There is hardly a rower on the crew team whom has never heard of John Hunter. During his studies at MIT, he fell in love with the sport of rowing. He rowed for barely a year before he had to quit for various reasons.
Mr. Hunter was the first non-Tech alumnus to hold a position on the GT Advisory Board to the Institute. After retiring to his house, "Serendipity" overlooking the Chattahoochee River, one of the projects which he took upon himself was the Georgia Tech Rowing Club in 1988. He had a dream to see shells row up and down the river in back of his house, and he devoted a portion of the latter part of his life to do so.
Sadly, Mr.Hunter passed away in 1999 but is remembered every year at the Atlanta Rowing Festival, now named the John Hunter Regatta. The GT Crew team has also dedicated on of their top eight man shells to Mr. Hunter, calling it the John Hunter.
JOHN HUNTER, IN THE EYES OF JIM WILSON
I was President of the club in 1992, working with Betz, Flowers, Lynn Ann, and a couple of other folks. We tried to take GT Crew to the next step (i.e., revisited the idea of going varsity with Homer Rice and the GT Athletic Association), capitalizing on the Olympics fervor. This was when I met John Hunter via Debbie Permenter's strong suggestion. We were looking for ways to get funding for the team, and Debbie felt Mr. Hunter (this mysterious guy who lived in a home across the river called "Serendipity") was the guy to see.
I remember putting a tie on and driving out to his house, nervous because of the rumors of his rough demeanor. His (very large) German Shepard greeted me at the door... a dog that actually was very sweet. Mrs. Hunter then took over the greeting after the dog announced my arrival with several barks. She was very cordial and very Southern... reminded me of a younger version of my grandmother. She led me into the back room where Mr. Hunter was sitting. We went through the formal greetings and he quite pointedly told me to take a seat.
I explained what I wanted on behalf of the team, and he provided a few suggestions. One of them included storming the AA tower... namely Homer Rice's (the AA Director) office. He felt quite put off that the man was unresponsive to his General Patton-style of negotiating. Well, more like "you are going to do this". Mr. Hunter made me laugh. Of course, not really in front of him, but I genuinely liked him. He had a hell of a lot of fire. Retired he was, but accept it he didn't. I always wondered what his underlings at Oxford Industries called him... "Sir"? "Commander"? "Chief?"
It was difficult sometimes having him on the Board of Directors for the Crew Team. He didn't play too well in groups. His idea of leadership was a "benevolent dictatorship" (his words). But he truly meant well, and he had a very generous heart. Yes, he gave quite a bit of money to the team... but if you look closely, you will see he wanted us to work for the money instead of him giving it outright. Take the dock. He had the money to just pay for a new one, but instead he paid for the wood, framing material, and a single contractor to tell us how to put it together.
I would call him often, telling him how the team was doing. This seemed to delight him. He was very proud of the team's efforts, but liked to watch from a distance. As I got to know him, I respected him all the more. He was someone who had been through a lot in life, but continued to respond with generosity.
Written after Mr. Hunter's passing by Jim Wilson