Murray Hunter (right) and his wife Mollie. Photo: Submitted.

Like father, like son

Alumnus honours his parents’ hard work with scholarship fund

By John Grainger

Emotion still manages to bubble to the surface every time Murray Hunter (BE’59) thinks about how hard his dad worked to ensure he got a university education.

Hunter, a 90-year-old University of Saskatchewan (USask) alumnus, can easily recall how hard his dad worked at the family farm near Nipawin, Sask., to ensure he and his three siblings were given the tools to succeed in life.

“I was born lucky, born to parents who were very loving to their children,” said Hunter, who recently established the $1 million George and Winnifred Hunter Memorial Award Fund with the aim to provide annual $10,000 scholarships to USask students who need the same kind of support he had, but might not have the financial means.

“My dad borrowed money to get me going. I still choke up when I think about it. So, I think maybe I can help somebody who needs a good head start.”

“I think (my parents) would like this (memorial fund). It is to honour them. They were loving parents and they worked very hard for their children.”

The scholarships in the memorial fund are open to entering students who are pursuing a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and bioresources, engineering or education. Ideally, students from the Nipawin area can be selected for the scholarship, but other criteria can also be met.

Hunter vividly remembers his dad’s strong work ethic, as evidenced by the homestead he created by hand.

Murray’s father, George, returned from service in 1922 from the First World War with the dream of creating his own homestead in the Carrot River Valley near Nipawin.

In 1927, George married Winnifred Seaman, and soon, they had four children to raise. This is where Hunter witnessed the hard work his parents put into having a happy and healthy home.

Borrowed money

When Murray graduated from high school in Nipawin and told his dad he wanted to go to university, he took him to town and borrowed $700 from the bank and put in Murray’s bank account along with the $100 that Murray had saved. The money was meant to cover tuition and room and board for the year.

Hunter can still recall his first days at USask where he found a family to board with across the river from the university on the west side of the city. Hunter ended staying with them through his university years.

“I walked right over there and met a nice young woman at the door. I think it was $45 a month room and board. They were wonderful people and we remained in touch for years after.”

Hunter can also recall his first days on the USask campus as an eye-opening affair.

“I learned something right away. Classes were not easy. In high school where I grew up, it was not all the difficult, so naturally, I thought I was pretty smart. It didn’t take me long to realize at university that I was not one of the smarter students.”

Hunter ended up leaving university early to work in the burgeoning oilpatch in Drayton Valley, Alta., where he realized that manual labour was not his forte. After working every single day clawing at dirt with a pickaxe, he knew the best thing for him would be to return to Saskatoon and finish his degree.

Important lessons

Hunter learned some important lessons during his university career.

“Being smart is good, but nothing beats being lucky and hard work. That’s a good combination.”

After finding work with a construction firm in Alberta, Hunter ended up finding his niche in commercial real estate and moved to Orlando, Fl., in 1971 after a friend talked him into giving it a try.

“We got into the real estate business down here and it worked out pretty good for us.”

Hunter still hasn’t given up on his ties to Canada. He and his wife, Mollie, return to a summer home west of Edmonton every year to escape the oppressive humidity of Florida.

Hunter married Mollie on his birthday in 1957 and they are still going strong.

And even at 90 years of age, Hunter still has not fully retired. He still enjoys going to work for a few hours every week. One of his sons occupies an office next to his and has a strong hand in the family business.

That’s an enduring work ethic Hunter’s parents would be proud to see from their son.

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