LC Bulletin: Jon Hunner-Turning history from avocation to vocation

May 11, 2012. Retrieved online May 14, 2012 from Richard Coltharp, Las Cruces Bulletin

Department head travels area, telling the state’s story

No one becomes a history professor expecting to become a rock star.

This year, however, the academic head of New Mexico State University’s history department could print up those classic black concert T-shirts with the dates and locations on the back of all the venues he’s played during his Centennial Tour.

Jon Hunner has criss-crossed New Mexico during 2012, telling the story of statehood.

This is, after all, New Mexico’s centennial. For Hunner, the more accurate term is centenary.

“When you’ve been married 25 years, you call it an anniversary, you don’t call it an anniversial,” Hunner said, admitting that’s a battle he’ll likely lose.

Since arriving in Las Cruces in 1995, much of Hunner’s work has led up to this point. In preparation, he created a speech that would last about a half hour, perfect for a Rotary presentation or holding the attention of a school class.

“I’ve given the speech of the centenary all over the state,” Hunner said. “Roswell, Farmington, Silver City, from second-graders on up.”

Among many speeches he’s given in Las Cruces was to the Sunrise Optimist Club, whose meetings start at 7 a.m.

Hunner questioned the earliness of the hour.

The club consists of several older gentlemen, one of whom said, “We’ve got to start early. For most of us, that’s our peak. It’s downhill after that.”

Hunner arrived at history not in the usual way.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1974 from St. John’s College in Santa Fe. He operated a business in Santa Fe and worked at the Fine Arts Museum in the late 1980s, when he decided to go back to school. However, Hunner wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to study.

“My wife said, ‘All you’re doing is reading history,’” he said.

It was true. In particular, he was reading anything he could get his hands on about the Santa Fe Trail.

“It was a case of ‘Do what you love and the job will follow,’” Hunner said. “So I went to graduate school to study history.”

He earned his master’s, then a Ph.D. in history from the University of New Mexico, finishing in 1995. Shortly after he graduated, he headed south to Las Cruces and took the job at NMSU as director of the public history program.

Read the Las Cruces Bulletin article

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