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As Retirement Looms, U of I Dean Will Keep Focusing on Business

Curt Hunter has been working in business most of his life—at least since he was tall enough to see over the counter at his father’s two restaurants in Atlanta.

“I had to work in those restaurants, busing tables, washing dishes and sweeping the floor,” he said.

When he grew tired of the manual work, he would sit and watch the company’s accountant, eventually helping him with taxes and other financial matters.

For Hunter, who has served as the dean of the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business since July 2006, it was a natural fit.

From then on, he spent nearly his entire academic and professional career in business, and that will continue even after he retires from his U of I position this summer.

Hunter, 64, doesn’t have any plans to slow down. He’ll serve as president of Beta Gamma Sigma, an international business honor society, and will sit on the boards of three corporations.

Hunter holds a bachelor’s degree from Hampton University in Virginia and a master’s degree and doctorate from Northwestern University.

“I started working for professors in finance, and that got me interested in research, led to my Ph.D. and to teaching,” he said. “I didn’t plan a lot of it. That’s why you have to be ready for big opportunities as they come along.”

He went on to teach at the University of Georgia and Emory University in Atlanta, where he started consulting for the Federal Reserve System. During that time, he traveled to Japan, Korea, Uruguay and China as a consultant.

It wasn’t until he was promoted to a Fed job in Chicago that he became acquainted with the University of Iowa while traveling to banks around the Midwest.

“He encouraged students to learn by doing,”  said Lon Moeller, associate dean for the undergraduate program at Tippie. “Students who had the chance to meet Dean Hunter came away impressed by his life story and by his interest in their success.”

He served three years as dean at the University of Connecticut before agreeing to lead the U of I’s business college.

“One reason I really wanted to come back to Iowa is the pride people have in the institution and the college,” he said. “People here bleed black and gold.”

During his time at the U of I, Hunter completely revamped the MBA program and focused on increasing his students global awareness by bringing international students to Iowa and sending Iowa students abroad.

“Under Curt, the full-time MBA has been revitalized and is making great strides in educating and placing students,” said Charles Whiteman, senior associate dean at Tippie who was recently named dean of the Smeal College of Business at Penn State University. “Our international footprint has increased dramatically, and our undergraduate program has expanded and built great community amongst the students.”

Hunter has seen the industry change a lot over his 40-plus year career.

When he took over the lead position at UConn’s business school nine years ago, he was one of two African-Americans serving as dean of a top-ranked business school.

Now there are several, and people and organizations are actively recruiting more minorities to become involved in academia and higher education.

More than anything, Hunter said, he tries to impress upon students the importance of ethics.

“Integrity—we teach it in all our classes and preach about it in everything we do,” he said. “There are going to be bad people everywhere you go, but I don’t think it will be our people.”


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