestsellers is a Brazilian cookbook titled “Taste of Brazil,” which provides simple recipes for many classic Brazilian dishes. Their most recent book, which was released in English on May 28th, is called “The Rubber Soldiers: The Forgotten Army That Saved the Allies in WWII.” This book tells the story of the tens of thousands of Brazilian rubber tappers that extracted rubber from the Amazon in order to support the Allied war effort. On May 13, 2015, Gary was awarded as the Honorary Citizen of Sao Paulo and on August 12, 2015, he was given the Rio Branco Award, the highest one given by the federal government. For all of his accomplishments, Gary Neeleman is truly an exceptional asset to the Utah Consular Corps and the people of Brazil.