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In memoriam: John Hunt, former dean of Arts and Sciences

John Hunt, Professor Emeritus of English and former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, died Monday, March 8. Hunt, an award-winning teacher and scholar, led the college in the immediate aftermath of the university’s decision to go co-educational, and left behind a legacy of intellectual vibrancy and diversity that still characterizes the college he headed.

Bobb Carson, who served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences until his retirement in 2003, remembered Hunt as “a life-long academic with personal roots in the Oklahoma dust bowl and a special love for Southern literature.”

“He was also an extraordinary administrator who skillfully and gently bound together the sometimes disparate elements of arts and sciences,” Carson recalled. “In his long tenure as dean, he directed significant growth of the College of Arts and Sciences and with it, Lehigh’s evolution from a technically dominated institution to a balanced university.

“John oversaw this transformation with enthusiasm, humor, integrity, and an unwavering commitment to liberal arts education. He acquired high-quality faculty dedicated to both teaching and scholarship, and took great joy and satisfaction in their accomplishments and those of their students,” Carson said.

"A gentle sense of humor"

Barbara Frankel, Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Anthropology who worked for Hunt for two years as a rotating associate dean, described him as “a rare sort of person in this day and age—a true gentleman.

“His unfailing courtesy to everyone, his genuine affection for his faculty—especially for the ones he had hired over his long tenure as dean—and his continuing scholarly love affair with William Faulkner were qualities I found most enduring,” Frankel said.

Pete Beidler, professor of English and longtime colleague of Hunt’s, memorialized him as “an excellent teacher and a stellar dean.”

“We have had many fine deans at Lehigh,” Beidler said, “but John brought to the job a sense of commitment to liberal learning, to the welfare of students, and to excellence in scholarship that was inspiring to all of us. He combined that commitment with a gentle sense of humor that kept us, if not laughing, then smiling.”

Hunt came to Lehigh in 1972 and served as dean for 15 years. After stepping aside from the deanship in 1987, he taught in the English department for five years before officially retiring in 1992.

He had earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Oklahoma, and his Ph.D. in theology and literature from the University of Chicago. Prior to coming to Lehigh, he served as a professor of English at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind.

A noted Faulkner scholar, his 1976 book, William Faulkner: Art in Theological Tension , is considered an early classic in the field, and is still often cited by Faulkner scholars.

Contributions in John Hunt’s honor may be directed to: The William Faulkner Society, c/o Anne Goodwyn Jones, Dept. of English, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-7310.

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Friday, March 12, 2004

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