A beloved laugh will be missing from the halls of the UNC Center of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP). Wanda Hunter, HPDP’s deputy director for research and operations, retired November 30. The Center celebrated her career and service with a retirement celebration on that date at The Carolina Club.
During the celebration, Hunter was awarded with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest civilian honor given for service to the state of North Carolina. In addition to her professional service, Hunter has dedicated herself to her community by being active in the Orange County Democratic Party, Habitat for Humanity, and her church, United Church of Chapel Hill.
“My heart is full of gratitude,” Hunter said at the celebration. “I’m flooded with memories of all my jobs at UNC and overwhelmed by all the generosity shown by people here today.”
Hunter began her career at UNC Chapel Hill in 1980 at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, and has worked for the University in many different roles since then, including a social research associate position in the department of maternal and child health. She was the assistant director for teaching and service at the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center from 2000-2004, when she left to become a public health consultant.
Hunter’s family, friends and colleagues attended the event, including one friend who had worked with Hunter at her first job.
“I remember how young and idealistic we were then,” Hunter said. “We thought we could change the world. I still think we can change the world.”
Alexandra Lightfoot, HPDP assistant director for community-based participatory research, welcomed party attendees and thanked Hunter for her service to the Center. Salli Benedict, a longtime HPDP researcher, also spoke about the exemplary leadership Hunter provided during her tenure. Both said what they would remember most about Hunter was her infectious laugh.
“When I asked our community advisory council to describe Wanda in just a few words, many talked about her wonderful laugh,” Benedict said.
Laughter combined with tears during the comments from both Lightfoot and Benedict, but HPDP Director Alice Ammerman offered a lighthearted poem she wrote that characterized Hunter’s tenure with the Center. HPDP staff also presented Hunter with a memory photo book and donation to Sustainable Harvest, a group Hunter volunteered for last year.
Hunter reflected on her career and said she felt it was a perfect fit for her to join HPDP at the end of her time at UNC. After spending much of her time at HPDP collaborating with communities, she said she was looking forward to building relationships with new partners.
“I look forward to increased collaboration with Amelia and Isaac, my grandchildren, who have brought me such incredible joy,” she said with a trademark laugh.