category: Faculty Emeriti - In Memory Of

Delores ‘Dee’ Hunt

Professor Emerita of Physical Education, Dean Emerita of the School of Education, Vice President Emerita of Student Development

Dee Hunt

“Dee Hunt has been a towering figure at Gardner-Webb for decades. Her fingerprints are all over the University’s success,” noted Gardner-Webb President, Dr. William Downs. “Dr. Hunt left an indelible impression on anyone who met her…fiercely determined, unfiltered, and always caring. Above all else was her love for the students. That love will be an enduring legacy, a legacy for which we are all so very grateful,” added Downs.

One year after her retirement from Gardner-Webb University, Dr. Delores “Dee” Hunt became the first faculty member to receive three emeriti titles. On May 4, 2018, she was honored for her service as a professor emerita of physical education, dean emerita of the School of Education and vice president emerita of Student Development. “I was really blessed to get three of those,” Hunt said. “I was also flabbergasted. It’s the best honor I’ve ever had at Gardner-Webb.”

Hunt was born May 11, 1946, in the small Alabama town of Valley Head. Her father, Charles Hunt, was in textiles, and her mother, Evelyn Hunt, was a nurse in a doctor’s office. She was 6 years old when her sister, Vickie, was born. “My whole life centered around school,” Hunt related. “We went to the same school first through 12th grade. I was a cheerleader and dated the captain of the football team.”

The Hunts were avid fans of Auburn University, so there was no question where she would go to college. Deciding what career to pursue was easy, too. “Growing up in the ‘60s, there were three choices for women: teacher, nurse or mother,” Hunt asserted. “I knew from the very genesis that I wanted to be a teacher.” 

She received her Bachelor of Science in health, physical education and recreation from Auburn in 1968, and then went to graduate school at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. She earned her Master of Education in 1969 and her Doctor of Arts in physical education in 1976.

Hunt began her teaching career in 1969 at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) in Johnson City and in 1973 was promoted to assistant director of the ETSU Kingsport University Center and associate professor of physical education. In 1977, she moved to Chattanooga State Technical-Community College.

About a year later, a friend called to tell her about an opening at Gardner-Webb. She had been asking God what he wanted her to do next, so she decided to come for an interview. Dr. Robert Blackburn, professor emeritus of health education, was chair of the department at that time. “I fell in love with Gardner-Webb immediately,” Hunt recalled. “Number one, it was a private school. Number two, it was Christian based, and number three, I would be working with the majors, not just teaching electives. It was perfect. God put me there.”

Accepted Students Day; Summer 2013.

Hunt accepted the position and joined the GWU faculty in 1978 as associate professor of health education and physical education. She distinguished herself as a coach and consultant in the field of women’s athletics, particularly volleyball and softball. She also provided distinguished leadership to the Department of Physical Education, Wellness and Sport Studies as chair from 1988 to 1995 and again from 1998 to 1999. As the founding dean of the School of Education, Hunt provided innovative and energetic leadership, directing the program’s inception and accreditation from 1995-99. Over the years, students gave her the nickname, “Doc Hunt,” which was used by everyone on campus.

She continued to teach physical education until 2010, when she was named vice president of Student Development and dean of students. Moving into the administrative role was a tough decision, because she loved interacting with her students in the classroom. When GWU President Dr. Frank Bonner asked her to consider the vice president role, she told him that she didn’t know anything about being a vice president. “And he said, ‘It does not matter. You love the kids and that’s why I want you to consider doing it,’” Hunt remembered. “Of course, when he said that, he had me because that’s what I care about the most.” 

In 2012, Hunt successfully directed the physical move of the Student Development division into the newly constructed Tucker Student Center, which she helped plan. In November 2020, Gardner-Webb University celebrated the naming of the Dr. Dee M. Hunt Student Development Suite in the Tucker Student Center in her honor.

Lisa Tucker is a former student-athlete, and she was mentored by Hunt while on Gardner-Webb’s volleyball team. The two developed a friendship that lasted over three and a half decades. “She was a master of sculpting students, making them believe in themselves.  She worked her magic thru selfless acts of kindness and discipline; discipline that was always backed by her love of students and teaching,” remembered Tucker.  

Hunt served as vice president of Student Development until her retirement in 2017. Reflecting on her nearly four decades at the University, she described what she hoped would be her legacy at GWU. “That I made a difference,” Hunt stated. “That every contact I’ve had with any kid—no matter how brief or how long or deep or shallow—made them a better person.”

However, more important than what she gave were the lessons she learned. “We talk about the differences I’ve made and the lives I’ve touched, but there’s another side to that and it’s the kids who touched my life,” Hunt asserted. “I’m a better person. I’m a more sympathetic, empathetic, forgiving person because of the kids I’ve come into contact with in 49 years. Sometimes we get lost in what our personal impact is—but the biggest deal is the difference they made in my life. I am far better because of them than they are because of me. I know that. I know that.” 

Hunt passed away in July 2021.

Sources: Personal interviews by Niki Bliss-Carroll (2017) and Jackie Bridges (2018), Dr. Ben Leslie’s emerita presentation speech, GWU archive files, memorial tribute (2021)

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