Have Experience, Will Travel
Herold C. Hunt is an intriguing mixture of conflicting elements. He is on the one hand, the knight errant, ready to serve anywhere in the country because of love of challenge, his strong sense of responsibility, and his devotion to a firm set of principles mostly based on religious beliefs. On the other, challenge blends with ambition, responsibility with promotion and principle with tactics. Yet the blend has been a rewarding one both for the Charles W. Eliot Professor at the Graduate School of Education and for the millions of people indebted to him for his services. The origins of both these strains are easy to trace. Professor Hunt's whole professional career has unfolded from influences which began early in his education.
Working on the Michigan DailyNot only produced a love a journalism (one of his unrealized ambitions is to own a weekly newspaper in a semi-urban community) but an intense desire to understand and participate in every aspect of an operation (he started off on the "editorial side" and later became circulation manager and then business manager of the summer daily). At the University of Michigan Hunt also developed a taste for public affairs in general and education and education in particular.
He went into high school teaching and progressed rapidly from American history teacher to principal to superintendent in the Michigan public school system. Larger assignments were to come.
At the age of 32 he took over as head of the New Rochelle School system. Combining the intensity of a revivalist minister with the glad handing techniques of a backwoods Congressman, Hunt began speaking tours, set propaganda bonfires in newspaper articles, addressed civic club meetings--did everything, in short, to arouse public interest and squeeze money from city and state legislatures.
His dynamic methods worked well in his next job in Kansas City, whose schools were deteriorating under Boss Tom Prendergast. After Hunt had finished his campaign, the city added an extra one million dollars annually to its educational budget.
Hunt had already earned Time magazine's title, "clean up man" when he arrived in Chicago in 1947. The Chicago school system was abominable. Textbooks and building were antiquated; many of its teachers held only temporary certificates, and non-teaching jobs were given out as political patronage. Teachers' salaries were low and the city's high schools were in danger of being taken off the accredited list. Here was the kind a $25,000 a year salary to go with it. Hunt was the first person to have the title General Superintendent, but along with the title went the responsibility for administering both the educational and business ends of the renovation program. But he didn't act like a banner-waving crusader; his initial policy and personnel changes were done with extreme moderation. These proved good tactics. Hunt built up a reserve of confidence and stability the facilitated later improvements. And when the improvements came, they were fantastic. The when the improvements came, they were fantastic. The old speech-making and back-slapping means of generating enthusiasm were still there, and by the time the job was done in 1953 Chicago had doubled its educational budget to $146 million, started a $50 million building program, raised teachers' salaries almost fifty per cent. In the end, the city gave Hunt a salary that was $7000 more than the mayor's.
Chicago was the consummation of all of Herold Hunt's ambitions in the administrative end of his profession. In 1953 he accepted President Conant's offer to come to Harvard (at half his Chicago salary). He was eager, he said, "to give back to education the lessons learned in the last thirty years."
Except for a period of two years from 1955-1957 when he served as undersecretary of Health, Education and Welfare in Washington, Hunt has retired from public affairs. Yet his outside the classroom interests are still extensive. Hunt is consultant to the Ford foundation's program on the use of television in the schools, and has been chairman of the American Council on Education, a UNESCO delegate to New Delhi, a member of a recent delegation visiting Russian schools, and that's not all.
Herold Hunt has always been a "joiner," and always as a president, chairman or leader, never just a card carrying member of an organization. His vitality has been largely responsible for his successes, but the guiding force of this vitality has always been personal satisfaction. Right now his satisfaction come from disproving the saying. "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach."