Longtime Summer College organizer earns service award
Active in intramural sports, president of Tau Kappa Epsilon, vice president of his class. As a Whitman student, Dr. Hal Hunt ’55 was deeply immersed in the life of the college.
More than 50 years later, not much about Hunt has changed. The retired pediatrician is on the Planned Giving Committee and has served as Summer College organizer, reunion chair and class representative. He is president of the TKE House Board of Advisers, and “hardly a day goes by without some contact with the TKE officers or maintenance contractors,” he said.
Hunt’s work for the college is a “model for us all,” according to the Alumni Association, which awarded him the Gordon Scribner Award for Distinguished Service for 2008. The award is presented to alumni who “possess the ability to inspire as exemplified by Gordon Scribner ’42,” former dean of students and director of alumni relations.
Hal and Cora Dee Peterson Hunt ’55 are so active and involved with their alma mater (she won the same distinguished service award in 1986) that five years ago they moved from Crane Island, Wash., in the San Juan Islands to Walla Walla. In the 1970s, they’d built a cabin on the island, accessible only by boat or airplane.
“It was our delight, especially for respite from very long and busy days of practice,” he said. “Our goal was to retire there. We did. After about three months we looked at one another and said, ‘What have we done?’” It was a little too isolated for full-time living, they decided.
When they started looking for Plan B, Walla Walla seemed the obvious choice. “We were back at Whitman many, many times a year, and we both kept saying this would be a nice place to live,” Hal Hunt said.
The Hunts spent most of their married life in bustling Seattle. Following his pediatric residency at the University of Washington School of Medicine in the early 1960s, a stint in the Navy took Hal and Cora Dee to Bethesda, Md., and Bremerton, Wash. Navy service completed, he opened a medical practice in 1965 with two other pediatricians in the Crown Hill district north of Ballard. Hunt’s professional volunteer work at Children’s Orthopedic Hospital (now Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center) and the UW included counseling medical residents who wanted to know “what to do when they grow up.”
“Word began to spread at the university that I was doing career counseling, and I was soon being asked by other departments’ residents and sometimes faculty to do the same for them,” he said.
— Hal Hunt ’55
Countless more inquiries came his way following the sale of a partner’s practice in the late 1970s. “Until that time, no medical practices had been sold in Seattle, but I knew they had value,” Hunt said. Other doctors wanted to do the same, and called on Hunt to advise them on the logistics of bringing in new partners and buying and selling practices.
His typical day was spent traveling to four or five hospitals in the morning, seeing newborn and hospitalized patients in the evenings and fielding questions in his office late into the night. He was ready for a change. In 1986, he retired for the first time.
Hunt’s second career was consulting — getting paid for answering all those questions. “After 10 years, I found myself at 2:30 in the morning going over agreements, and I thought, ‘I’m right back where I started.’
“After that, I really retired.”
A phone call about that time seeking a doctor to do a medical presentation at Senior Alumni College (now called Summer College) drew him into a volunteer role he would play for many years. He and two other physicians presented at the event in 1996, and the alumni director asked Hunt to help pull together the following year’s program. “Things escalated, as they often do,” he said.
Hunt isn’t organizing the Summer College program anymore, but he still attends every year. He and Cora Dee wouldn’t miss it. “It’s intellectually stimulating,” he said. “It’s good new material I’m not usually exposed to; there are good presentations and good friends.”
Hunt’s presence in the life of the college is not limited to a week in the summer. His work with the TKE Board of Advisers keeps him connected. “For the past five years we as a board have put considerable money and time into capital improvements,” he said.
The 74-year-old and his tennis buddies also spend a lot of time on the outdoor tennis courts at Whitman.
“They are a great group of guys,” he said. “We have a ball.”