Regents Professor Dr. Leslie Gene Hunter Retires from A&M-Kingsville with 38 Years of Memories
KINGSVILLE - July 11, 2007
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Wife, A&M-Kingsville archivist Cecilia Aros Hunter retires at the same time
On Thursday, July 5, Dr. Leslie Gene Hunter taught his last class at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, closing the books literally and figuratively on 38 years as a faculty member.
The honors and accomplishments that came during that time were numerous and varied. They included being named a Regents Professor in 1998, the highest honor The Texas A&M University System can bestow on a faculty member. But when Hunter is asked about his fondest memories of being a part of the university, the first things that come to his mind are the accomplishments of his students.
“My desire has been to have my classes be a laboratory for history so that the students learn the techniques, but also contribute to the sources and information we have about the region of South Texas,” said Hunter.
He notes the hundreds of oral history interviews gathered by his students for the South Texas Archives. Those interviews helped to create the archive’s South Texas Oral History and Folklore Collection, and contributed to the Library of Congress Veterans’ Oral History Project. The research his students conducted about the buildings in the “original town site” of Kingsville helped produce two books published with a grant from the Texas Historical Commission.
“In other years, students contributed to the 75th anniversary history of this university and compiled information from the cemeteries in Kleberg County for a database called the ‘Tombstone Project.’ Their work is all stored at the South Texas Archives for future generations to use as a basis for further historical research. More recently, my students did research in the primary sources in collections at the South Texas Archives, to make presentations and publish papers about State Representative Irma Rangel and State Senator Carlos Truan.
“My students have gone on to graduate school here and at other universities. I have supervised several graduate theses. Some of my students have gone on to receive Ph.D.’s in history – most recently at Texas A&M University,” said Hunter.
Teaching A&M-Kingsville students for 38 years brought another unexpected consequence to Hunter. “It did not occur to me that my students would eventually include several generations of the same family.
“At first, it was common for students to mention to me that their brother or sister had taken one of my classes. Then more recently, students began to mention that their mother or father had taken my class. Two years ago, a student told me after the first class, ‘My father and my grandfather said that if you were still alive, I was to take your class.’ I now know of several families that have several generations of my former students.”
Hunter’s frequent collaborator in classroom and campus activities has been wife, Cecilia Aros Hunter, professor and head of the South Texas Archives. Her career at the university began as an adjunct political science instructor from 1984-1990, while serving at the same time as the library and technology coordinator for the Santa Gertrudis Independent School District. She became a full-time university employee in 1992, working in the South Texas Archives and Special Collections of the Jernigan Library.
Hunter decided to retire alongside her husband. She names the people she has worked and studied with through the years as the source of her fondest university memories.
“I enjoyed the many student projects that Leslie and I worked at to make the archives a laboratory for students of history,” said Hunter. “When I came to the university, Leslie had been here for more than 20 years. During that time, he had many classroom projects to help students apply their historical knowledge.
“When I came, we agreed that, just as science students work in a lab or art students work in a studio doing the real work of their chosen field, a student in history should be given the same opportunity. Historians work in archives, studying the documents of history.
“We devised learning projects that would involve students in archival projects and thus make the archives a laboratory for students of history. I think I will remember those projects as my most rewarding experience.”
Sharing your work environment with a spouse is not a situation made for everyone. Even when it works, Cecilia Hunter notes it can be “tiring.”
“We have very different approaches to the study of history and we have very different approaches to life. We are both very opinionated and absolutely certain that we are right. But, it has been an advantage because we complement and supplement each other’s work. In just about everything we did while we were here, it was the effort of both of us.
“One professor called us the ‘gang of two.’ I think that was about right.”
During his 38 years, Leslie Gene Hunter has been named a Distinguished Teaching Professor by the Texas A&I Alumni Association, a Minnie Stevens Piper Professor and was a Cap and Gown honorary “Top Ten Teacher.”
He was review editor for History Computer Review and edited reviews of 365 books and software by historians from many countries. Hunter has been editor of the Journal of South Texas (the publication of the South Texas Historical Society) for the past nine years. He has been published in a host of places, including the Journal of American History, The Social Studies Texan and Southwestern Historical Quarterly.
He was the faculty marshal for the College of Arts and Sciences from 1981-2001. Hunter chaired the history department from 1986-1990 and from 1991-1996, and was a graduate coordinator from 1996 until his retirement.
Hunter has an extensive history with professional and scholarly organizations. Currently, he is an ambassador for the University of Texas Institute of Texas Cultures. Hunter serves on the Texas Council for the Social Studies. He has been a part of the National Council for the Social Studies, the Texas Association of College Teachers, president of the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors and vice president of the local chapter of the Texas Association of College Teachers.
He holds a Ph.D., M.A. and B.A., all in history and all from the University of Arizona.
Cecilia Aros Hunter was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to The People’s Republic of China. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute, the American Library Association and the Special Libraries Association. Among awards won, Hunter has earned eight Delta Kappa Gamma Recognition Awards, the Outstanding Contribution to Texas Heritage award from the Women’s Club of Kingsville and was nominated twice for the University Distinguished Service Award for Exceptional and Substantive Contribution to a Committee. She also received the Follett Award for Microcomputers in the Learning Resource Center from the American School Library Association.
Among her memberships in professional societies and other organizations, she was appointed to the Texas State Board of Review to determine listings for the National Register of Historic Places. Other memberships include the Society of American Archivists, the Texas Historical Records Advisory Board and serving as a preservation officer for the city of Kingsville.
She has been published in, among other places, The Journal of American History, The Academic Archivist, History Microcomputer Review and The Social Studies Texan.
Hunter has presented for national organizations (National Council for the Social Studies, Society of American Archivists), regional groups (Southwestern Society of Archivists) and state organizations (Texas Computer Education Association Conference, Texas Historical Commission, Victoria College Stormont Lecture Series).
Outside the university, Cecilia Hunter has been involved in area political and cultural affairs. She served as an election judge for Kleberg County and the city of Kingsville from 1978-2005. She was a United States Electoral College delegate nominee for the Texas State Democratic Party in 1996 and 2004.
She holds a B.A. in history and library science, and a M.L.I.S., both from the University of Arizona. Hunter also holds an M.S. in political science/history, certification in mid-management educational administration and has done postgraduate work at Texas A&M-Kingsville.
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