ST. ALBANS – Pioneering Lake Champlain researcher and advocate and UVM geology professor Edwin Allen Standish Hunt died Aug. 27 following several months of decline. His wife Nancy was by his side at the Franklin County Rehabilitation Center in St. Albans.
Allen was born on Dec. 6, 1929, the son of Dr. Franklin and Dorothy Hunt and the younger brother of Barbara Hunt Dodge. He grew up in Summit, N.J. and spent summers in Brooklin, Maine. In 1951 Allen graduated from St. Lawrence University with a B.S. degree in psychology.
During the following five years while earning his Master’s degree in psychology at Texas Christian University, Allen’s academic and professional focus changed. Crossing the country from the East coast to Texas numerous times he became intrigued with the visual record of the earth’s history found in the landscape. It was during this time that Allen turned to paleontology, which would remain his lifelong focus.
After undergraduate courses and laboratories in geology at the University of Texas, Allen earned a Master’s degree in Paleontology in 1957 at the University of Michigan for his work on Devonian corals. While at the University of Michigan he met Nancy Kurtz, an undergraduate Art History major. They were married in August 1957, followed by a honeymoon from Ohio through Vermont to Brooklin, Maine, and then to Harvard where Allen continued his studies and research.
While at Harvard Allen and Nancy took field trips to the Shenandoah Valley, Utah and Idaho where Allen collected the fossils that he would later prepare and use for his doctorate thesis entitled “Growth, Variation and Instar Development of an Agnostid Trilobite” which was published in the Journal of Paleontology in 1967. His thesis and the supporting research, completed under the supervision of the legendary Professor Harry Whittington, are still cited in paleontology textbooks today.
In 1961 Allen was hired as an assistant professor at UVM to teach paleontology, stratigraphy, and sedimentation as well as introductory geology.
Allen’s pioneering research on New England’s “west coast” began soon thereafter. It was Dr. Hunt’s foresight in 1964 — along with others such as Dr. E.B. Henson and Dr. Milton Potash of the Department of Zoology — that prompted comprehensive studies of Lake Champlain and led Allen and others to establish the Lake Champlain Study Center.
Obtaining support from the Lintilhac Foundation for the key research vessel R/V Melosira, Allen and his students were the first to map the bathymetry, the sediments and fossils, and the Pleistocene history, of our “Sixth Great Lake.” Allen and his students were also the first to unlock the magnetic stratigraphy of the lake, measuring weak differences in the earth’s magnetic field that have been recorded over centuries in the layers of sediment.
During pollution studies Allen and his students were the first to discover the existence of manganese nodules in lake sediments. Soil erosion studies along the Lake followed.
In addition to his research on Lake Champlain, Dr. Hunt participated in collaboration with former students on oceanographic cruises to the Sulu Sea and the Canadian Archipelago that focused on microfossils discovered in the layers of sediment.
Allen was appointed Associate Professor in 1966 and Professor of Geology from 1974 until he retired in 1996. He served as chair of the Department from July 1984 until September 1989.
At UVM Allen became a sought-after professor for his hands-on approach to science education and student mentoring, some of the very attributes that made him a thoughtful and devoted father and husband.
He shared with his three sons a love of the outdoors, of sports, and his passion and belief in the importance of developing skills, interests, and values. During their early childhoods, for example, his wife Nancy would take the boys to Gutterson Ice Rink during the noon hour to skate with their Dad who had grown up playing hockey and was then learning new figure skating skills. Allen was the founding faculty advisor for the UVM Skating Club and enjoyed ice dancing and performing in shows along with two of his sons.
Flooding a back yard rink he built on South Prospect Street was an annual New Year’s Eve ritual that provided a popular neighborhood hangout for after-school hockey scrimmages. On weekends and vacations it was off to ski racing programs and races throughout Vermont.
Under Allen’s direction the Hunts were early localvores producing and processing much of their own food during summer weekends on their farm in Bakersfield. Supper after a day on the slopes was often canned beef stew, tomatoes, and more, processed the previous year from vegetables and animals raised on the farm.
“There’s work to be done!” was Allen’s call to arms for Nancy, the boys and their friends to help hired farmers and builders over the years cut and bale hay, build fences, a house and two barns. After 35 years of teaching and research, Allen retired in 1996 to the farm to focus on the breeding of registered Black Angus.
Allen is survived by Nancy, his wife of 56 years of Bakersfield, and his son Edwin of Bakersfield, his son Harry and wife Stephanie Hunt and their children, Alaena and Tucker of Stowe, and his son Jesse and wife Anne Kari Hunt and their children Mia, Espen and Annika of Park City Utah.
Other descendants include a nephew Allen Dodge of Cornish, N.H. and Brooklin, Maine, his family as well as a niece, Carolyn Dodge, of Hagerstown, Md.
Allen will be buried in Lakeview Cemetery in Burlington.
A celebration of Allen’s life will be held at UVM in the Perkins Geology Museum in Delehanty Hall on Saturday Sept. 14 from 3 to 5 p.m. where the only comprehensive collection of rocks and fossilized flora and fauna found in the State of Vermont are displayed including the Vermont State fossil — the white whale from the Champlain Sea.
In lieu of flowers, a gift may be made to the Perkins Museum in care of the Department of Geology, Delehanty Hall 213 University of Vermont, Trinity Campus, 180 Colchester Avenue Burlington, VT 05404-1758.
Arrangements are in the care of the Ready Funeral & Cremation Service, Burlington. To send online condolences to the family please visit www.readyfuneral.com.