David Hunter’s childhood was spent on a farm in Gradyville, Ky., milking cows and plowing fields. He grew up in a house with no indoor plumbing, and, like many Berea alums, not knowing he was poor.
In his book, Childhood Memories, David hilariously recounts the trials and triumphs of those meager beginnings, but also dwells on the excellent home training he received from his father, who David says stressed good values and being true to your family and those you love.
Attending college was not his family’s expectation, but David’s life changed when his high school teacher introduced him to Berea College.
“I didn’t think I had the money for college,” David said. “But then my teacher told me about Berea and said, ‘I’ll help you any way I can.’ Berea was the only choice I had. If not for Berea, I likely wouldn’t have gone to college.”
The first-generation student started at Berea in the summer of 1963, taking classes to get caught up before the fall semester began. David clearly remembers the day a young lady and her friend arrived on campus.
“I saw this girl in a green dress, and I was struck with her,” David recalled. “We didn’t actually meet that day, but that was the first time I saw Carol.”
Though Carol Sue (Fletcher) does not remember seeing David then, the two eventually did meet and dated throughout college. Flashing forward, they have been married more than 50 years and have two children, Cameron and Jamie.
Like David, Carol was a first-generation student. Her father had a fourth-grade education, and her mother graduated from high school and always wanted to go to college, but didn’t have the chance. She also learned about Berea through teachers at her high school in Williamsport, Ky.—teachers who happened to be Berea College alumni.
“Mom and Dad sent four to five letters with $10 while I was in school, and they were my biggest encouragers,” Carol said. “But Berea met many of our financial needs, including taking care of our teeth and health.”
David and Carol graduated from Berea in 1967 with degrees in agriculture and home economics, respectively. David went on to earn his master’s degree in animal science from Purdue University, before being drafted into the Army to serve in Vietnam. He spent five years as an extension agent in West Virginia before returning to school and earning his doctoral degree in agricultural economics at the University of Tennessee, where he subsequently taught for 16 years.
While at UT, David discovered he had a flair for communication. He began writing poetry and telling entertaining stories as part of his presentations. David received his first standing ovation during the 1982 UT Ag Day when he gave a rhyming presentation commemorating the first 100 years of agriculture. After retiring, he transitioned to a career in public speaking and now has written several books and produced comical and inspirational DVDs of his life experiences.
Soon after retirement, David began thinking about how they could more fully support the College that had been instrumental in changing the course of their lives. Though the couple had given small gifts to Berea over the years, in 2014 they made a substantial donation and established the David and Carol Sue Fletcher Hunter Scholarship Fund to support tuition for students from eastern Kentucky. To date, the fund has served four students who, like David and Carol, may not have had any other opportunity to attend college.
“It changes your life,” David said. “When I was in high school, I didn’t believe I could go anywhere. Because Berea was there, it gave me the opportunity to go to college and further my education.” “It makes me feel good that we are able to help students,” Carol added. “Someone did it for me and paid it then. I’m grateful to do the same for students today.”