In 1963, Jack Hunt took the reins of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Institute and turned it on its ear. Over the next 21 years he transformed it from a 500-student flight/technical school in Miami to a multi-campus, fully accredited university with nearly 35,000 students and a worldwide presence. The Jack Hunt Era is the stuff of legend; but memories of the man, his passion and legacy still live on in the hearts and minds of those who were fortunate to have known him.
John C. “Jay” Adams (HonDoc ‘08), Embry-Riddle Trustee Emeritus and friend to Jack Hunt:
“Jack was charismatic, capable and very dedicated. He was more of a risk taker than a lot of people were comfortable with, but he looked back at the history of what Embry-Riddle had been and he just knew he could turn it around and make it into something. As a member of the early board, oftentimes we would worry about what Jack would do next. ‘Throttles full ahead, damn the torpedoes,’ that’s just how Jack was.”
Philip “Phil” Elliott Jr. (HonDoc ‘04; ‘72, DB, Non-degree), Embry-Riddle Trustee Emeritus, former neighbor and friend to Jack:
“He was a very wise and a very complex person. He was much more sophisticated than his personality and his easy way of making friends would suggest.”
Growing up in California, Jack worked as a firefighter before joining the U.S. Navy in 1942. In 1957, he commanded the ZPG-2 airship Snowbird on a non-stop flight that set world records for distance and endurance (See Timeline: 1957). Jack earned a bachelor’s degree from Pepperdine in 1948; and a master’s degree from Barry College (now university) in 1964, while he was working for Embry-Riddle. He used his thesis, “An Investigation of Accreditation Procedures Relative to the Special Institution,” as support for Embry-Riddle’s accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Lynne Hunt Doten, Jack’s surviving spouse:
“Jack was a forward thinking visionary and a born leader. For instance, in order to conduct the all-weather evaluation mission with the Snowbird, he had to get permission from eight admirals. He had to sell his idea to the Navy. Those around him thought he might get one or two to agree and it would take a year with all the red tape. He got eight signatures in a day—an accomplishment that rivals the flight itself.”
Jack was driven to make a difference for others in his career and in his personal life. In 1981, he married Lynne and immediately began the process to legally adopt her five children.
Jack's son, Geoff Hunt ('86, DB), a site executive and multi-vendor supply chain director for GE Healthcare, remembers:
“'Have a plan; be dependable' were his calling cards. It is unlikely that I would have learned how to manage complex projects, take calculated risks or even attend college, if not for his influence. When I was adopted at 18, my whole world changed.”
His Passion and Legacy
“Aviation and education were both passions of Jack’s. He lived, breathed and worked on Embry-Riddle, except when he was sleeping, and then he was probably dreaming about it.”
Lynne Hunt Doten:
“When Jack got involved with Embry-Riddle he could see its potential. His passion to fulfill that potential propelled him forward. He was like a magician inventing, running and financing something unique and never done before.”
Jack’s daughter, Sarah (Hunt) Collins (‘89, DB), an elementary school Title I Teacher on Assignment:
“He valued education and thought of himself foremost as a teacher. He wanted others to have opportunities for learning. He was father to the modern-day Embry-Riddle and he took that parental responsibility seriously.”
Fueled by his passion, Jack worked to the end to ensure Embry-Riddle’s success. He died in office in 1984 at the age of 65.
“Jack’s legacy is evident in the careers of tens of thousands of students, many of whom would never have had the opportunity to attend college, much less get a world-class aviation education, if not for his determination, tenacity and willingness to put student outcomes above all else, including himself.”
“The significance of Jack Hunt for this university cannot be overstated.”
The ERA of U:
It’s Your Time to Reminisce
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Operation Bootstrap | A Vision for a Western Campus | Jack Hunt Era | National Championship Relived