Virgil Hunt, the "founding father" of
Photo by Wilbur Tague Photography
In this 2002 file photo, Gerry Stroman (third from left) received the Virgil Hunt Staff Service Award. With her were (left to right) Nancy Hunt, Bill Hunt and Virgil Hunt, the first administrator of the IU Kokomo Extension Center, along with IUK Chancellor Ruth Person. Virgil Hunt died June 8 at age 92.
Virgil Hunt’s impact on education in north central Indiana a legacy that continues on campus in many ways
IU Kokomo, died June 8 in Indianapolis at the age of 92.
A memorial service for Hunt will be held tomorrow (June 26) at 10 a.m. at Meridian Street United Methodist Church in Indianapolis. There will be a memorial service later in the year on the Kokomo campus.
Hunt served as the Kokomo campus’ first director from 1945–56, then moved to IU Indianapolis to become dean. In 1966, he was named the first registrar of the IU Medical Center. He retired from that post in 1976, ending a 43-year career in higher education and 33 years with IU.
IU Kokomo presented Hunt an honorary degree in 2003, honoring his work for and interest in the campus and the Hunt family’s continued support. "Mr. Hunt’s work in beginning what is now a campus of nearly 3,000 students has made it possible for thousands of individuals to receive a degree from IU Kokomo," said Ruth Person, chancellor of IU Kokomo. "Virgil Hunt is our founding father, and was a close friend and adviser to me. We mourn his passing but celebrate his long and distinguished life dedicated to education."
A native of Oakland City, Hunt earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry from IU and taught chemistry and science at colleges in Arizona, Kentucky and Danville, Ind., throughout that decade. It was at Central Normal College in Danville that Hunt also began working in administration, eventually serving as the youngest college president in the country from 1940–43.
During World War II, he was a preflight training instructor for a U.S. Air Force program at Butler University and a physics instructor for U.S. Army at IU Bloomington. He worked as a research physicist at a U.S. Navy laboratory at Johns Hopkins University from 1943–45.
Responding to returning GIs’ desire for higher education, IU adopted Kokomo Junior College as an IU extension center in 1945, and appointed Hunt as the center’s first executive secretary (later director).
The extension center grew from 188 students in 1945 to more than 700 students when he went to the IU campus in Indianapolis in 1956. "Single-handedly, he secured facilities, support, funding and most important, students," said Robert Roales, chairperson of the Department of Natural, Informational and Mathematical Sciences at IU Kokomo. Ron Harper, president of the Community Foundation of Howard County, called Hunt "the educational entrepreneur who convinced more than one generation of north central Indiana residents that they could indeed receive an Indiana University education.
"Those students, their communities and IU are all winners because of Virgil’s efforts," Harper said. In 2002, the Community Foundation presented Hunt its highest philanthropic honor, the David Foster Award for Lifetime Achievement.
During his 11 years as director of the IU Kokomo campus, Hunt also taught chemistry courses. Last fall, the campus named Hunt an honorary chairperson of an endowment initiative, aimed at providing perpetual funding for the maintenance and replacement of science education equipment.
The Hunt family has funded the Virgil Hunt Service Award, which honors IU Kokomo faculty and staff members who take an active role in the university and community; the Virgil Hunt Fellowship in graduate education; and the Virgil and Elizabeth Hunt Scholars Program, which assists IU Kokomo students majoring in science or science education. In February 2002, the new science building at IU Kokomo was named Virgil and Elizabeth Hunt Hall, in recognition of a major gift from Hunt’s son and daughter-in-law, Bill and Nancy Hunt of Indianapolis. The gift remains the largest single donation ever received in the campus’ history.