When Walter H. Hunt died in 1942, the River Falls Journal said of him that he “was known as a good citizen, a friendly and sociable neighbor, and perhaps was one of the most popular masters of ceremony at the annual Teachers College homecoming mass meetings each fall. Hundreds of boys and girls scattered all over the globe will be saddened to learn of Senator Hunt’s death.” He was especially interested in athletics, baseball and football being his favorite sports, as he had at one time played a fair game on the diamond. A former student once said that “there wasn’t a pep meeting without a stirring speech from Walter Hunt.”
Walter H. Hunt was born in southern Wisconsin, held the Ph.M. from Valparaiso University in Indiana and served as county superintendent of education and inspector of schools in Wisconsin for many years. He joined the River Falls Normal faculty in 1916, teaching courses in education and agriculture. He also originated the advanced courses for high school principals.
Hunt was elected State Senator in 1924 and served until 1937. It was said that he was a “wielder of mighty influence in state administration circles, and was a champion of farmers’ rights ...” and the needs of education. When Professor Hunt first ran for the position of state senator, there was considerable outcry that college professors ought not absent themselves from the classroom to serve in the state legislature. He argued forcefully and successfully that college professors have the same rights and obligations as other citizens, even if they were paid by the state they sought to serve as a legislator.
The W.H. Hunt Arena, dedicated in 1973, was made possible by a gift of his son, William, President of the Board of Georgia-Pacific, by the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Foundation and by student fees. At the dedication, a former student told of the great contribution Walter Hunt had made to the college and to education in Wisconsin. The arena, he said, will enrich the geographic area served by Hunt as a state senator, as a teacher and as a school inspector in his lifetime.
Following the dedication ceremony, an exhibition of figure skating by an Olympics Gold Medal winner gave an insight as to ways the new arena would enhance campus life in the years ahead. Professor/Senator Hunt would be pleased to know that sports have a better home now than in the years when he made stirring speeches at the pep rallies or argued for more legislative support for the college at River Falls.