Jack Hunt ’52

Jack Hunt ’52 of Kalamazoo, Michigan, read the spring issue’s story about Latif Jiji, who came to the U.S. from Iraq to attend Hope in the 1940s, with particular interest for a couple of specific reasons. For one, he had roomed with Latif, who helped him with algebra. For another, he, like Latif, found his future changed profoundly by admissions director Albert Timmer ’23 and his time at the college. Raised by his mother, who had an eighth-grade education, and other relatives after his alcoholic father died when he was six, Jack dreamed of becoming a physician but found the door to higher education closed until he visited Hope. Four years later, diploma in hand, he was on his way to the University of Michigan’s medical school, from which he graduated in 1956. His career as a physician has spanned the 62 years since; he continues to serve people in need, including at the county jail, an addiction clinic and two juvenile delinquency clinics — all made possible, he noted, because Hope cared about him first. “My message is about the institutional excellence of Hope College,” he said. “They quietly go about their business of helping people — what a wonderful thing.” Please visit the college online to read more about his path to and through Hope.

Additional content submitted by Jack Hunt:

It is 1948, graduation from Benton Harbor High School.  I am a poor student, a faceless person in high school, nothing good and nothing bad.  At least I was on the honor roll in my senior year. My dream, my obsession, was to be a physician.  My father was an alcoholic who died when I was 6-1/2 years old and I was raised by my mother, my grandmother, my sister and my aunt.  My mother had an eighth-grade education. She was a dynamic, hardworking, Czechoslovakian lady in origin. We were raised in this beer joint in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Fair Avenue, Parkmoor.

Along the road to be a doctor:  my Lionel chemistry set – my frog hospital – cut the wheat fields in Oklahoma.  In cutting the wheat fields, I protested to my mother: “I cannot live like this.”

I applied to pre-med at the University of Michigan.  “No way,” they said (my words, not theirs). They said, “Go to Hope College.”  I didn’t even know where it was.

It is interview day.  I am to meet with the director of admissions, Albert Timmer, today.  He is going to see me at 11 a.m., so I arrived at 10 a.m. The secretary said Mr. Timmer has been called to a meeting and he will meet with you at 1 p.m.  I am 6-foot-3, 145 pounds, I have $1 in my pocket. I will either eat or go home. I need to save it to get home. I recall no detail of that meeting. I remember the essence was that I conveyed to him, “I just need a change in my life.  I have a dream.” He says upon review, “Yes, Jack, we will admit you to Hope College and you will be on probation for six months.” “Put up or shut up” (my words, not his). I took liberal arts, a four-year course involving religion class, chemistry, biology, criminology, sociology, even went to summer school two summers to take physics, and graduated near cum laude.  I was admitted to the University of Michigan Medical School in 1952 and graduated in 1956.

I lived in a room on River Street.  My roommate was Latif Jiji. He would help me with my algebra word problems.

In 1948, it was a transition time for colleges.  Federal aid was coming about and there were changes to be made.  My room was cold in the winter. There were no storm windows and I had to put newspaper between my blankets in order to keep warm.  I had a meal ticket to go to the cafeteria which was, at that time, located down by the park, and they advised me that I would not be able to come in there for supper because the gentleman college people always had to wear a suit.  I had no suit. I did not know how to tie a tie. I had one jacket. The beanie incident: I was approached by a football player who advised me that as a freshman if I did not wear my beanie, he would kick my [behind], and I told him, “You may bust up my face, it will heal, and I still will not be wearing your beanie.”  Chapel was mandatory; with federal aid, that would stop. We would hear the young ministers giving their sermons. There was an incident of a protestor who took the podium, and I sat there and said to myself, “What would I do in this case?” My answer was that I would call the police and get him out of here; he is trespassing.  But not Hope College. They gave him the microphone for half an hour and asked him after that if he would leave, no incident. So where did I eat? I ate at a diner, probably still there. You could get beef tips and noodles or you could get liver and onions for $0.25.

My mother cried when I graduated.

Here I am, 87 years old with my wife, Mary, of 66 years, for children and eight grandchildren.  Dr. James Hunt, University of Michigan; Dr. John Hunt, a D.O., Philadelphia School of Osteopathic Medicine; Thomas Hunt, system analyst in computers; and my daughter, Mary Kay, administrative assistant to attorneys.

Dr. Jim and I are still working with the broken people, the county jail, 600 prisoners; an addition clinic; and two juvenile-delinquency clinics.

Here we are.  I think of the Janis Ian song, “At Seventeen”: “Those whose names were never called when choosing sides for basketball, it was long ago and far away, the world was younger than today.”  Albert Timmer gave me hope.

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