"Little Joe" Hunter was born in Newberry County to Robert T.C. and Rebecca Boozer Hunter and graduated in Clemson College's first class in 1896. While a student he also helped with the construction of the old Engineering Building. He later recalled that the first group of cadets were pretty green. Many had never seen electric lights. After graduation, Mr. Hunter taught in the public schools of Newberry County for five years. But in 1901 he returned to Clemson College to teach in the Mathematics Department. He taught for 46 years at Clemson before retiring, being promoted to the rank of Professor in 1938. (Picture taken from the 1939 TAPS.)
"Little Joe" always took a deep personal interest in each of his students. That interest in people went back to his undergraduate days when he would spend hours tutoring fellow cadets in math. Even after his retirement he continued to coach students in math. One of his former students wrote "I doubt if there is one among them that does not feel as I do and have a very warm spot in their heart for 'Little Joe' Hunter." Another wrote "You can look back on a life of service to the youth of South Carolina and I'm sure that those who had the privilege of attending your class feel as I do." The Tiger stated "His mathematics classes have long been the scene of real down to earth lectures on the fundamentals of the simple noble abundant life. 'Little Joe,' long a favorite with Clemson students, has come to command a respect and admiration that borders on reverence."
From the DEDICATION of the Y.M.C.A. Student's handbook (1934-1935), "Always a supporter of every good cause he gives of himself unstintingly in furthering the interest of the College, his Church and the YMCA, as well as any other worthy cause for which an appeal is made."
Mr. Hunter joined the Fort Hill Presbyterian Church in 1926, coming from the Lutheran Church. He was made a deacon in 1929 and served thus until 1946. He was made an ELDER in 1947 and served in this capacity until his death. In 1933 he became the treasurer of Fort Hill Church and held that office until April 1946.
Professor Emeritus of Mathematics Joseph E. Hunter was awarded a Algernon Sydney Sullivan Medallion in 1952 just before his death. He is buried on Cemetery Hill along with his wife and one son, Joseph Hunter. His remaining son, James Hunter, returned to live in Clemson after his career. He died in the late 1990's.
In 1973, The HUNTER CHAIR OF BIOENGINEERING was endowed from a gift of his brother Thomas Hunter (a 1909 graduate of Clemson) and his wife Louise Hunter. Mr. Thomas Hunter was president of American Transformer from 1933-1948 and Mrs. Hunter taught elementary school during her career.
Alumni Professor Douglas Bradbury recalls two incidents from his first year (1936-1937) as a Clemson student when in Professor Joseph Hunter's Freshman Mathematics course. As background for the first incident, one of "Little Joe's" hobbies was woodworking but he had cut off three fingers on a planer. After that, when critiquing a student's blackboard work and discovering a mistake Professor Hunter would lightly "jab" the student with the three stubs in the ribs as a little incentive to avoid making errors. The second incident arose when talking about the "infinity" concept a student asked if it was related to eternity. Professor Hunter's reply was something to the effect that eternity was a religious concept and that Heaven was a place whose occupants would be eternally happy; however he believed that he personally could not be completely happy without some mathematics problems to work. These incidents remained with Professor Bradbury for sixty some years.
(This material is taken from The Tiger, the Clemson News (November 1952), newspaper editorials, and from THE HUNTER ENDOWED CHAIR OF ENGINEERING program.)
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