While dining at Cracker Barrel Restaurant in Marion, John Gunter is asked why he has generously supported his alma mater. He responds without hesitation.
“It is a matter of paying it back by paying it forward,” he says. “I received a solid education and strong foundation in forestry at Southern Illinois University. The university and its professors prepared me for graduate school, too.”
John, a 1966 SIU forestry alumnus, makes special mention of former professors Dwight McCurdy and Ronald Beazley for their guidance during his undergraduate years. After completing his master’s and doctorate degrees at Michigan State University, John proceeded on to a distinguished career in forestry, which culminated with serving as dean and professor at Mississippi State University, a post he retired from in 2002.
“Vic Rudolph was my major professor at Michigan State. After I received my doctorate, I asked him if I had the potential to be a dean,” John says. “He replied with the affirmative so that encouraged me to pursue a career in higher education administration.”
A McLeansboro native, John says his work in the industry has taken him to all 50 states. Prior to his stint at Mississippi State University, John taught, did extension work and conducted research at four additional institutions including Michigan State University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, University of Georgia, where he headed the extension forestry program, and University of Arkansas at Monticello as Dean of Forestry. In addition, his contributions included working for private industry and the federal government at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service.
John has authored or co-authored numerous forestry articles for journals and research publications, as well as three books. He is a fellow of the Society of American Foresters and has twice received Alumni Achievement awards from the College of Agricultural Sciences at SIU.
Some of his fondest memories of SIU include participation in a spring quarter field campus, through which he and classmates received their initial hands-on experience in forestry. He was also active in the student forestry club. John decided to retire in his native southern Illinois, in part because of farmland he owns in the region, and because he wanted to live close to the university.
The SIU alumnus also serves on the College of Agricultural Sciences Leadership Board and is a life member of the SIU Alumni Association.
Nearly five decades after graduating from SIU, John is endowing the John E. Gunter Scholarship Fund through the SIU Foundation. John has also made provisions in his estate plan for additional contributions to this endowment.
The John E. Gunter Scholarship is awarded to qualified forestry students who have attained at least junior academic standing and demonstrate financial need. Preference is given to students who have served as officers in specific registered student organizations.
“The permanency of this scholarship through an endowment option was particularly attractive. This investment will grow over time and support students for generations to come,” he says.
“There are no self-made people. We all had help along the way and owe something to society. There’s no better way to accomplish this than to assist young students in financing an education that will pave the way to their futures.”