“And from his return to Maryville as head of the English department in 1918 until his retirement in 1960, he was a central figure in the intellectual and spiritual life of the College.”
So reads biographical information on Dr. Edwin R. Hunter ’14 as written by John H. Fisher and Delbert L. Earisman for the preface of Dr. Hunter’s collection of poetry entitled This Man’s Art.
Fisher and Earisman were just two of Dr. Hunter’s numerous students who would go on to become college professors themselves, inspired by their professor’s love of literature, his interest in students, and his enthusiasm for teaching.
Dr. Hunter was a Maryville product himself, having transferred from a college in Illinois, where he spent the majority of his childhood.
Dr. Samuel Tyndale Wilson, then president of Maryville College, was his English professor in those years, and young “Eddie” came to revere Wilson for his vigor, thoroughness and obvious belief that the subject matter was important.
Hunter graduated from Maryville in 1914 and went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of Chicago in 1917. In 1925, he earned his Ph.D. in Chicago, having completed his dissertation on the folk language of East Tennessee mountain people.
He taught courses in British and American literature and saw several of his papers published in scholarly journals. He loved Chaucer’s characters, Keat’s verses on truth and beauty, and Faulkner’s narrative. But Shakespere, Dr. Hunter believed, was pre-eminent among the literary giants. In 1954, he published Shakespere and Common Sense.
In addition to teaching and chairing the English Department, he served as dean of the College and Dean of Curriculum from 1930 until 1957. In their history book By Faith Endowed, Dr. Carolyn Blair and Dr. Arda Walker refer to him as the “great curriculum innovator of the Lloyd administration.” They also wrote: “He probably contributed more than any other faculty member in shaping mid-20th century Maryville College.”
Indeed, his accomplishments in his nearly 50 years of service are numerous – and significant. Among them:
Penning a few autobiographical notes before his death in 1977, Dr. Hunter revealed that he counted among his proudest achievements the cadre of faculty he was able to hire and teach with in Anderson Hall. Not surprisingly, four of them are also “Legends of Anderson Hall.”