Jairy Hunter has spent the majority of his career with a few thousand students at small, private Charleston Southern University, but he rose through the ranks at a series of larger, public institutions.
After earning a master’s degree in student personnel, Hunter became assistant to the president at Blue Ridge Community College, also in North Carolina, where he began to learn the intricacies of running a campus.
He helped plan the college’s budget and taught full-time until concerns over the health of several businesses he’d started while a graduate student at Appalachian State University forced him to return to Boone, North Carolina.
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He took a job in the chancellor’s office as dean of student support services. Hunter, his wife and two children moved into an apartment above his laundromat.
“I don’t think God puts up a board and says, ‘There’s your target,’ but he let me gain experience in all the places I worked and served,” Hunter says. “My plan was to get the businesses going, sell them and go into education. I knew I was on the right road.”
The position covered housing, discipline and food service, among other roles. But then made a drastic change—he had been unanimously appointed vice president for administration at Broward Community College—a sprawling school with four campus and tens of thousands of students ranging in age from their late teens to their 60s.
He and his family left the North Carolina mountains for the hectic pace of South Florida, a lifestyle that eventually wore on Hunter and his wife.
“I was amazed at how highly qualified the people were there, and I appreciated the kind of students they were serving,” he says. “I was also amazed at how many students were getting a good education.”
Hunter thought his family was set for life when he took his next post as vice chancellor of finance at University of North Carolina Wilmington, where he also continued to teach. But then, in 1984, came the opportunity of a lifetime. A 20-year-old school he had never heard of, the Baptist College at Charleston, needed a new leader to replace its founding president.
The college wanted an educator with strong academic credentials, experience in fundraising and business, and who was familiar with the Baptist religion and Charleston region.
He took the job because he believed strongly in the vision of academic excellence in a Christian environment. To help the school survive, he didn’t accept a salary for the first two years.
“The campus was not in good shape, there were not a lot of resources and we didn’t have enough money to pay people,” Hunter says. “It had good academics, but the administrative and financial areas needed help.”